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Love of gardens lures mature student back into study at EIT | Te Pūkenga

October 5, 2023

Sophie Worsnop is now in a career she enjoys after graduating from EIT | Te Pūkenga.

A love of gardens and a desire to work outdoors led a mature student to overcome her nerves and study at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

Having left school in 2012, Sophie Worsnop worked in hospitality for ten years before COVID-19 lockdowns made her realise she wanted to work outdoors. She returned home from Australia and was attracted to the New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (Level 3) at EIT | Te Pūkenga. She followed that up with the NZ Certificate in Sustainable Primary Production (Level 4).

“I had wanted to go to university post high school. I graduated 2012, but I had a really bad injury and couldn’t go to school, so I couldn’t go to university. So I went and did hospitality and I got that hospitality bug and did it for 10 years.”

“I lived in Wellington and then got stuck in Melbourne through COVID-19 and decided that I hated being stuck inside. I found my biggest peace through all the lockdowns in Melbourne going to the botanical gardens. So I came home in July 2021 and didn’t really know what to do with my life. I knew that I didn’t want to stay in hospitality anymore just because of how COVID-19 had treated things.”

She says she happened to notice the horticulture programme at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“I saw it and thought, ‘Oh, that’s something that I really love’. I was keen to work in gardens and work with people. I was a bit nervous about being an adult student but I thought I’d give it a go.

Having grown up on a farm, Sophie always had an interest in landscaping and gardening. This passion was cultivated in Melbourne where she had about 300 house plants during the lockdowns.

“I think really recognising the anxiety and frustration that being cooped up inside was giving me, made me really want to appreciate my outdoors. I was raised on a farm out in Tukituki so everyone’s always told me that I’m an earth baby. I’ve always enjoyed being out and tutu-ing around in the garden.”

“It’s always been there, but I don’t think I really ever thought about it as a career or furthering my education until after COVID-19.”

Sophie says she loved studying at EIT | Te Pūkenga and enjoyed learning from the tutors, whose passion, she says, was “second to none”.

“It was inspiring to help me let go of a lot of stress and anxiety and I guess the hustle of the world.”

“I think that industry works at the same rate as things grow. So in winter we get to slow down a little bit more because everything slows down and stops growing. And in summer we work a bit harder and faster because everything grows a bit harder and faster.”

She also says she found that she was well supported as a mature student.

Since finishing studying, Sophie has been working at garden and ground care specialists, Bark Limited. She is a team leader working in a number of retirement centres around Hawke’s Bay.

“Our shirts say Great Gardens, Great Service. And to me that’s the joy of bringing people and their gardens together, creating that network for them”.

Programme Coordinator Lisa Turnbull says: “It’s great to see a person with a passion for horticulture get a formal education and end up with a great job in the industry”.

Gerard Henry, programme tutor says: “The introductory Level 3 Horticulture programme offers so much more than growing and gardening skills but also an opportunity to rekindle or discover new practices and passion for the plant kingdom and the environment. Sophie is a fine example of a learner that was unsure where the programme might take her at the outset but eventually became focused toward the end of the course to seek new work opportunities.”