About a month ago I defended my thesis, completing my M.S. degree in Animal Science at the University of Idaho. Following my defense, I packed up my apartment, loaded a U-Haul and hit the road back to South Dakota. The past few weeks I have been busy at home helping AI cattle, butchering a pig for our family, and finishing up my TA responsibilities. Although it has been so great to spend time at home with my family, it was a tough way to say goodbye to what had become a second home.
Two years ago, when I made the decision to move to Idaho, I was excited, but also nervous. I was excited for new adventures, but nervous about doing research and making friends. I had never worked in a lab before and my meat cutting skills were limited to what I had learned in the Intro to Meat Science course in my undergrad. On top of that, I didn’t know anyone in Idaho. I had met the professors I would work with during my two-day interview, but other than that, I didn’t know a soul. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement.
I knew that Idaho was the place I was meant to be. I had prayed a lot about this decision and after meeting with the professors I would work with, I knew the move was the right decision. Shortly after I moved to Idaho, I began to get to know the other graduate students and our undergraduate lab employees. As research projects ramped up, we spent more time on the kill floor, in the processing room, and in the chemistry lab. Although it took a while, I became more confident and comfortable with these processes.
I was busy preparing for my final defense when the quarantine began. At first, it was nice to be able to work from home. I had no excuse not to get my thesis finished and my presentation put together. Soon, however, I realized that this was how I was going to end my experience in Idaho. Graduation was cancelled, research projects were postponed, classes and my final defense was moved online. I had moved 1200+ miles from home, built a life in a new state, made friends that became family, and this is how I was to say goodbye.
During this time, a story that a pastor had shared with our congregation a few years prior kept coming to mind:
A man had a beautiful apple tree that he tenderly cared for. It was his pride and joy. One night, a storm came through and tore the tree from the ground. The next day, his neighbor came over and said, “You put so much time and effort into helping this tree grow, what are you going to do now?” The man with the tree turned to him and said, “I’m going to harvest the fruit, burn the tree, and move on.”
Harvest the fruit: My experience in Idaho was incredible. I am so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and moving somewhere new. I learned so much, was able to see some incredible sites, developed strong friendships and gained experiences that prepared me well for my future career.
Burn the tree: I was sad, but I let myself be. I had worked hard on my degree and was disappointed that this is how it was coming to an end. I let myself mourn the ending that I had planned for and wasn’t able to experience.
Move on: I am home now, and I am so thankful for the time I have been able to spend with my family. In a few weeks, I will begin my job at University of Nebraska-Lincoln working as an Extension Assistant Professor. Had the pandemic not occurred, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this time with my family and it would have been a quick transition from school into the new job. It is easy to be upset with all that has been happening in our world, but the time at home has been a major blessing.
There is a lot of sad things happening in our world, but I rest assured that it is in God’s control. For me, I know that although it may have come to a bittersweet end, I will forever be thankful for the time I had in Idaho. It is an experience I will not soon forget.