Once "a bit of a wild child", high school dropout Carissa Looij credits EIT with helping her grow up and find a career direction.
Unquestionably bright, Carissa doesn't feel she is good in dealing with authority figures and school, she says, was "all too regimented". Before allowing her to quit at the end of 2010, however, her parents insisted she complete her Level 1 NCEA.
While they fretted about where she might be heading her life, Carissa worked for six months as a volunteer for the SPCA. Then her father, Chris Looij - on the advisory committee for EIT's School of Applied Science - learned about a new programme being developed for those who learn best with the outdoors as their classroom.
Students enrolled in the 17-week Certificate in Applied Practical Skills - Land Skills acquire various land skills through practical experiences which include working with sheep and cattle on EIT's farm, making compost, tending veggie gardens, working in glasshouses, driving tractors and ATVs, using chainsaws, handling dogs, building chicken runs and making bread and cheese.
Like her father, Carissa has always enjoyed gardening and she agreed the course did look "cool".
So last year, she signed up with seven other students in the inaugural intake to learn about agriculture, horticulture, animal care, tree care and forestry.
"It was hands-on and 90 percent practical learning and outdoors stuff and I definitely tried out a lot of things. The thing is that it is a good transition from high school to adult learning."
Enjoying tertiary learning, Carissa progressed to the National Certificate in Animal Care, where she found that while she loves animals, it could be emotionally challenging dealing with them when they were sick or injured.
Now, having learned more about herself and her abilities, she has a clearer idea of where she sees her future. With her sights set on a job as a social worker or a counsellor - "I find the human mind and psychology really interesting and would like to work with teenagers" - she has enrolled for EITs' Certificate in Introduction to Social Sciences as a stepping stone to study for the Bachelor of Applied Social Sciences degree.
Looking back on the last 18 months, Carissa says: "So many young people don't know what to do when they leave school and yet they kept being asked: "What's your life plan?" I think EIT helped me grow up quite a lot."
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