Pursuing a less traditional path

Megan Smith is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. For her, the ideal use of her degree will entail her focusing on agriculture extensions, which would include opportunities to visit different islands to observe what farmers can do to increase productivity, what they can do to better themselves, look at their best practices, determine what isn’t good and what they can improve on.

Her goal isn’t to farm, but to be the woman behind the books.

“I don’t mind going on the farm every now and then, but my job will be behind the books,” said Smith.

When deciding on a course of study she wanted to pursue post-secondary school, she was not attracted to traditional studies like law or medicine.

“Anything in business, but not accounts – or maybe human resources. I never thought I wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor. I wanted to see what I could do different from everyone. When people talk about the different things that they want to do, it’s rare that you hear them say they want to study agriculture, and I noticed the need for it, because at the end of the day, you have to eat. I said what can I do to help increase food sustainability in The Bahamas?”

When she commenced her studies, COVID-19 did not exist. The public health pandemic she said has shown how important it is for a country to be able to sustain itself.

“I always used to think … like what can we do to decrease the amount of imports that we have? COVID-19 was more of a confirmation that we really need to place emphasis on this, and this is something that has always been on my mind,” said Smith.

In the fall, the 21-year-old will commence her third and final year at the St. Augustine campus. She already knows studies will resume virtually to start the year but she’s anticipating a return to campus and in the physical classroom by January 2021.

“The Trinidad prime minister [Keith Rowley] still has all schools closed until the end of September, so at this point, everything is still up in the air. To be honest, I already have in my mind to go back in January, and just to do online, but whenever they say we can come back, I’m ready, because I’m not looking forward to doing the whole year online,” says Smith.

“When I came home, the transition from being in class physically to online … I wouldn’t say it was difficult, because no matter the circumstances, I will always be disciplined and focused on what I have to do. My biggest distraction was the bed – you’re in your online class and you’re thinking I could be lying down right now. Other than that, the transition was pretty smooth,” Smith says.

The agribusiness studies student took her final exams online to complete the year, which she felt she finished strong. She has a 3.67 cumulative grade point average (GPA).

Smith returned home in mid-March after Trinidad and Tobago recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 12.

“When I first started hearing about COVID, it didn’t dawn on me that this could possibly be a pandemic. When I heard the prime minister [of Trinidad and Tobago] say schools would close until the first week of April, I was like O.K., I can stay here and just catch up on any work that I need to do. And then the first week of April came and he said it would close until the end of August, and then I said this is possibly very serious, and everyone on the hall started panicking about how they needed to get home. I tried to remain as calm as possible. Myself and another Bahamian were sort of relaxed. I don’t know what we were thinking.”

She said she didn’t think about the seriousness of it until her mom, Maria Smith, told her she needed to return home when they started announcing country borders would be closed.

The Bahamas confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 15. Bahamian borders were closed on March 27. Planes were allowed to come in empty to pick up passengers and leave.

Bahamian borders fully reopened on July 1.

The Bahamas has 111 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Two new cases confirmed on Wednesday, July 8, on Grand Bahama, were the first on that island since May 5. Of the total number of confirmed cases, 83 are on New Providence; 14 on Grand Bahama; 13 on Bimini; and one on Cat Cay.

There are 11 deaths, 89 recovered cases, zero hospitalized case, 11 active cases, and 2,531 completed tests.

Trinidad and Tobago closed its borders on March 17 to everyone but T&T nationals for 14 days when its COVID-19-positive cases numbered at four.

“I just tried to pack up everything as quick as possible,” said Smith.

In her second year at UWI Trinidad, Smith engaged in activities on campus after not being able to in her first year, as she was more intent on playing steelpan with the Exodus Steelpan Orchestra, which she said took up all her time outside the classroom and didn’t leave room for anything else with nightly practice sessions from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m., after leaving classes at 6 p.m.

In an effort to get even more involved in campus life during her final year, she offered, and was elected, secretary of her hall for the upcoming semester. For this reason, she’s not looking forward to doing the whole year online and wants to get back in January.

A part of her secretary’s duties is to plan the charities, and she’s in the process of brainstorming ideas she can do virtually to give back to the community on behalf of the hall. But she says she will have to still go back to campus to physically carry out the rest of our duties.

She also wants to return to spend time during her final year with her friends.

“My friends and I had so much plans to do after exams, and COVID-19 just came and shut it right down.”

Her advice to students going into their first year of college is to have a good time.

“College is what you make it. I’m not discouraging being in your books 24/7 – because at the end of the day you still have to get your work done. But COVID has also taught me to enjoy your time and don’t put off things you can do now.”

Smith said college is about time management.

“Manage your time, have a good time and keep God first,” she says.

Smith is the recipient of a National Tuition Assistance Scholarship recipient. The scholarship is awarded to Bahamian students and intended to assist high school graduates pursuing professional, technical, graduate or post-graduate degree studies. The grant has a maximum value of $7,500 per annum at internationally accredited institutions, colleges or universities; or $4,000 for local institutions and is renewable for up to four years of study. Candidates must pursue a course of study that meets with national development goals at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Worldwide, there are 12,552,765 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 561,617 deaths.

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