An exchange opportunity in Montana, USA, has left Mikayla McClennan with many memorable experiences – one being a close-up encounter with a bison!
The Year 13 student recently returned from a three-week trip, along with five other students from New Zealand, organised by New Zealand Young Farmers.
Selected as part of the Young Farmers’ TeenAg programme, the students attended the 4-H Congress in Bozeman. Staying with host families, the group also had the opportunity to explore parts of Montana.
“We went to the Big Sky Ski Resort, Yellowstone National Park and Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa, before attending the four-day congress, which consisted of competitions, workshops and motivational speakers,” says Mikayla.
Held at the Montana State University campus in Bozeman, the 4-H Congress is the largest, out-of-school youth development programme in the state. From learning how to cook or sew, to raising an animal, conservation and robotics – the event provides a multitude of learning opportunities for youth.
Following 4-H, Mikayla was hosted by a family living in Yellowstone Country, about a 20-minute drive from Billings, where she spent time helping out on the farm, attending local events, as well as accompanying her host family to a stock preparation show they were judging in the Canadian town of Sidney.
“One of the most memorable moments of the trip was meeting new people from not only Montana, but students in the International Programme for Young Adults (IPYA), and making new friends,” says Mikayla.
“Getting to see a bison up close at Yellowstone National Park, watching a local 4-H fair, the congress dances and guest speakers, as well as a Boone and Crocket scoring workshop for recognising the size of North American big game animals– were among other highlights.”
Having had some time to reflect on her time away, some key learnings for Mikayla included, “that the weather and heat have a large impact on the style of farming and showing of animals – I saw mostly beef cattle and pigs – in comparison to how it is done here in New Zealand.” And, “to give everything a go, say ‘yes’ and maintain a positive ‘give it a go’ attitude – because if you don’t, you could miss out on an amazing experience!”