By Yonela Z. Njisane

It’s often said that education opens doors; amongst many others, it has opened the travelling door for me. If it wasn’t for my PhD degree, I would still have zero experience with passports, airports, globe-trotting, SAA Express and different air buses. at OR tambo

Over the past three years I have been blessed to attend and participate in both local (South African Society for Animal Science-SASAS) and International (International Congress of Meat Science and Technology-ICoMST) congresses in my field. In that way, I have explored within and outside my beautiful South Africa. I must say, it has been an adventure both academically and socially.

For now I would like to take you to the international side of this quest:

It all began when I’d just started my PhD degree in 2013: I submitted a short paper and got through to display my MSc work as a poster for the 59th ICoMST in Izmir, Turkey. I tried again in 2014 and was accepted to showcase part of the preliminary data I gathered for my PhD project at the 60th ICoMST in Punta del Este, Uruguay. This year (2015) I presented two short papers from my PhD work at the 61st ICoMST in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Every year, ICoMST is hosted in a different country; I have now been to those three, plus two others (Brazil and Argentina), thanks to connecting flights. Hundreds of attendees include a diverse group of renowned, emerging and postgraduate student researchers in the complex field of meat science. The congress is normally preceded by a pre-congress student course in specific subjects on meat science and technology, through which students receive certificates of attendance.

“Rubbing shoulders with the big guns.” Dr. Temple Grandin and me in Uruguay (2014)

This kind of exposure (and especially the 60th ICoMST) has helped me a lot in shaping up my PhD work, especially the methodology and presentation section. I learnt a lot from interacting with other researchers in my field. It’s not just listening to talks and chatting over posters; there are also general life lessons and dance moves (!) you can learn from one another. Last year I even got to mingle with the animal welfare legend Temple Grandin, amongst others.

Mixing business with pleasure 

No explanation needed ;-) ... (2015)
No explanation needed 😉 … (2015)

As much as people warn us to NOT mix business with pleasure, it’s always a pleasure to go out of the country (regardless of the cause) and experience new things, even if it’s for a few days. Being a researcher/scientist is not just work, but is coupled with fun, otherwise we’d all go crazy.

All geared up to explore an abattoir in Bourbon-l'Archambault, France (2015)
All geared up to explore an abattoir in Bourbon-l’Archambault, France (2015)

Every day of serious and scientific talks at the conference ends with a social event in the evening; from welcoming parties to some rather unplanned events… usually a “traditional” night experience courtesy of the host country. For instance, this one night after the “Cheese and Wine” party in France, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the tram tracks and even confidently arguing about it. You know how they

Eventually we had to cross over to the
Eventually we had to cross over to the “wrong” side, where everyone else was waiting for the tram to our destination …

drive on the “wrong” side of the road in France, LOL! To an extent we were right, but in the wrong country 😉 Anyways, we also get to have one whole day of different scenic tours around that host country.

I have even been lucky enough to celebrate my last three birthdays abroad – how cool is that?

My 25th surprise birthday celebration during a social event in Punta del Este, Uruguay (2014)
My surprise birthday celebration during a social event in Punta del Este, Uruguay (2014)

Yeah, I know hahaaah! Just maybe, if you could join in this research adventure you would also experience all this and even more. Think about it. The world is beautiful out there, ready to be explored and admired.


None of this would have been possible without the support from my mentor, National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Red Meat Research and Development Trust (RMRDT).

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