Tessa Ramburn


For a bit more than a month now, my daily wake-up tune has been the ringing of cowbells as I cycle up a narrow mountain road to my workplace. Summer and fall 2015, I am working at the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), in Delémont, Switzerland. I work with Pierre, a French PhD student, researching the Drosophila suzukii or the Spotted Wing Drosophila, which is an invasive pest in North America as well as in Europe. Observing pupating D. suzukii, working in quarantine and adapting to life in Switzerland have all been engaging experiences. However, one of the most exciting parts of this co-op term is how much I am learning about my own abilities.

Cycling up steep hills in the early morning to get to work can be challenging at times, but during the entire daily ride I enjoy myself. This attitude is also a reflection of my work experience until now. There have been a series of opportunities that have come up my way and although taking them has been challenging at times, I have fully enjoyed every second of them. For example, despite being a native French speaker, I have done my schooling in English and have acquired my scientific vocabulary in English. Given that Pierre and his supervisor speak French, I gradually had to learn all the necessary scientific terms in French while avoiding the invention of French terms and causing numerous bursts of laughter. The challenge was pushed one step further when I was asked to do a presentation in French about our project to the Popular University of Delémont, as both Pierre and his supervisor were away collecting parasitoids in East Asia during that time. It was a rewarding experience to witness the students’ enthusiasm after the presentation, especially after I had spent a few hours making sure that I knew the French translations of all the required terms before they arrived.

Furthermore, my experience at SFU has been key to the development of several skills I am finding useful here. My involvement with the climate justice club SFU 350 and with the Divest SFU campaign over the past two years has taught me that taking up challenges can be an extremely rewarding experience. With the club, I was willing to take on projects with barely any knowledge of how to go about them and was ready to learn how to tackle them. At CABI, this has proved to be an invaluable skill, as I do presentations in French or as I set up studies on my own and work independently for a few weeks while Pierre is away.

As this is just the beginning of an exciting six-month co-op term, I am looking forward to the many more challenging and fulfilling experiences ahead. Moreover, CABI produces practical research that addresses environmental and agricultural problems and I feel very lucky to be contributing to such useful and applicable work in an international setting.

Congratulations to Tessa for winning the President’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability 2017!

Read more about Tessa's sustainable values and her involvement in the SFU community.