Dutch trainees in Brazil: ‘We are really learning a lot at Terra Viva’

Niels Hendriks (left) and Sem van der Knaap are in the second year of their Business & Management studies at the Westland vocational training institute in Naaldwijk. They’re currently doing their internship with Terra Viva in Holambra, Brazil. ‘The Brazilians are very hospitable.’

What are you doing in Brazil?

Sem: “We’re in the second year of our Business & Management studies at the Westland vocational training institute in Naaldwijk. A nine-week internship abroad is a compulsory part of the programme in second year. We were keen to go to a faraway destination. A cousin of Niels, who did an internship in Brazil a few years ago, helped us get a place in the South American country. We’re doing our internship with Terra Viva. They like working with trainees in Brazil. The horticultural industry is about 15 years behind, so they can learn from us, but we’re also learning a lot ourselves.”

What kinds of things are you learning?

Niels: “Terra Viva wants to invest in mechanisation. So my task consists of making a business plan for a potting machine for phalaenopsis and dendrobium. Sem is writing a plan for an anthurium potting machine. We’re learning a lot and at the same time, we’re also contributing something to Terra Viva. Our school has also given us tasks to work on.”

What’s your impression so far?

Sem: “I’ve heard that in some companies, students are just put to work for nine weeks. But we’re really learning a lot and we get to see so much. Terra Viva organises lots of things for us. That’s really nice. We visited their other location in Araxa for example, where they grow bulb flowers and potatoes. Jeffrey Meijler showed us around at the Brazilian location of Sion Orchids and we visited the Hortitec horticultural fair in Holambra too.”

Do you feel welcome?

Niels: “Terra Viva is very good for trainees. They’re really looking after us. They provide a place to live, as well as our meals and transportation. Brazilians are very hospitable. We play football once a week and we’ve already met many young Brazilians. It’s completely normal for trainees to be invited into people’s homes. That’s something we could learn from in the Netherlands.”

Any time left for a holiday?

Niels: “We’ve been to Rio. In the office here, they warned us for shootings and told us not to go out at night. We went on a sightseeing tour with a local guide. We never felt unsafe. We spent a week in Bonito, too.”

Do you think you’ll ever return to the Netherlands?

Sem: “Oh yes, of course we will! Unless we get some sort of amazing offer, perhaps. In any case, we’ll have a unique experience to look back on, and we do feel we could contribute something too.”

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