Nicola Morton at UmPhafa Nature Reserve

November 11, 2016, by Joe Ward

How I Challenged Myself With a Placement Abroad – and How You Can Too

By Nicola Morton, MSci Biology

Are you interested in undertaking work experience in another country, but worried about the cost? The International Work Experience Grant can offer up to £1000 to support you.

Designed to enable students to undertake work experience opportunities that they might not otherwise be able to afford, the grant will support expenses such as accommodation, travel and visas, living costs and vaccinations.

In this blog, we meet Nicola Morton, a biology masters student, who undertook a conservation internship at UmPhafa Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Can you give us some details of your placement?

For a month in July and August 2016 I was a conservation intern at UmPhafa Nature Reserve in South Africa. The internship was run by Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild project. During the internship I learned about African wildlife conservation and reserve management.

The role involved job shadowing and assisting qualified members of staff on a wide range of aspects involved in the running of a reserve. This includes collecting vital data necessary to make key management decisions such as game counts, ethograms, camera trapping and vegetation surveys.

What new skills did you learn?

I now have practical experience of working in a current, active nature reserve and have learned the skills that go alongside African wildlife conservation and reserve management.

I learned basic identification, navigation and tracking skills of African animals, and I also now have experience of conducting tree surveys, game counts, erosion control, alien plant invasion control and camera trapping. The results of these activities are then analysed to assist with management decisions of the reserve.

What would you say was your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement would be that I left feeling that I had truly contributed to the running of the reserve and put in my full effort for every task I was given, even when it was extremely physically demanding.

On the last day we climbed the highest mountain on the reserve up a donga – dry riverbed – that had never been explored before. It was an extremely challenging route, climbing up rocks and muddy banks but by working as a team we all managed to get to the top and found out some more information about a previously unexplored area.

What would you say was the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge during my internship was carrying out new tasks that I had never done before, every day.

This was challenging because it was hard to feel like I was becoming more competent and useful to the reserve when every task was new to me. I overcame this by getting stuck in to every task I was given. I made sure that I was eager and asked lots of questions. By doing this, I was able to pick up new tasks quickly and be as efficient as possible.

Can you give us three top tips to share with other students thinking of doing a placement abroad?

  1. Do your research before-hand

With conservation volunteering projects I learned to be careful of companies pretending to help wildlife when actually being very profit-driven. My internship was run by Colchester Zoo, a reputable organisation, and for a reasonable fee for food and accommodation, offered a suitable placement. Spend your time researching before!

  1. Save up some money

I was able to afford my internship not only from the International Work Experience Grant, but also because I have had multiple part-time jobs during college and University. Get saving, because not only are you saving it for a trip of a lifetime, but think of it as an investment because you are more employable afterwards!

  1. Just have the confidence to go

It is a scary concept to go abroad for probably the longest time you have ever been away from home – and you are going to work!

It is completely natural to be apprehensive to apply for a trip like this. If any of you are reading this and you don’t feel confident enough to try something like this or you feel like you couldn’t afford it, please think again. I have grown so much more confidence and independent by doing trips like this. I urge you to just try it, just go for it. If I can have the confidence to go to a different country for a month, then so can you!

If you want to get more details on the International Work Experience Grant and could help you fund some work experience overseas, visit our webpage to find out what it can be used for and your eligibility. You can also complete an expression of interest for funding, which will be assessed by our team.

You should also read our information about internships abroad and the things you need to consider when applying for work experience in another country.

Posted in International Work Experience Grant