November 11, 2016, by Joe Ward

What I Learned Volunteering in a South African Animal Sanctuary

By Alex Trimble, BA Film and Television Studies

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 Alex Trimble, an undergraduate film and television studies student, who undertook a volunteer film-making/media assistant internship at Monkeyland in South Africa.

Can you give us some details of your placement?

I was a volunteer filmmaker/media assistant at three of the South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) sanctuaries in the Western Cape of South Africa. These sanctuaries were Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and Jukani.

During my time there I was given the task of providing the Media Manager of SAASA – Vijver Jonck, my first point of contact – with images and videos for her to use in promotional and educational materials.

What new skills did you learn?

My dream career would be to work in wildlife filmmaking and the advice that has been given to me by everyone I talk to is that experience is priceless.

Before my placement I had a small portfolio of local wildlife native to England. Now, however, I have been able to showcase my skills in a completely different environment on the other side of the world.

At the top level, wildlife shoots can take many months to complete waiting for the right shots of the animals that could take weeks to track down. Monkeyland was a simulated wild environment where all the monkeys could roam free in a 13 square hectare forest. This was a vital stepping stone for me as it allowed me to locate the monkeys in the forest with relative ease compared to what it would be like in the wild, while also getting me used to the challenges that come with filming wildlife.

What would you say was your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement came on my very last day at Monkeyland. I was able to get a photograph of the first baby Vervet Monkey, only a couple of days old, attached to the front of its mother.

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

My biggest challenge was when I was asked to design new information boards for the Jukani apex cat sanctuary.

I was tasked with taking new photographs of all the species, rewriting the information, as some of it was incorrect, and creating a ‘modern design’ for the boards. This was something I didn’t have any previous experience in and I had to design it on Mac software and I had only previously Windows. This made things particularly difficult as I struggled to complete the simplest of tasks on new software.

However, I overcame this by using the internet to teach myself how to use Mac editing and design software to create information boards that I was proud of after hours of work.

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

  1. Try and find a blog or talk to someone who has done your placement, or something similar, so you have an idea of what to expect when you’re out there.
  2. Make sure you research current events, currency, language, medical advice and anything else you can think of. If you’re travelling outside Europe then there are usually recommended vaccines and other things you should definitely look out for.
  3. Ask the company how many other volunteers/people they are expecting so you know if you will meet other people in your situation when you’re out there.

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