It is hard to believe it has been over three months since I started my year in industry placement with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Upland Research team. I have learnt a lot and had so many great experiences. Make no mistake, the last three months have been hard, and definitely not quite what I expected. But they have also been a lot of fun!
On the Placement
When I started, I expected to be learning lots of new things. This what I was really looking forward to about doing a placement. I knew I would be doing fieldwork in the Pennines and doing parasite counts. I also knew that I would have to attend a 4×4 driving course. Whilst these things have happened, in many ways, the placement has been very different from what I expected.
I didn’t realise quite how soon I would be given the responsibility of working by myself and I have surprised myself with what I am capable of. Doing a placement puts you in new situations and I think this is one of the biggest benefits I have got from it so far – not only the experience of those situations but also the confidence to know I can deal with more unfamiliar situations in the future.
Although I had given thought to what I might be learning before I started, I had not really given much consideration to the actual day-to-day work. I had not thought about how, once I had learnt how to do a strongyle worm count, I would then be spending a lot of days in the lab processing hundreds of guts from red grouse.
Even though the work is enjoyable, particularly the fieldwork, it can become less so when done repetitively. I have found doing something else at the same time makes the time pass quicker, such as chatting or listening to the radio. And never underestimate the power of a lunch break treat to brighten up a day! The placement has sometimes felt like it is not as exciting as I had expected but I think this is because my expectations were unrealistic.
Outside the Placement
Getting involved in activities outside of my placement was something I was really looking forward to; I wanted it to become just as big a part of the year in industry as the placement.
Not quite what I’d planned…
I was hoping to join a local Girlguiding unit and hockey team, as well as having regular trips back home and to York. However, COVID-19 threw a rather large spanner in the works! I have only been home once, and I have not seen any friends from university. When I moved up, the hockey team was not running, though it has started up since, and whilst I was able to join a Brownie unit, all the meetings have been virtual so far.
… But every cloud
But I have done other things which I didn’t expect to. I have been making the most of living on the doorstep of the Pennines and going out for long walks at the weekend. Also, I have joined a bird ringing group, and I shall soon be getting my trainee permit. I nearly turned down the opportunity to do this because of all the other things I intended to do, but I am so glad I did not. It is good to have plans but don’t let them prevent you from making the most of any unexpected opportunities that come your way.
Expect your expectations to be a little wrong
The huge change in lifestyle, whilst expected, has still presented some challenges.
Not being at university seems to simultaneously give both more and less time. The time outside of the placement is mine and I can completely forget about any work, but there is not a lot of it. My time is also a lot more structured. Unlike university, I can’t just go shopping at 2pm on a Thursday or get some work done at 8pm on a Sunday. You are limited to when you can do things, and this is a challenge I wasn’t expecting. It has meant I have had to become much better at motivating myself to do tasks when they need to be done, rather than putting them off until I feel more like doing them.
Another unexpected challenge has been just how exhausting the work is. Make sure you think about what the lifestyle will be like on your placement and be prepared for a big change from university. But if there is one lesson I have learnt from the last three months, it is that you should always expect your expectations to be a little bit wrong!
Don’t forget to read my previous post – My Year in Industry: First Steps – Getting a placement
- Read more student stories about placements
- Read more blog posts from Biology students