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Making my Mark: Countryside student reflects on his first year at Harper Adams

Posted 28 May 2016

"The society gives students the opportunity to work with local organisations such as Natural England, Wildlife Trusts and local Council Parks – experiences that are invaluable to future employers."

Sam, third from left, with conservation society students

Sam, third from left, with conservation society students

Sam King, 28, from Stockport, is just about to complete the first year of the BSc (Hons) Countryside Management following a 10-year detour from his planned career path. 

“Being from an urban background in South Manchester, after I left school I knew that what I wanted was very simple: I wanted to be outdoors. So I went to study countryside and environmental management and then agriculture at college. For reasons beyond my control this path to the outdoors did not continue.  The next 10 years were spent travelling the world and working in myriad of jobs, from shelf-stacking in retail stores to being an office manager in a software company. 

“Working for more than 40 hours a week in an office, plus commuting through daily traffic jams became a routine that did not feel one bit rewarding. It was time for a positive change.

“I did some research into continuing my studies in Countryside Management. When I spoke to my previous college and anyone I knew in the industry one name kept coming up: Harper Adams University. I compared Harper Adams to several other universities throughout the UK and again and again I could not find anywhere that matched the employment rate upon graduation and the quality opportunities and of the teaching provided. This cemented my choice and I have not looked back.

Support

“One of my reasons for choosing Harper Adams was the support it offered. I was fortunate enough to partake in a transition day prior to the official term start date. That cemented for me that Harper Adams University was the right choice, having met Val, Sue and Jane from the support team, the idea of entering full-time education did not seem quite so intimidating and provided reassurance that support was there if I needed it.

“I received some early assistance with my grammar and assignment structure. Just being told that I was working in the correct manner and that my writing style was on the right track, gave me the ability to complete my work with confidence. Weekly support meetings and occasional workshops have given me a support structure that allows me to discuss and improve areas that I feel are my weak points and also to highlight my strengths.

“I have also been impressed with opportunities presented to me outside of the teaching programme. Guest speakers come in to give students a better idea of what is involved in the real world application of our degrees. Off the back of speaking to one of these guests, I am now employed as an Assistant Ecologist, working at the weekends and some evenings, relocating Great Crested Newts and many other species across various sites. 

“I have been given the opportunity to visit Beijing, China, for two weeks with Harper Adams on a cultural Exchange. This was made possible due to the great links the university has worldwide. The trip is fully-funded and an incredible opportunity to make new friends from different cultures and to see first-hand how one of the biggest economies in the world manages its environmental impacts.

"Following a lecture on Contemporary Countryside and Environmental Issues, and subsequent academic disccision I have been able to take part in trials focussed on biochar - a biomass turned into charcoal through the process of pyrolysis is then used for soil amendment.  As a result I have learned what is necessary to setup, undertake and record data for a current topical science project.

Employers

"I am the new chairman of the Harper Adams Conservation Society and within my first month in office we had arranged a guided walk for some of the Beijing students to introduce them to the surrounding area and showed them what fauna and flora can be found and discussed our cultural differences and similarities. The society gives students the opportunity to work with local organisations such as Natural England, Wildlife Trusts and local Council Parks – experiences that are invaluable to future employers.

“On the subject of employment, one of the key benefits of studying at Harper Adams is the placement year. The ability to network with lectures, guest speakers, your cohort and friends, provides industry links that I certainly would not have found back in Manchester. These links have given me the opportunity to potentially work abroad in the US for my placement year, working with the Fish and Wildlife Service. There are also opportunities to take my placement year locally with the National Trust, providing training on the job and the potential for future employment.

"As a mature student and having been out of formal education for so long, I had little or no scientific background. This meant that I could only be taken on the BSc (Hons) Countryside Management course, as my studies went on it became clear to me that having an understanding in the scientific processes would be essential in my future employment. After discussing that I would like to move to BSc (Hons) Countryside and Environmental Management (CEM) with the senior lecturer, it was agreed that if I achieved a higher average percentage at the end of the year, then I could move to CEM. CEM is also an accredited course with the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental management (CIEEM), further improving my potential for employment upon obtaining my degree.

“I would recommend Harper Adams to anyone trying to choose a university. The positive experience that I have had in my first year alone is far beyond anything I could have expected. If you are willing to say yes and ask questions then you will have no problem succeeding.”

Students considering applying to Harper Adams University to do Countryside, Wildlife or Geography courses are welcome to contact Programme Manager Simon Irvin,  sirvin@harper-adams.ac.uk

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