Student experiences

Nikita Cleasby on placement

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10 October 2013

A quick chat with final year FdSc Animal Management and Welfare student Nikita Cleasby

Nikita, 21, from Manchester, spent the majority of her placement year as an animal care assistant at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary in Lancashire, but she was able to take a month of her own time to spend as a keeper at Miami Zoo, working with all mammals from tigers and lions to rhinos.

What was the best part of your time at Miami Zoo?

The giraffes. I built up a really special bond with one, Kita, a pregnant giraffe. She had her baby the day before I left the zoo and on my last day I got to spend some time with him. The keepers named him Titan-Nikita (after me, which is a real privilege).

What sort of jobs did you do there?

If I was working with the giraffes I would target train each giraffe for 5-10 minutes each then let the out onto the enclosure. I would ‘poo pick’ the off exhibit enclosure then move to the zebra’s and do the same. In the afternoon ‘poo pick’ the on exhibit enclosure with the giraffes. At about 5pm the giraffes and zebras are brought back in.

What did you do at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary?      

I was an Animal Care Assistant of dogs, cats, and farm animals.  A typical day on placement would consist of morning feeding cats or dogs, then cleaning out the kennels or cat pens. In the afternoon dog walking must happen and all of them must be walked twice a day. An hour before end of the day all dogs or cats must be fed again.

What was the highlight?  

At Bleakholt it was getting to know so many different dogs and cats by personality and when you re-home them it feels good. The staff treated me like a staff member so I got to see various vet trips which was definitely insightful.

Do you think placement helps your career opportunities?

It creates more experience on your CV which is good for applying for jobs. It also gives you a real insight into working in that field and whether you enjoyed it and wanted to pursue it as a career.

What are your career plans?       

Originally I had planned to be an RSPCA inspector, and I still want to apply for that. However, working in Miami Zoo has made me also look into a zoo keeper career.

How do you think your course will help you with your career?

My course covers welfare of all types of animals and in the final year there is a zoo animal module.

What attracted you to Harper Adams?

The animal courses looked amazing, as did the facilities. The university is in such a lovely area  - it was nice to get away from the city for a bit.

Why did you choose your course?

The content looked amazing and the fact that there was a full year hands on in a work environment really attracted me.

Tell us a little about what it involves.

All my modules have exams and most have a combination of assignments and exams. There are a number of lab sessions and in first year there is lots of opportunity to get hands on in the companion animal unit. The Large Animal Management module in first year also gives you an opportunity to see the farm animals and how they work in industry. The course ranges from husbandry of animals to their behaviour to the health aspects.

Do you think it is beneficial to get a formal qualification, rather than going straight to work after school/sixth form?

Some jobs require it and it gives an in depth knowledge to the field of work you are studying in. There are things that you won’t learn in the work place that you would do studying the course in detail.

What do you think of the teaching at Harper Adams?

It’s amazing. Lecturers are always willing to help and give up their time for you. They know you by name and your personal strengths and weaknesses.

And the facilities?

Very specialist for specific course types, and increasingly getting bigger and improving. There is everything you ever need as a student right on the doorstep on campus, from the companion animal unit to the farm, a swimming pool and gym for fitness and a well-stocked library.

What have you enjoyed most about your time here?

Enjoying the rural life and the opportunity to have hands on experience with the animals that Harper Adams has to offer. The balls that the Students Union put on each year are always a highlight.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am one of the execs of this year’s Christian union. I am also part of the fencing and equestrian clubs.

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