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How Harper’s Access Programmes helped Zoology alumna find her passion

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18 January 2023

Like many people, when Gemma Hill left secondary education, she still hadn't identified her dream career path.

She worked in hospitality but became increasingly drawn towards working with animals - and that led to her discovering Harper Adams. Then everything fell into place!

“I saw Harper Adams offered access courses, which meant even for people like me who didn’t have the results needed from college, I would still be able to enrol.

“As soon as I saw that Harper was offering Zoology courses, I knew straight away this was the course for me and within a few weeks, I was accepted!”

Harper Adams’s Access Programmes are an ideal starting point for students who might have qualifications that don’t directly match entry requirements for the courses they are looking at.

 Similarly, for those who have taken time out of education, starting a degree with a preparatory year can be a fantastic next step. For Gemma, the location of the Harper Adams campus was an added bonus.

Gemma said: “For me, being 22 already when I started, I had already started my life and therefore moving away permanently for four years just wasn’t an option.

“I loved the freedom Harper gave me being 30 minutes away from home; the flexible teaching style and layout of the campus. It all just worked.”

Gemma’s placement plans were among those affected by Covid-19 – hers particularly so, as they included some time abroad – but she eventually secured an enviable role working off the coast of Iceland.

She explained: “Pre Covid, I had arranged to go to Iceland and work on a whale watching boat, undertaking scientific studies on cetacean behaviour.

“Covid then cancelled that idea until about two weeks before I was meant to go. When the airspaces started to open up again, I managed to head off there.”

Despite her trip having to be cut short from 10 months to three due to more Covid-19 restrictions, she said: “it was undeniably an amazing experience”.

Eager to fill the remaining time allocated for her placement year, Gemma was able to find another exciting venture – this time helping reptiles thousands of miles away.

“I then stumbled across a turtle sanctuary in Mexico called La Tortuga Viva, who were offering remote positions so I could work from home helping them. This was a fantastic opportunity, and I learned a lot about a fantastic charitable organisation, whilst learning new skills along the way.”

Although her placement year didn’t go quite as planned, Gemma said: “both of my placements taught me some fantastic life lessons and new skills.”

Choosing Zoology has opened up many new doors for Gemma, including giving her an ideal job to strive towards.

Having now graduated, Gemma said: “My dream is to work in marine biology, which I still aim to pursue in future years. Working towards that goal, I am currently working as an Ecologist for an environmental consultancy company which is great.

“Zoology gives you an in-depth insight into the animal kingdom and environmental processes that shape our world as we know it today. It’s so broad you can easily go in several directions when you finish - whether that’s employment or further education the choices are endless.”

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