Seniz sitting on a wall

My first few months on placement

Every year more students are joining ecology courses, and so I find it is important they get the guidance and advice they need. So, I do hope whatever field you are in if it’s ecology, biology, or biomedical science you can appreciate how enriching experiences like this are.

So, throw yourself into writing that CV or cover letter and have a go! You never know, you might just get that placement!

As this year ends, I mark my fourth month on my placement. In this blog post, I will summarise my first few months working for the Field Studies Council (FSC). I hope that the information I share will help those looking to pursue a placement.  

If you are looking for information on the pre-placement process such as how to apply and what to expect, please use this link to refer to a previous blog post I have written detailing just that.

August: Getting trained! 

My adventure began on the 15th of August where I travelled to FSC Millport. This is one of the FSC’s centres located on the Isle of Cumbrae. I have to say it was a long way to go, but if you ever get the chance to visit, it is stunning! 

Here I did all my training alongside fellow placement students who also achieved a placement with the FSC. I completed my first aid training and my water safety training. This meant that I was able to provide first aid and run activities that involved working in water. So already I was gaining skills and learning plenty of new things! 

I loved meeting all the other placement students. We would do so much together, such as cycle around the island, and not once, but twice do karaoke at a local pub. Love shack had never been sung better!  

We did group tasks involving how to manage groups of young children and assess our leadership skills. We learned fire safety management, which involved learning about different types of fire extinguishers and how to manage a fire. Which (crossed fingers) shouldn’t happen, but you need to be prepared for anything.

But those weeks had to come to an end, as I embarked onto the next leg of my journey.

After this training period, each placement student was sent to their placement centres. Some would go in twos or even threes to a centre, but I was sent alone to my centre. Which initially was a little daunting, going to a place I had never been before by myself. I guess that’s just proper adulting. We were all shuttled bused off, traveling down the country, and dropping off students at their centres. This began at 6.30 pm and I was last on my bus, being picked up by my centre manager, and arrived at Flatford at 10 pm!

Now an important thing to know about my centre, FSC Flatford, which is in Suffolk, is our buildings are very old. Some being almost 300 years old, which for me was amazing, I love history. But at night it was slightly spooky! I put this down to growing up in a town with streetlights everywhere, it was something new, but something good.

September: Kick off!

So, here’s where it all kicks off! I finally start working at my centre. Fortunately for me, my room was only a 5-second walk to the office, how lucky! I began by meeting everyone and being shown around the site by my lovely line manager Charlie.

I observed groups and gained a feel for how things were run. I then led a group throughout the neighbouring village called East Bergholt. If any readers have heard of the famous painter John Constable this is where he was born, in fact, his father once owned our Mill House building. Our site is owned by the National Trust so you can imagine all the older generations who flock here. They absolutely love it here, and I can’t blame them! This means that the area is very Georgian, which if you grew up watching Horrible Histories, I am sure you are very familiar with!

My main job as the HEP (Higher Education Placement) was to run and maintain our resources room, which had all our equipment. So, this might be collating equipment for sessions or cleaning them. Alongside the wellies shed, but that is simply handing out wellies and waterproofs! I did a fair amount of reorganising of both rooms, which I have to say did a lot of good for them! Especially the mammal trapping kit, all I can say is bird seeds… were everywhere.

As I began to travel around, I decided to get myself a bike, which I highly recommend to anyone going to a more rural location. I enjoy riding my bike down alongside the River Stour, which goes right outside our Mill house. Which mind you, I was able to canoe down since I was allowed to borrow a canoe whenever I want!

October: The month of revamping

October was when I finally got my hands on the centre’s social media. I had a lot of previous experience working on social media as charity and fundraising officer, and briefly president of one of our university’s societies. This meant I knew exactly what was needed to revamp our Instagram in particular.

I write species of the week posts, which boosts my knowledge as I research and write detailed descriptions of them. For the future, I’ve prepped three months’ worth of content for notable days such as soil day, world wetlands day, and international day for women and girls in science, just to name a few. Please do go follow us at @fscflatfordmill and keep tuned to see those posts up, I’ve begun creating infographics so visually and information-wise they are really good!

During this time, we had a week where we didn’t have any groups in. So, what did I do? I went around revamping the centre! Created my own board in the hallway, including ecological news and other content. This has featured Greta Thunberg and currently is focused on COP26. Additionally, redoing faded signs and reprinting posters. Just really harnessing the beauty of our building and have captivating content for visiting guests to engage with.



The highlight of this month was my bizarre interaction with a Cormorant! We have a bridge outside our building, and it was blocking my path. I have to say I slightly fell in love with it. It was one of those interactions where you think, is this happening? It let me pass by it hesitantly, as I say to it “It’s okay Mr. Cormorant, I’m just passing, you’re okay” along with many other words of comfort as though it could even understand me. A memory I won’t ever forget, and so began my love for Cormorants. If you get the chance to search videos of them hunting fish, they are absolute experts!

I lastly got the chance to do some moth trapping of my own. Now I previously thought moths were okay, not particularly bad little things, just a neutral group. But when I say how adorable they were I mean it. Some were so fluffy! I caught a smoky wainscot, square-spot-rustic, a dark fruit-tree tortrix amongst others.

November: Reflection

So here we are, up to this present moment I am writing this blog post. I sit in the office with all my co-workers chit-chatting. They are lovely people to work with. Having great co-workers is not something everyone is so lucky to have. We even have D&D nights and go to the pub. I enjoy the fact that no matter the department, everyone chats to everyone. I might walk into the admin office and see the chefs chatting with the admin staff. I was even lucky enough to have a TV for the year since a fellow staff member who lives on-site lent it to me. I have two Christmas dinners upcoming, one with the education team which I am a part of, and one with all staff at our centre. Safe to say I will be going back home for Christmas with a more than full stomach!

My happiest moment has to be when I had a photo of myself put up on the board with the rest of the staff. It felt like the last step to feeling a part of this centre!

Last year we were all in lockdown and so my skills didn’t get the chance to improve. But being here has filled in so many gaps, I can now point to a black-headed gull and reel off facts I never knew before. I feel it will make me so much more confident when I enter my third year, as I can contribute so much more.

I think that being told something in lectures is one thing but being able to out and do it yourself is another. Interactive learning has always been for me and is about to go out and seeing these animals or research methods in person boosted my knowledge.

Every year more students are joining ecology courses, and so I find it is important they get the guidance and advice they need. So, I do hope whatever field you are in if it’s ecology, biology, or biomedical science you can appreciate how enriching experiences like this are.

So, throw yourself into writing that CV or cover letter and have a go! You never know, you might just get that placement!

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