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    I'm half way through the first term of second year studying Applied Animal Science with SRUC and I hate it. First year was a nightmare but this year is definitely worse...
    When I was fifteen I began volunteering in a vets with a family friend, for the next two years I gained invaluable experience with members of the public, staff and the animals, but I decided being a vet just wasn't for me. Two years ago I started volunteering at the best (not so little any more!) zoo in the entire world, which shall remain nameless, and started an internship in march this year. I spent my summer doing three intern days and two paid days a week (because I can run sections by myself), working with some amazing animals, building up their and my confidence and learning so much. There have been some tough days as there are in any job, don't get me wrong, but they have done nothing but teach me I want this more than anything and spur me on more. Being at the zoo motivates me to learn more about the animals in my care and what I can do to make them even happier, I could talk for DAYS about some of the animals I've worked with because I'm so passionate about the whole thing. I didn't know I was a people person until I started this, and now I love to have conversations with members of the public who are always so delighted to see how far the zoo has come! At the beginning of the summer I would turn up to my talks hoping and praying that no one was there so I didn't have to actually speak in front of people, by the peak of the summer I was proudly showing off my otter and meerkat knowledge to a pond or savannah surrounded by people. I've gained so much knowledge and confidence in one summer than in my entire schooling experience and I had more motivation than I'd ever had before. I spent a lot of time this summer doing research outside of my work time and spent my first saas payment on textbooks to learn things for working at the zoo, not for my course.
    Back at uni, my spirit is well and truly dead. I'm only in three days a week, but I'm spending another three at the zoo and having one day off. The amount I'm over working myself is starting to take a real tole on my body, but there is no way I could give up a zoo day. The lack of time I'm spending there is already bad enough! Every time I'm sat in a lab pipetting from one eppendorf tube to another it makes me want to cry. I am bored out of my mind, I have no motivation and I just want to be working my butt off for a place I love. Others on my course are enjoying it, the information is great, but I just don't care enough about it. I wish I did, because it's a brilliant course...it's just not for me!
    I'm torn because, although I have top quality experience coming out of my ears at only 18 years old, I'm worried about how important qualifications are to future employers. Any exit qualifications from this course don't contain the word "animal" until I'm leaving third year, they're just "bioscience" for the first two. If I ever end up working in a lab, I'll be utterly miserable, so that entire side of the course is meaningless to me...but then I'm also interested in the physiology of animals, their behaviour, their welfare etc. which is kind of accessed via that basic scientific grounding. I just can't quite decide whether it's worth it. I'm so tired now and my days at the zoo are kind of scattered so I feel like any contributions I make are kind of useless and stilted, I'm so exhausted and out of the swing of things that I can't do the sections as well as I'd want to! Then I have to turn up for uni the next day, just about fall asleep in every lecture and hate the entire experience from start to finish. I don't know what to do!
    I'm sorry that was so long...but any suggestions or experiences would really help if you have them, I'm just so confused!
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    Working in zoos is a hugely competitive career path, and if you want to be a zoo-keeper, you'll be applying for positions competing with people who have postgrad degrees and lots of experience. It sounds like you have chosen the wrong course, unfortunately. I did animal behaviour and welfare at university, and it sounds like you might enjoy that more, or possibly look into something conservation based. Have you looked into the possibility of transferring to a different course, possibly at a different university? If you're Scottish, I can see the fees might put you off, but maybe it's worth considering?

    I'm actually a bit worried about what you say about being so tired- when I was doing my degree, I was in uni, working a part time job, and doing work experience at weekends, and so were a lot of people I knew. I had one friend who regularly did seven day weeks in term time (uni+part time work+two days a week volunteer keeping at a zoo). Is it worth seeing a GP to see if this is a symptom of anything? Chances are, if you start out in a hands on animal based role, you'll be working long/anti-social hours as well. However, if you really are just doing to much, can you drop a day a week at the zoo during term time, and pick up more hours there again in the summer?
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    I think you're right, this course is not really for me! But I don't think I have the heart or the courage to start all over again. Money is a big thing, seeing as I'll probably never be paid a whole lot in my lifetime but I also live with my parents just now and they earn pretty much nothing, so there's little backup financial support there.
    I was never this tired over the summer, even working long and unsociable hours! I could be doing ten hour shifts and then staying behind afterwards to help with extra stuff, but I was never exhausted to the point of delirium. I think it's just the constant stress of doing too many things at once and not knowing whether I'm coming or going. It's getting to the stage my brain is just shutting down, I've had to ask people to repeat themselves when they've just asked a simple "how was your weekend?" because I genuinely didn't understand the question. The only two reasons I'm still at uni are the fact that I'm worried about the job being as competitive as it is, and that it means I can still work at the zoo and don't have to get a job I'm actually paid full time for. From the competitive side you said it's pretty important...I feel I may be stuck in this living hell for a few more years then!
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    Keep at the degree - ultimately it is related to animals and therefore a zoo. Make sure you relax when you can and take it easy!
 
 
 
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