Jessica & Matthew
Jessica Baggott, 22, from Sunderland and Matthew Chapman, 22 from Chester-Le-Street are former Level 3 Animal Management students at East Durham College’s Houghall Campus and are now looking to the future after graduating with honours degrees from Bangor University.
Matthew, who is graduating from Bangor with a 2:1 degree in Zoology with Animal Behaviour, with a 1st-class dissertation, was full of praise for his time at Houghall. He said:
“I would say that enrolling onto the Animal Management course at Houghall was, along with university, the best decision of my life to date. I was not strongly considering university before my second year at Houghall, and enrolled onto the Animal Management course entirely because of my interest in animals.
“Bearing this in mind, I would encourage anyone else to do the same, as it brought many of my specific interests into fruition and gave me a better understanding about what I would like to do in the future. I would also like to highlight that, although on paper it may not sound as impressive as completing A-levels, it is much more specialised to specific interests, and prepares you for university in a way that A-levels simply cannot.”
Jessica graduated from Bangor with a 1st class degree also in Zoology with Animal Behaviour. She had plenty of advice for those considering taking the same course as she did at Houghall, saying:
“Definitely put the effort in. It’s a brilliant course and so much fun, but don’t just scrape by. Do plenty of extra independent research for your assignments and really push yourself to get the highest grades you can.”
East Durham College’s Houghall campus, which specialises in land-based courses and studies was where Matthew and Jessica first developed their interest in pursuing a career in the animal industry.
Students who study on our Level 3 Animal Management course, or the wide variety of other Animal Care courses we offer at Houghall, get to regularly interact with many different species of animal. Our state-of-the-art animal care centre, which was opened just a few years ago, houses several different species including small mammals such as chipmunks, guinea pigs and chinchillas, as well as exotic animals including snakes and other reptiles.
Learning to manage different animals such as these helped prepare both Jessica and Matthew for their time at university, and for developing their skills ready for their future careers in the animal industry.
Both Jessica and Matthew plan to stay at University to complete Master’s Degrees. Jessica said:
“I am now progressing onto a Master’s by Research degree (MScRes), and from there would ideally like to go on to complete a PhD. I’ve enjoyed academia so much this far that I’d really like to carry it on and eventually work as a researcher in zoology for an institution.”
Matthew said: “My next step is to complete a Masters in Research degree in biological sciences, focusing on Zoology and more specifically Acarology (Mites). This is not a taught Masters and will be entirely based on my own research, much like a PhD on a smaller scale. My intentions after my Masters, is to use that as a stepping stone onto a PhD in Arachnology (spiders, scorpions, mites etc.). This will hopefully stand me in a better position to get a job in research or academia, specialising in invertebrates.
Although he is quick to say university may not be for everyone, Matthew has also very much enjoyed his time at Bangor. He said: “Personally, I have loved every minute of university. I have made some lifelong friends, joined two football teams and met some incredible professionals and experts in specific zoological fields. In second year, we were also both fortunate enough to go to Kruger National Park, South Africa, for a Field Courses module. Here we had the opportunity to take field notes, whilst simultaneously observing some of the world’s most iconic and fascinating animal species.”
Jessica said: “I’ve loved my university experience. I would definitely recommend that others go, but only if it’s the right choice for you. It can be very hard work, but extremely rewarding. The only way to do well at university is by putting in a LOT of effort, and lecturers will not chase you up on work. It really has to come from you.”
If you’d like to follow in Jessica and Matthew’s footsteps and pursue a career in the Animal Care industry, starting out with an Animal Care course at Houghall is a great idea.