Why Biological Science students should apply to the BES summer school.
Something that comes along with all degrees is the pressure to simultaneously collate a truckload of "relevant experience". You've already gone the extra mile by doing a degree, and yet there's always something more you need to do.
For biology/zoology/ecology and environmental science students, the pressure can be even more intense, as postgrad careers often call for at least a Bsc AND a ton of experience.
If you are studying one of these degree subjects, or something similar, I strongly advise you to look into the British Ecological Summer School for Undergrads that occurs at a different field centre in the UK each year. Despite its misleading name, it's only 5 days long, but it's a jam-packed week. You will learn some extremely key things for this sort of career, you will network, you will attend workshops, and you will have a great time, too!
Whilst studying my first year of Zoology at the University of Hull, I was advised by a lecturer to apply to this "school". On a whim, I decided to apply - I needed all the experience I could get, and it looked pretty awesome. It's a really competitive course, so make sure your application is good, and that you get a good reference (from the uni lecturer who will give you the most gleaming report, perhaps..). Only 50 people can attend the course per summer, but often 150+ students apply. Don't let that put you off - there's no harm in applying! Also, even if you don't get selected at first, you will be put on a backup list and might be next on the list if somebody happens to drop out.
This year, the course was held at Dale Fort Field Centre, Pembrokeshire, Wales. One of the most fantastic things about the course is that your travel expenses can be reimbursed if you keep all your train/fuel receipts. Coming from a low-income family, this was a godsend. After a 7-hour train journey from North Yorkshire, I hopped off in sunny Wales and began my adventure.
During the week, I had a personal PhD mentor. My mentor was extremely helpful, and did things like look over my CV and help me improve it, and talk to me about career paths. Along with this, we also attended daily workshops from different professors and experts, from mammal ecology to entomology. We also had a free day trip on a boat to the incredible Skomer Island and were able to watch and identify different seabird species. We also gained practical experience, with various fieldwork sessions such as surveys of the rockpools (that were 5 minutes away), learning to use bat detectors at a bat roost, and learning techniques to catch and identify different insects.
One of the best things about the summer school is the ability to network and make connections with people who are extremely relevant to your career. This also includes the other students - everyone has different areas of expertise, and you don't realise how much you can learn just from chatting to people.
Lastly, you'll also make some great friends while there, and there is a reunion follow up after the summer school.
If you want to apply next time, keep a look out on the website: http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/learning-and-resources/career-development/summer-school/, and make sure you keep checking the page so that you don't miss the application deadline.
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