Flo Taylor is a BSC Marine Biology student at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. Flo recently completed a placement with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary.
Why did you decide to take a placement module?
It was part of a compulsory Skills and Careers module in Year 1, but I wanted to volunteer at the Seal Sanctuary anyway.
What type of work you did on your placement, and how do you think this has given you experience for your future career?
I was an education volunteer, so I was engaging with visitors, answering questions and telling them about the animals and the charity. I even gave a few talks to groups of visitors about some of the animals.
“I was outside the whole time, which was great, and reaffirmed for me that I don’t want to work in an office!”
It certainly gave me more confidence in talking to and approaching people, and I came away with more knowledge about the animals and how a charity like that functions.
I was also outside the whole time, which was great, and reaffirmed for me that I don’t want to work in an office!
What did you enjoy most about your placement?
I loved knowing that I was contributing, supporting, and representing the Seal Sanctuary, somewhere that is well-known and well-loved. The people there are so friendly and it felt like a little community.
“I loved knowing that I was contributing, supporting, and representing the Seal Sanctuary, somewhere that is well-known and well-loved.”
I didn’t actually have any direct interaction with the animals, but it was wonderful to be able to see them every week, and I did come to recognise all the individual seals (actually quite hard to do!) and some of their individual quirks.
Do you think your placement has benefited the local community? If so, in what way?
My volunteering there will have certainly helped the Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary definitely benefits the local community, so I suppose, indirectly I will have benefited the local community.
The Sanctuary brings many tourists to the local area, and even just to Cornwall as a whole, which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants and B&Bs.
“The Sanctuary brings many tourists to the local area, and even just to Cornwall as a whole, which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants and B&Bs.”
The Sanctuary also supports and is supported by other businesses such as A&K Wildlife cruises, which operate out of Falmouth. The Sanctuary also brings so much joy to the local community. There are many people who are regular visitors and who know all of the seals as well as I did! So the Sanctuary absolutely plays an integral role in the local community.
Do you have any tips for other students looking for/undertaking a placement?
Perseverance and knowing how to write a concise, well-structured email are absolutely key.
So many places will either not reply, say no, or say not right now, and all of those are OK and should not discourage you. Keep emailing lots of places, and send appropriate follow up emails when you don’t get a reply.
“Perseverance and knowing how to write a concise, well-structured email are absolutely key.”
It’s also definitely worth emailing places even when they don’t have anything advertised right at that moment – perhaps they are about to advertise something and you might get in there early (that happened to me with the National Trust!), or at least you will have made yourself known, so that when they do want/need someone, you’re already there.
Being able to write a good email will make it easier for the recipients to read and make a decision about you. Be concise in what you want/ask for from the placement – how long, why you want it, what you want from them and what you can give back.
If you’d like to find out more about placements you can start your research here