My name is Amie, I’m 24 years old and have Secondary Dystonia caused by birth Hypoxia. I went to Stepping Stones School from 2006 to 2011, and then went to Merrist Wood College to study Animal Management. I studied my undergraduate degree at the University of Kent and graduated in July 2018 with a First Class Honours degree in Wildlife Conservation with a Year in Professional Practice. I am now embarking on my next adventure – an MSc in Conservation at University College London!

I was very nervous about starting as it was a new course, in a new environment, with new people. As I live so close to London, I’m living at home this year and commuting into London daily, so I was unsure as to how I would cope with that, given my higher fatigue levels. The first few weeks of the course were very intense as in the space of 3 weeks, we went on two week-long field courses and then had laboratory sessions and lectures 9-5 in the middle week – talk about throwing us in the deep end!!

The first field course was to the north Norfolk coast studying pond and river ecology. Surveying these habitats was great fun – even if a few people did get stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out (me included)! The second field course was in Snowdonia National Park in Wales, where we focused more on the social science perspective of conservation, interviewing farmers and land owners. The field courses were very physically demanding, but I managed to do the majority of the activities. There was one walk on each trip that I didn’t participate in due to the length and/or terrain, which was a bit of a shame, but it meant that I could sit in the warm with a hot chocolate rather than out in the rain and cold – so I’m happy! After a long day in the field, and the subsequent evening lectures and lab sessions, we had some free time to have a bit of a relax. There was a games room in the Norfolk field centre, so we often spent a couple of hours in the evenings after work playing table tennis or table football – even the lecturers joined in, which was great fun!

I was really nervous about going on the field trips, so I met the lecturers beforehand, just to chat with them about my abilities and their expectations. I think I impressed them though, as I have a “can-do” attitude and am very determined when I set my mind to something; equally though, I know my own abilities, so know when I need to stop. I’m so glad we went on both field trips at the beginning of the year, as we got to know each other and the lecturers very well and have gelled as a group now, which is lovely.

I have now submitted my first Masters essay, which was a bit nerve-wracking, so now just waiting on the results, whilst continuing with all my other work and attending lectures and seminars.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would have a first class honours degree and be studying a masters I would have thought they were mad; now I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for me! With the right support in place, be it from family, friends, school or university, the right attitude, and enough determination, anything is possible; whether that’s getting a job, living on your own, travelling, studying – go for it!