“I always thought I could never really become a Zoo Keeper, I thought it was beyond anything I was capable of, even though it was my childhood dream to run my own zoo!” Says Chloe, who is currently studying Zoo Management at Merrist Wood College.
Having grown up in a household that regularly featured numerous cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards and fish, Chloe developed a keen interest and love of caring for a wide range of animals and knew from a young age that she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing just that. But on a much grander scale!
“I loved looking after all our pets, their habitats and their well-being, but thought that although my passion for looking after animals could become a career, it would be too difficult for me to do, it was something that other people did, not the likes of me!”
So, Chloe decided that a career as an actor beckoned. She promptly signed up for an acting class, but realising that her natural shyness would probably prevent her from global stardom, she decided that she might be more suited to a future in animal care after all.
The Secondary school years were not an overly positive experience for Chloe, and she took solace in the care of her pets. So it stood to reason that as soon as she had finished her GCSEs, she went on to a local college to study a Level 3 qualification in Animal Management with a view to volunteering at a zoo in order to try and make a few contacts in the industry.
Chloe says, “My college tutor showed me the Merrist Wood website when I told her I didn’t want to go to university, my lecturers really wanted me to go since I got good grades and was passionate, but I was so desperate to not carry on in education, due to anxiety issues, I refused. However, when my zoo volunteering plans didn’t work out, I thought I’d take a closer look into Merrist Wood. I had an interview and tour of Merrist Wood and loved it so much, that on the drive back from the interview I knew this was the place where I felt comfortable, something just clicked, and it just felt ‘right’. Being someone with extreme anxiety, feeling comfortable is not something you come by often, so I just knew I had to go there.”
Chloe is now in her first year of Zoo Management Foundation Degree and is very well settled in to student life living happily on-site in student accommodation, becoming Student Union Vice President, Student Rep for her class and if that isn’t enough to keep her busy, she is also Student Rep for the halls of residence!
“I absolutely love helping to improve everyone’s experience of college life. I love being the person people can come to if they have any problems or issues—I think I am a good listener!
“College is the best decision I ever made. It’s really changed me for the better, both in confidence and general happiness. My course is varied and interesting, no two days are the same and my tutors are the most caring, supportive people. Always there to listen if you have a problem and happy to take the time to chat things through if you’re finding things tricky. We’re all excited to learn and as a tight knit group, we enjoy class discussions and debates where every opinion is valid and supported.
“So far, on my course, I’ve really enjoyed the training module. I loved the freedom to choose an animal, design its program and be able to train it myself. I felt I was learning more because I was in charge of my own learning (with support from my tutor) and because I was inspired to reach my own goal. This experience will help me in my career as I can apply the training to new animals.
I really want to run my own zoo one day, but until then, my ambition is to travel the world working in different zoos along the way to get all the experience that I can working with a wide variety of species. I want to be an animal advocate, helping to shape animal laws and speaking out on animal subjects. And Merrist Wood is helping me to realise that I can do it!”