News - July 28, 2015

Summer job: Safari in South Africa

Some Wageningen students use their summer holidays to do work in their discipline. This week Resource speaks with Iris de Winter.

Admittedly, PhD candidate Iris will not go on safari herself this year, but she organises the trip for other students. She does this since 2010, when Iris wanted to go to South Africa during her bachelor. ‘Due to safety reasons I wasn’t too keen on traveling alone. I left a note in the Forum if other students wanted to join, and it worked!’ The idea was so well received that since then Iris has been organising trips to Southern Africa each year. The trips go to Botswana/Zimbabwe, South Africa/Swaziland and Namibia.

The expedition offers, according to Iris, a unique opportunity to gain new insights and skills in the field and to see the knowledge you have acquired in class in practice. ‘The number of field courses and excursions is very limited in many courses. During the trips you visit various nature conservation organisations and institutions and you talk to experts in the field. Besides, you can attend a dissection of a shark by scientists.’

Also, students learn about the rehabilitation and protection of animals, what role animals play in ecosystems, and it allows them to understand the importance of the involvement of the local population and tourists with nature conservation. This treasure of new knowledge is not entirely without obligations. The students have to prepare an oral presentation that will be given in the field and they write a report based on their experiences. They can earn study credits for this.

Initially Iris organised the trip for her fellow biology students. Now students from very diverse studies are joining, also from other universities. Iris: ‘This diversity of people enables lively discussions around the campfire, because everyone has, through their studies, a different perspective.’

Most of the students I talk to find it a memorable experience, a perfect combination of holiday and study. My first time in South Africa was a real eye-opener. Beforehand I was scarcely aware of the role of economic interest or political instability in nature conservation. I thought it was great to experience the unspoilt beauty of nature, to be one with nature. It is also fantastic to be able to share your experiences in an enthusiastic group of nature enthusiasts.

If you have no plans for this summer yet: there are still some places left for the trip in August to South Africa and Swaziland (more info:

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