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in     by Albany Holbrook 21-11-2017

I can’t believe I only have 16 days left until my first placement is finished! It has been an intense three months that has really forced me out of my comfort zone. Whilst I’m still here I think it would be nice to write a bit about the more challenging elements of my time on the animal sanctuary that I’m grateful for.

Though I would say I’m quite a positive person, I do often struggle with appreciating the moment that I’m in, and spend a lot of time thinking I could be doing something better. Living in the middle of nowhere for three months, working every day, and having no option to do anything ‘better’ because it could jeopardize my year abroad, has meant that I have had to be present in my life. Hopefully this practice will help me continue appreciating the life I have now when I get home.

Being present and not being able to run away when things get tough has forced me to maintain a positive attitude. I had an exciting few days with some French people who helped to look after the animals whilst my boss was in Belgium: we did the necessary work but also drank wine in front of the fire every evening, and there was always music in the house. When my boss came back, she was unhappy with the job we had done: the kitchen wasn’t clean enough; the hay for the horses had run out; a dog had been kicked by a pony and couldn’t use one of his legs; a quail had died (this was not our fault but definitely wasn’t a positive experience for anyone). The shock of transitioning from a positive but challenging few days to being told off a lot despite my hard work threw me into a very bad mood. This escalated into a very angry boss and a very upset me a few days ago, and I seriously contemplated leaving. If I had left, I would have risked failing my year abroad, and I would have been sad to leave on a bad note, so instead I decided to try to remain extra positive and push through. Now everything is back to normal, and I’m starting to understand where my boss was coming from. I now appreciate for future jobs the importance of at least pretending that you’re not cross with your boss, and the power of a positive attitude.

During these three months I have probably left the estate less than 10 times. This hasn’t been a massive issue for me because I’m a very homey person and I don’t get bored here as I’m working outside every day. But it has definitely made me appreciate human contact a lot more! I was surprised by how upset I was saying goodbye to my new French friends, and how much I think I’m going to miss the gardener. I’m very grateful for the isolation that the job has brought, as I think it will make boring old introvert me more appreciative of the people in my life and the opportunities to socialize; I cannot wait to see my uni friends in Lyon in December, and to dress up and drink some cocktails with home friends back in England.

Finally, I’m grateful for how busy the job has kept me. The 12 contact hours and very comfortable bed at university has really encouraged me to be a lazy person – getting up in the morning feels like running a marathon, and leaving the house after 6pm can feel completely exhausting. I’ve had two days off here in 3 months, and every other day I’ve worked from 8am to 8pm. Though this doesn’t always feel natural, I think it’s been great practice for getting more out of life. I’m already thinking of all the hill walks I want to do when I get home, and how I’m going to fill my days with activities that don’t include watching TV and lying in bed.

À bientôt!