Final year Animal and Welfare student, Cambridge


Sophie Millar


BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare (Extended Degree)

Year of Study:

Final Year

About me:

I am a full time student in my final year at Cambridge Campus, I have lived in student housing since beginning my degree and have always used my bike to navigate my way around the city and to university.
Studying Animal Behaviour and Welfare (Extended Degree) meant I had to complete a Science Foundation FdSc before beginning my chosen degree course. I mainly study at the Cambridge campus, but have also experienced practical handling sessions at Milton, College of West Anglia as well as visiting a wide variety of different zoos, animal parks and nature reserves.

Typical Week


Today I have an Equine Behaviour and Welfare lecture, but that’s not until later, 2-5pm, so I start the day with cycling to the gym at DW and use my student pass (£19.95 a month). I use the gym and go swimming before cycling home to get ready for my lecture. Usually we have lectures at University, but today we have a special guest lecture and demo at the College of West Anglia, so I pick up a couple of my course friends in my car and we drive twenty minutes to the campus. It isn’t too far out so other students bike or catch the bus to the nearby park and ride in Milton. The session begins with a lecture from our guest speak Lisa Ashton, a International Equitation Science Trainer as accredited by Dr Andrew McLean and is also the founder of EquiSci. She explains theory, psychology and ethology which leads us to examine different horse training methods, we then head over to the training hall, where a variety of the colleges horses are brought out, explained which areas they need to be trained or re-trained in and Lisa explains to us the step by step process she is using to train the horses. After the session I drive home and drop the girls off, before getting showered and going to get something to eat with my friends.


Today we have a 12-3pm lecture on the Behaviour and Management of Zoo Animals, we tend to begin the lecture with a lecture before going on to have a debate, which will have been put online previously so we could read up on facts and figures to back our opinions up. Today’s debate is whether we are FOR or AGAINST Zoos, taking into account conservation, education, enclosure design, breeding programs, welfare, diet etc.! These types of debates can get very passionate and heated, which makes it interesting and informative, there are often prizes to be won for best reasoning and debate, which I managed to win this time, a book! After the lecture me and my course friends usually head to the computers for a couple of hours to work on our assignment due in for this BMZA module, it is group work and we are each writing a chapter on a chosen captive animal, mine is on the nutrition of a Sloth. We stay for a few hours before heading home and relaxing for the night.


This SHOULD be one of my days off, but with my dissertation well under way, I am cycling in to University early to do some lab work with my course friend Gemma. Our dissertations both involve finding stress levels of dogs in different environments and therefore need to prepare the hair before putting it through the intense experiment, which will tell us the cortisol levels of each individual dog. So today we are washing, drying, weighing and labelling our samples – a lengthy process. We take off our lab coats, gloves and goggles at about 5pm and I head home to get showered and changed before meeting one of my friends for a curry, which ends up being fully booked so we head to the pub she works at for dinner and dessert and a long catch-up!


This is another usual day off for me, so I’ll start the day with a little lie in, before heading to the gym on my bike for an exercise class and a swim! I’ll do a food shop and catch up on some TV shows I’ve missed and Facetime some friends before finally deciding its about time to do some course work, after all it is my final year and it all counts! I begin my work by writing up the lab work I did the day before in my methods section for my dissertation whilst it’s fresh in my mind, before sending some emails to arrange the next stages of the lab work. I get a message from one of my tutors with some of my work she has proof read for me and I spend the evening making the advised changes and finishing my assignment until I am happy with it, before submitting it! Which means I can chill out with my friends and go to sleep feeling guilt free!


Back to University today with an early three hour lecture, we have been set group work and an essay for this module, so after it ends, my friends and I go get lunch the shop over the road and take it to the library, where we spend our day planning, researching and writing our presentation we have to show to the class in two weeks time, we got a high mark in our last one so the pressures on! I finish the day with a quick trip into town on my bike to do some shopping, before cycling home to get an early night, no crazy Friday night for me this week - I work alternate weekends and this is my weekend on!


Early, early, early morning for a student as I work at a nearby animal rescue centre on the dog section. I absolutely love dogs and aim to work with them when I have finished my studies so this is great experience for me as well as doing a job I absolutely love and spending my weekends with lots of canine company! We clean, feed, walk, train and speak to the public about the dogs available for rehoming, it’s great because two days are never the same and I get to work with people who are so passionate about the dogs in their care! I get home and am so tired from the busy day that I have dinner, chill out watching TV with my friends before heading to bed for the same start tomorrow.


Sunday morning should be for lay ins, but not for me – I’m up and out at the animal shelter again, working with both staff and volunteers so make sure the dogs in our care get the most out of their day! I play with Cocker Spaniels in the AstroTurf garden, walk a German shepherd almost the same size as me, take a Staffordshire Bull Terrier to the vets to get a wound checked and create lots of fun games and enrichment for each of their kennels, before some chilled out office time keeping me company whilst I fill out paper work. It is a really rewarding job and is great to apply my theory from University with the practical handling and training I get there! I get home and chill with my friends with a takeaway, catching up on everything they’ve been doing with their weekends!