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Thursday 27 July 2017

Dom is making an impact in faraway places

Here at Hallam, we pride ourselves on being an international university, both through the students we draw to Sheffield and through the partnerships we have developed across the world. These connections provide pathways for our students to contribute to the mutual exchange of home grown expertise and knowledge. 

Dominic Ng completed his undergraduate degree in geography and is now enrolled on a PGCE in Secondary Education. He is just one of our students who is making an impact in faraway places. 

During his placement year, he worked at the Kruger National Park in South Africa as a field guide.

We caught up with Dom to find out about his time at the Kruger National Park, what he learned from the experience and what it was like sleeping next to hippos. 

Why did you decide to go to Kruger National Park on your placement?

Having had previous experience in hospitality and a massive interest in nature, I wanted to link the two and do something where I could really experience a unique and significant opportunity. I knew it would be a once in a life time prospect and so I grabbed the chance whilst I could. It was honestly one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I learned so much and I feel I shared my skills and knowledge with others along the way too. 

What were your main duties?

My main roles were working in hospitality and as a field guide. I was trained to conduct basic first aid, management of wildfires and field guiding. It was essential that I was knowledgeable of the Kruger ecology and wildlife, as well as the dangers it can bring. I was able to inform guests of the different animals and plants, as well as being able to track animal print, droppings and noises. 

What animals did you see?

All the big five and many more! I saw so many different species of birds as well as insects. I slept next to a waterhole where hippos would sleep. Trust me, hippos are very loud sleepers! I also saw venomous snakes, leopards, various types of deer, hyenas, lions, rhinos and bush babies. It was just fantastic to be able to see animals in their natural environment. It was amazing to be able to link different things together, such as the smell of rotting zebra and the appearance of hyenas 20 minutes later. I still wish I was able to see a pangolin though.

Did you notice any effects of environmental issues on the landscape or on animals?

I was able to see first-hand the effect of wildfires and drought and the negative impact humans are having on our environment. Poaching is another devastating example. 

What conservation schemes did Kruger have in place to challenge these issues?

There are various schemes to help tackle poaching, which is a massive international issue not unique to South Africa. Just informing guests to take off geotag locations on social media is one simple way in which we were trying to reduce the risk of rhino poaching. It's not just rhino though; there are various animals such as pangolin which are threatened too. Once any species becomes extinct, they are lost for good and will have major impact on eco webs. There are also various schemes to support the local community, for example as some sections of the park are built on land where people's homes were, it is important that those citizens are suitably relocated or employed by the park.

What unique skills and knowledge did you bring to your role at Kruger?

My ability to speak several languages allowed me to communicate to a variety of guests and help cater for all. I was honoured to be accepted as their staff and most importantly learn from them. Learning is a two way thing, only when you learn from others can you help others learn.  

What was your highlight of the experience?

It was hard-work but honestly the most rewarding experience I have undertaken. Being able to track animal prints and distinguish animals from droppings and noises was an achievement! But the main highlight was developing myself and understanding how privileged we are. On one of my days off, I had the opportunity to cook soup with a church group and distribute it to a township. Also, I made some great friends, a few of the housekeeping ladies called me their son, whilst the reception team called me their brother. I really felt like I was part of their family.

As a result of my placement Hallam recognised my hard-work and awarded me the Lady Hasting's Award for the student with the best performance on an environment course. Subsequently, I've been asked to do various talks about my experiences at open days, at schools and colleges. I have now been selected as a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (of International British Geographers).


Erasmus+ is just one of the schemes run at Sheffield Hallam University which provides students with the opportunity to develop their own global connections. As well as supporting students to study abroad, students can benefit from the opportunities offered by Erasmus+ to gain international work experience, increase their cultural awareness and enhance their employability. For international employers who offer work placements, the injection of fresh ideas and new perspectives to the team can provide an additional resource, adding significant value to the business.

If you're an employer and would like to find out more about offering an international work placement please get in touch at alumni@shu.ac.uk.



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