I only came to university two years after finishing highschool and I’m happy that I did, because those two years gave me a lot more experience in the field that I’m studying and I had a really good time as well. Today I’m going to write about the six months I spent volunteering at the Botanic Garden in Kiel (Germany). I spent another year with the Ulster Wildlife Trust in Northern Ireland which I will make a separate blog post about.
My placement was called “Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr” (voluntary year in ecology) and is a German volunteering scheme. You don’t have to be German to take part though, in fact the person volunteering in the garden before me was American and there was a girl from Egypt in my regional group. You get a monthly allowance which is enough for food and rent, and some places even provide you with a room to stay. Most placements are for one year but there are some shorter placements as well (I got a six months placement on short notice because a volunteer quit early on). There are placements all over Germany and they are all so different, too! In my group, there were people working in nature reserves, on ecological farms, in city councils, doing outdoor education with kids, and there even was someone working on a sailing boat!
I spent my first three months (January until March) in the tropical greenhouse. It was so nice being in a tropical climate after cycling through the cold in the morning! A bit like travelling to the rainforest every day! Every morning and afternoon, I was responsible for cleaning the paths and flowerbeds, watering the plants and feeding the frogs and quails we had in the greenhouse. I also helped with the propagation of plants, with planting and cutting plants, and with events in the garden.
In April, I started working outdoors, mainly in the area with European plants. I helped with sowing, took care of the seedlings and planted them when they were big enough. Spring was a busy time with getting the garden ready after winter, and everything starting to grow. During spring, I also had the opportunity to take part in a plant identification course at Kiel university which was very useful.
Another part of my work in the garden was to help lead the children’s group. We grew our own potatoes, dyed eggs using flowers collected in the garden and just played outside. That was a lot of fun!
It is a part of the volunteering programme that volunteers can come up with their personal project if they like. I thought it would be interesting to record the garden’s wildlife with a camera trap, so that’s what I did! I only got footage of some gulls and rabbits (the latter no good news for the garden) but it was really nice that I could come up with my own ideas and organise this on my own.
My time in the garden was definitely full of new experiences and especially things like learning some plant ID proved to be very useful in my studies!
If you’d like to know more about the programme, just come talk to me! 🙂