Yannick Dorsman spent five years travelling New Zealand and the world before deciding what to do with his life; he’s now well on the way to achieving his goals through training for a career in Environmental Management at Southern Institute of Technology.
A self-confessed nomad, Yannick, who’s from Wellington, travelled extensively prior to enrolling at SIT. Before setting off on his OE he worked at a bank to help fund the travel, and then travelled and worked his way around the world, spending two and a half years in Europe (26 countries), nine months in SE Asia (Cambodia, Thailand and Nepal), then New Zealand, followed by Brazil.
At some stage during his globe-trotting, Yannick worked out what he wanted to do for a career. “While I was travelling I had a bit of an epiphany, I realised I wanted to study something beneficial for the earth,” he said.
Initially Yannick had planned to study in Europe, but he couldn’t find the course he wanted to do in English, so he continued looking for something suitable in New Zealand and found SIT. After discovering they offered a Bachelor’s in Environmental Management he was certain it was the right course for him, but especially when he found out about the Zero Fees Scheme. “The Zero Fees Scheme really sold it to me”, Yannick said.
He returned to NZ three days before the course started and because he had been travelling in the middle of nowhere in Brazil, out of range and out of touch, Yannick was surprised to find out about Covid-19, the first he knew was being questioned at the border. “I arrived in Wellington and they asked me if I had been in China”, he said.
Yannick started his study at SIT, “then we were in lockdown”, so he headed back home to hunker down with his parents. Alongside completing his study online, Yannick was able to have a pretty relaxed lockdown, doing lots of walks and bike rides in the rural area where he lived.
The downside of the compulsory stint at home for him was, “obviously we missed out on quite a few field trips, but it couldn’t be helped, we just had to do our best in the circumstances”.
Yannick said in doing an environmental management course his intentions were “to hopefully spend a lot more time in nature and engage practically in how environmental management happens on the ground”.
And his expectations have been met, “We’ve done heaps of cool stuff”, he said, mentioning dotterel banding on Stewart Island, and being jet boated into remote parts of Fiordland to do coastal litter surveys for Litter Intelligence.
Yannick has found one of the really enjoyable aspects of their work in the field is plenty of engagement with community groups – “it’s really nice”, he says. “Invercargill is quite small and low-key, you can engage with community groups on a more personal level which is quite rewarding. It’s empowering actually, you start becoming an active participant in your environment and surroundings.”
Yannick says his study has made him much more aware of the anthropogenic impacts on the planet’s foundational life support systems. “It’s made me view the world in a more practical sense – and our impact (on it) as a species, it’s pretty grim. You really start to see if your bottom line is profits, sustainable development isn’t possible.”
He said personally it highlights to him the need to look at alternative ways of doing, achieving and lifestyles - he’s interested in decision-making models such as the Mauri model, which incorporates other factors, rather than just financial outcomes for the bottom line, and can be applied at an individual, national and international scale.
“I’ve learned how interconnected the social, economic and environmental spheres are and how much politics is involved in the state of the environment.”
“Also my love and appreciation for nature has exponentially grown since starting this course – I’ve developed an awareness of how much ecosystems have been degraded and it makes me value even more, what we have left.”
Yannick said amongst the course highlights were the teachers themselves – “they’re very passionate about what they teach and very engaging with the course material, it’s really beautiful.”
“With the smaller class sizes it’s a lot more personal than other bachelor’s programmes, you can have more class discussions and you have time to talk about things,” giving a depth of quality to the programme, he added.
Yannick’s favourite aspect of the programme has been those all-important networking opportunities with local groups and organisations, which ties in with his love of the field trips they experience during their study, mentioning Stewart Island and Luxmore as two stand-out trips. “We definitely do some real cool field trips, our teachers give us on-the-job fake scenarios to increase our practical experience – they teach us about observing nature, pest control, and environmental restoration,” he said.
Whilst campus life is low-key at SIT, Yannick said there are still plenty of chances for forming connections. Within his class they socialise and party together, “We’re like a big whanau”, he added.
He’s also taken advantage of the sports and clubs available to SIT students. “You can sign up for free which is really good – I’ve done volleyball and rock-climbing.”
And he’s noticed the difference in being based in a smaller city – it seems to be a less stressful environment he said. “Invercargill is a really cruisy place to live - it’s been very accommodating. Everyone is pretty genuine and easygoing.”
Yannick says with a laugh the toughest part of student life has been “the ‘assessment gauntlets’ – you know, when you have to run through something with a lot of obstacles in your path, and when you’ve got back-to-back assignments due, you have no life for two weeks.” (But the good news is he always beats the gauntlet).
“And of course, coming up to exams the library becomes your home – it’s definitely a good study space.”
Yannick’s connections through rock-climbing have paid off for him, “I got a summer job as an intern ecologist with Wildland Consultants - a climbing friend put me onto it, it worked out pretty perfectly,” he said.
Yannick will be spending the southern summer outdoors, helping facilitate a programme set up by Environment Southland, ‘Biodiversity Action on the Ground’. Its aim is to encourage private land owners to foster and protect native vegetation on the ground, highlighting its intrinsic value and to ensure its survival in perpetuity.
He values the proactive approach to job hunting within the Environmental Management programme. “They (tutors) are always saying, ‘here’s a job, here’s a job – apply, apply, apply!’ I really appreciated that.”
Yannick intends to get into ecological restoration after he graduates and finds his place in the workforce. “That’s the hippie in me basically wanting to see the earth rewilded,” he laughs, “but I want to achieve it in a pragmatic and professional way in my career,” he says. “It’s important to have dreams, but you have to be pragmatic about them and I think this is my way to achieve these dreams.”