In a nutshell, the Zero Fees scheme is awesome says Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Rural Animal Technician) graduate Daniella Whitaker.
She graduated from the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) in 2013 and went straight into employment as a veterinary technician, a job she was offered on a work placement.
“Completing the RAT (Rural Animal Technician) course gave me the foundation knowledge and skill base that I needed for this occupation,” Daniella says.
“I work in a large, predominantly dairy focused clinic in Canterbury, and I’m loving it.”
Daniella has also become a qualified DairyNZ Body Condition Scorer and has gained her accreditation as a TB testing technician.
Originally from the North Island, Daniella has always loved the South and its proximity to spots such as the Catlins, Queenstown, Fiordland and Stewart Island.
“I saw ‘immigrating’ down to the deep south as an opportunity for adventure and to see the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, which I did – they are amazing,” she says.
“It is a great base for planning weekend trips for tramping, camping, four wheel driving, or just sightseeing.”
Daniella says the Zero Fees scheme was another major draw card and she believes more people should take advantage of it.
“I studied for three years in total and never required a student loan,” she says.
“The living costs are also quite cheap as opposed to back home near Wellington or Palmerston North where most of my friends believed would be a more logical place to study from.”
She says she finds it bizarre that so many young people are getting into so much debt to study, when they could complete their qualification at SIT for free.
“I know it seems like there must be a catch, like hidden fees or substandard services, because that’s what I thought – but there isn’t,” Daniella says.
Initially Daniella gained her Diploma in Veterinary Nursing from SIT, but felt the occupation wasn't quite what she was after.
She also found that there were too many vet nurses and not enough vet nursing jobs.
“Working as a rural tech appealed because I love being outside, working with animals, and getting around the countryside,” Daniella says.
She loved the academic component of the RAT course more than the practical.
“I like to know the 'why’s and how’s' of our work so the study of topics such as anatomy and physiology, ruminant nutrition, infectious diseases and metabolic conditions in production animals all fascinated me,” she says.
Daniella says she is not the most hands-on person in the world and had no farming background, so although she enjoyed the course she sometimes found the large practical component of the course personally frustrating.
She felt she didn't pick up on how to perform a task as quickly or confidently as her peers.
“But of course practice in the field is VITAL and all the head knowledge in the world is useless without it,” Daniella says.
“Everything we did in our practical sessions was interesting and has been useful in my job.”
“I graduated with no debt, found SIT to be a professional institution to study at, and I found it really difficult to leave as I made so many great friends in Southland,” she says.
“And the cheese rolls really are amazing!”