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News > Alumnae News > In conversation with Scarlett

In conversation with Scarlett

We caught up with 2015 Leaver, Scarlett Heselwood, a Media and Philosophy graduate who has now pursued her love of animals and nature into a Falconry career.

We caught up with 2015 Leaver, Scarlett Heselwood, a Media and Philosophy graduate who has now pursued her love of animals and nature into a Falconry career.



What was your favourite subject whilst at School?
I think my favourite subject at the School would have to be Media Studies, which I took at GCSE. Being able to study and analyse film scenes in such detail lit up a love for cinematography and the more technical aspects of filmmaking that is still with me today. It also allowed me to practice more practical skills with Photoshop, which I later pursued further through my university studies.

What was your biggest achievement whilst at Abbot’s Hill?
I was a Clan Captain for MacDonald in Year 11, and working on Clan Music to secure our fifth consecutive year of winning the competition is a memory I still think about and smile. I can remember the hall erupting with cheers like it was yesterday!

What is your fondest memory of School?
French classes with Mr Coudert always rank highly in my memories of the School. Even though it was a challenge at times, I always looked forward to being there and have so many memories of the laughter and mischief that happened every single week.

In what ways do you think that Abbot’s Hill prepared you for sixth form/college/university and beyond?
With the focus that Abbot’s Hill has on small class and year group sizes, I feel I was well prepared to work closely with my peers and both sixth form and university staff, and to truly develop close working relationships with them. Getting to practice these skills and work with so many different people in so many different capacities­ gave me a strong foundation for an oddly significant part of my career now. Networking and interpersonal skills are vitally important to my work as a display falconer, as I not only work and speak to a variety of guests who come from all walks of life on a regular basis, but making connection within the falconry industry is vital to maintaining and learning about good welfare standards and coming across unique opportunities.

Life after Abbot’s Hill

What was your experience of university?
I attended the University of Hertfordshire and studied BA Media and Philosophy, having just graduated with a 1st class this past summer. I had a fantastic time there and in many ways, I find in hindsight I chose the university because of its similarity to what I loved about Abbot’s Hill. The tutors were incredibly friendly and supportive, always willing to go the extra mile as far as they could in all facets of university life, and the other students were welcoming, friendly and genuine individuals. On top of that, had I not studied Media Studies at the School, I wouldn’t have realized that it’s another subject that I’m passionate about.

 

One of my biggest achievements while attending was being nominated for three Dean’s Awards, and subsequently being Highly Commended by the School of Humanities for my commitment to volunteering and community work.
 

What advice would you give to someone who isn’t sure what they would like to do career wise yet?
I would say to have a think about what truly interests you, and then how happy you think it will make you to pursue as a career. There is no point studying a subject or receiving training in an area that you can’t envision yourself following for at least a while, or is going to make you wish you had done something else. Sometimes, you might also discover along the way that something you thought you’d love is actually something you hate, and it’s completely okay to regroup and reconsider if there’s anything else you’d be happy to work on. Just because you commit yourself to one path does not necessarily mean you have to stay that way forever!

University and beyond

What led you to do what you do now for a living?
Currently, I assist in the management of a small collection of birds of prey, working as a display falconer and (pre COVID) travelling locally to educate guests of all ages about falconry and birds of prey through hands-on experiences and displays.

I had always been interested in falconry since I was around 12 years old, and at a few points I considered becoming a zookeeper or at minimum working in that sector somehow. My focus and passion was always truly centred around birds of prey and falconry, and after years of looking around for someone to teach me personally or a centre to volunteer with, I was lucky enough to find a mentor in the summer just after I left Abbot’s Hill who agreed to take me on as his ‘apprentice’ in exchange for helping with his displays, hawk walks and falconry experiences. I worked and learned from him throughout sixth form and university, going as far as to complete a couple of qualifications in the management of birds of prey, and buying my own Harris Hawk in 2018!

In short, it was pure passion and motivation to achieve a dream that brought me to the current place in my career.


What do you see yourself doing in 5 years’ time? Where would you like to be?
If there’s anything I have learned from the previous five years since leaving Abbot’s Hill it’s that you never quite know what’s around the corner! However, in an ideal world, I would like to be starting my own business with my own collection of birds of prey, offering similar educational displays as I do now. I would like to focus on offering wellbeing sessions for those with mental health difficulties, as I’ve learned many of our guests have found being out with the birds is an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

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