When Nelson Mandela University student Ingrid Greeff passed her game ranch management diploma studies with eight distinctions in 2014, she never expected to wait a further seven years before she could graduate.
Next week, Greeff will finally take the walk across the stage she had anticipated for years after she finally completed her one-year internship in 2021.
When she completed her studies in 2014, Greeff could not secure an internship, while all her classmates succeeded and graduated before her.
This, Greeff said, had left her feeling that all her hard work was in vain.
“It was so difficult because I had worked so hard and started looking for an internship during my second year already so that I could start as soon as I was done with my second year.
“Everyone in my class started getting their internships and I was the only one who did not.
“I felt so bad because no-one was getting back to me about my applications and I just didn’t understand why things weren’t working out because I had worked so hard,” she said.
However, the animal lover remained hopeful and refused to give up on her dream career.
“I thought about studying something else and some people were also advising me to do the same, saying what I wanted seemed to not be working out.
“But this is what I had always wanted to do since I was a kid, so I couldn’t just give up,” she said.
Ever since she was young, Greeff had loved animals and it was her dream and passion to one day be able to work with animals.
After matric at Brandwag High School in Kariega, she started her studies to pursue her dream of working with wildlife.
While she struggled to get her qualification, she worked as a freelance photographer at events, volunteered at a community creche and worked as a teacher at a playschool for two years.
She also worked as a youth leader at her church.
She enjoyed these jobs as she loves children and photography, especially wildlife photography.
When she finally received the call a week after applying at the African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary, Greeff was glad she never gave up on her dream.
She started her internship in November 2020 and finished it a year later.
There, Greeff hand-reared orphan animals and was responsible for feeding various animals, cleaning their enclosures, the rehabilitation of injured animals and releasing some back into the wild.
She also trained volunteers and interns and updated animal feeding charts and the animal database and set up work rosters.
“What an unforgettable experience it was working with animals, learning so many things and loving every moment of it!
“Unfortunately, they could not permanently employ me, and I am looking for work once again, but I am so excited and looking forward to finally graduating,” she said.
Greeff will be capped on Saturday.