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Level 3 Countryside and Wildlife Conservation student, Matty Horkan, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Italy for a two month trip as part of the Bear Smart Community and Wildlife Corridors Project.
Matty travelled to the Apennine Mountains in Abruzzo at the beginning of April and arrived back in the UK at the end of May 2022.
Matty met and worked with students from around the world, volunteering for a charity called Salviamo l’Orso. The organisation work to save the Marsican brown bear from extinction, maintaining the conservation of the species' natural habitat.
The trip included activities such as identifying wildlife, developing practical skills in handling camera traps and using monitoring systems.
Matty said: "Having the opportunity to travel and do my work placement in Italy about bear conservation has completely changed my life and fed my passion for connecting humans to nature to improve mental health.
Going to Italy not only gave me the skills to work in difficult situations due to the human and animal conflict, but it also helped me develop new skills and taught me how to live and and interact with people from all around the world."
"I passed my driving test shortly before going out to Italy, so having my license meant I was able to drive a pick up truck in the mountains, which was amazing!"
Matty said the trip taught him how to live and share a house with people from all around the world, helping him to develop his communication skills and management skills as his team of volunteers often had to organise their days.
"The experience also hugely developed my communication skills and managing skills as we had to organise our schedules and I was responsible for driving in the mountains", Matty said.
When he's not in lessons, Matty works as a self-employed gardener for his company called Shabby Goats and is also an avid beekeeper.
His goal is to make people more aware about climate change and how we are affecting the planet.
"I want to make short documentaries and a podcast series to spread the word and talk about the amazing benefits of getting outside in nature, as it plays a massive role in improving our mental health and physical wellbeing."
Check out Matty's website here.