Kingston Maurward student takes studies to Cambodia

Dorset Echo: ON A MISSION: Student Maria Gray taking part in a research trip in Cambodia ON A MISSION: Student Maria Gray taking part in a research trip in Cambodia

A STUDENT swapped the Dorset coast for Cambodia when she took part in a research trip.

Maria Gray, who is studying a foundation degree in ecology at Kingston Maurward College, travelled to Koh Smach, on the western coast of Cambodia.

Along with others in the group she researched beach pollution in the area as well as teaching local children three or four times a week.

The two-year course at Kingston Maurward requires students to complete a 250-hour work placement.

The trip was organised by Frontier, a not-for-profit conservation and development non-governmental organisation.

Maria said: “My grandmother left me some money in her will and it was her wish that I use it towards my education, so I think she would have approved of my trip.

“I think the experience gave me more confidence and changed my outlook on life. The people out there are happy and humble. They lead simple but healthy, basic lives and it works.”

The group researched beach pollution by collecting data and snorkelling and studied fish on the reef, the coral itself and the effects of pollution.

Maria said she intends to return to the island and has become an ambassador for Frontier, which allows her to promote the organisation’s work and build up credits to reduce the cost of her next trip.

She also aims to complete an internship at the Discovery Channel next summer, and said she was inspired by the work of wildlife expert and conservationist Steve Irwin.

She added: “My degree course has helped me gain valuable field experience and learn how to work both independently and in a team.

“The course and my trip to Cambodia have given me confidence and more faith in my abilities.”

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