For some students, attending mundane lectures and seminars is all a bit too run of the mill.
But there is nothing dull or commonplace about how Olivia Johnson is spending her third year at university looking after orphans and new furry friends, namely four lion cubs.
The 20-year-old natural sciences student from Cumnor Hill is spending her penultimate year on a research internship in Zambia and Zimbabwe, where she walks, feeds, manages and assesses the behaviour of Shaka, one, and Kion, Khalanga and Khumalo, all six months.
The Bath University student wanted to do something “unique and different” for her placement year, so off she popped to Africa on a research project looking at how to help increase the declining lion population.
Olivia described working with the adorable cubs as “unbelievable,” adding: “I still pinch myself sometimes when I realise how fortunate I am to do such exciting and unique work.”
Having jetted off for her adventure in August last year, the former Headington School pupil spent four months in Livingstone, Zambia (on the border) before heading to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe last month where she will be based until she returns in June.
Olivia, who lives with her parents, older sister Hayley, 22, and younger siblings Emily, 16, and Matthew, 18, had never been to Africa or travelled alone prior to her “daunting” escapade.
She admitted spending Christmas away from her family was “difficult” and made her homesick – opting to make a festive chocolate cake for orphans and laughing and playing with them to pass the time.
Olivia, who said she has been ‘making a new home’ for herself 5,000 miles from Cumnor, described her experience so far as ‘incomparable and humbling’.
She said: “I have experienced life from a new perspective, which has made me more understanding of differences in the diverse world in which we live.
“Having worked in community schools, orphanages and visiting local families in villages I have been utterly humbled by the appreciation they have for just the simple things in life, I have learnt so much from them.
“I have learnt that wealth isn’t based on money…Giving Christmas presents to the orphans and seeing how thankful they were really made me realise that the little things were, in fact, the big things.”