Serena studied Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma Uniformed Public Services at Canterbury College which she says really developed her knowledge in the area and also proved that progression did not always mean that a militaristic future lay ahead.
“I really enjoyed my time at college, and it was only when an ex-student came in to talk about the Merchant Navy that I opened my eyes to the possibility”, said Serena, who continued, “The main difference between the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy is that the Merchant Navy isn’t part of the military.”
With a clear course of progression (as shown below) and the possibility to travel the world, the next step was to find a course and a job that could help her get there, or what they call a ‘Cadetship’. Currently, Serena studies an HND in Nautical Science at Warsash Maritime Academy, in Southampton meanwhile getting hands-on experience on board vessels, applying what she’s learned along the way.
The course lasts three years and, instead of the classic three-year degree program, this specialist course progresses in phases, with a mix of classroom and at-sea phases, which ultimately result in acquiring a degree-level qualification – as well as plenty of hand-on experience. As soon as you are qualified, you can earn around £26,000 and rising with promotions, as well as not accruing the debt that comes with student loans.
“The Academy accommodation is on the same grounds as a university and you can really tell the difference between university students and us!... There’s a different approach to learning, as we have to work alongside our studies.”
As part of her training, Serena spent over three months in the South China Sea, on a ‘Cable Retriever’ vessel, which lays and repairs the infrastructure for the all-important internet – therefore literally keeping the world connected! One current student asked how challenging it is to be away from home for that long to which the current Deck Cadet replied, “It is a challenge, especially when you’re at sea, as the connectivity is very limited, but when we dock I have time to speak to my family. Being a student that was constantly connected to their phone, I’ve actually learned to appreciate the time away from social media and enjoy my time at sea!”
All photos and images courtesy of Serena Fleming.