I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon from about the age of 14. A bit older than a lot of the students I’m studying with. I wanted to be a field archaeologist up until then. What drew me to both careers was the discovery and logic needed to solve cases. Not knowing what I was going to find and having to go on my knowledge and problem solving ability.
When I realized it was what I wanted to do I worked so much harder at school. I’d always done pretty well, usually in top handful of achievers in school and it carried on until a-levels. But a-levels was a really really tough two years for me. I had a lot going on in and out of school and struggled to stay positive and keep on track. I flunked my first year, spent the summer cramming for resits, got the pieces of myself a bit back together and somewhere I found motivation and determination. None of my teachers believed in what I was doing. Immediately I was fighting a battle but I think it made me fight harder.
I applied to university, but I knew I’d get nowhere on the predicted grades that I had except the gateway course at RVC, London. I’d been planning on my application and interview for essentially years. I remember being 15/16 and looking up how to get into vet school, I had all the books too. I remember lying in bed at night and coming up with possible interview questions and how I would answer them.
I applied and got the interview! This stunned my teachers, suddenly they were all over me and asked if i needed help with preparation. I spent so long preparing for my interview, the possible questions, what I thought, what i had learned from all the experience i had had to get and how I wanted to come across.
I look back on my interview now and I’m genuinely so impressed and proud of how I did. My nights imagining the interviewers questions seemed to pay off! I got a conditional offer a couple of months later. I even then managed to beat my predicted grades by two.
They say getting into vet school is the hard bit. It is indeed very hard. I was lucky in being able to apply for the gateway course. I don’t think the application system is particularly fair, but I’m not going to talk about something I don’t know much about!
The gateway course is essentially for anyone from a less privileged background who is less likely to achieve the high grades and get all the experience needed. You spend an extra year doing Veterinary Bioscience which is a way of trying to build up general science knowledge before moving into the five year VetMed course. It was an extra year but entirely worth it. It was a small group of us so we got to know each other really well, the stuff we learned I was really interested in and I wish I could go back to studying the hours I did then now.!
I did really well in my first year, but saw a steady decline in my grades over the years. I met people and started enjoying more of social life in the first year of the VetMed course. I was also commuting to university every day and living at home. The commute was fine once I was used to it. My third year at university was probably the hardest year. Mentally I was struggling to cope again. The workload and hours was huge and intense. I missed doing other things, being a student and felt really isolated. I have never really been great at the work-life balance. Living at home was beginning to take it’s toll too so things were hard. I did the worst that year regarding grades, I was knackered.
Looking back, those years were hard because there was so little to look forward to. We still had three years of education and I would go months without seeing a living animal. It sounds funny but most of us are in our happiest place around animals. Being in London on a 9-5 course + the hours of studying in the evening, there was nothing to remind us of what we doing there and trying to achieve.
Fourth and fifth year, we moved up to the second campus which is a bit more green. I moved into halls on site. A lot of aspects of my life greatly improved, the lack of commuting gave me more hours, it was more sociable and I got more involved in university stuff. I did resent university a lot though. I still had two and three years ahead of me, still in masses of debt and nothing to show for it. We were starting however to learn about how to actually save and treat and help animals rather than the body systems and physiology.
I put my heart and soul into my last set of exams just before christmas 2016. It’s such a balancing act knowing how much to do and when to take a break. But I was determined not to stress too much. I kept telling myself that If i was on track to covering all the material, then why stress? It’s definitely expectations and reality that need balancing. I was able to take the odd night off and go to a concert with Rosie or something. Something to totally break away for a few hours, a good sleep and then start fresh in the morning. This absolutely worked. I boosted my grade by 10% from the previous exam. So on that I’m hoping to increase my grades by another 10% at finals. I think my fear is qualifying and literally not knowing enough.
But veterinary is a career where you are always learning and you can’t know everything. .. even if you want to. We’re definitely a group of perfectionists in a job where we will never be perfect. Lose-lose really!
So I have now been at university for five years and am nearing the end of my fourth year of the VetMed course. In a years time I will have sat my final exams and will be waiting to see if I can qualify and graduate as a veterinary surgeon.
The next year consists of usually two week placements in different environments picking up skills and improving knowledge.
When I first started university I hadn’t really thought about the type of animals that I wanted to work with. I liked farm animals but didn’t really know much about farming so I guess I assumed pet animals.
I’m now pretty keen to do a bit of everything when I qualify. I’m hoping to find a truly mixed animal practice somewhere in Britain. Right now, I don’t know if it’s a job that i’ll stick with forever. I can’t wait to have my own clients and regular routine and have emergencies in the middle of the night. The idea of doing a morning of consults before heading out to farm to check on some calves sounds perfect to me. But there are a huge amount of downsides to being a vet. There is a huge suicide rate amongst us. Probably put simply because we set out to do the best we can but doesn’t always happen and can’t happen.
Meeting Rosie was such a fantastic idea of mine (haha lol) .. We have such different careers and jobs that I’m able to release myself from the veterinary grip and explore elsewhere. I definitely got stuck in the rut of only learning vet related things and not making sure that I had other interests elsewhere. Exercise is absolutely important, even though I’m feeling like a flump today as I haven’t done anything significant in quite a while. Jumping from air-bnb to hostels doesn’t fill me with the energy to run every evening. I am pushing myself to read more, and take the odd 30-60mins out to read for fun. I’m trying to learn a bit more French, I’ve started a blog! And i love drawing when the mood takes me too. With Rosie, i think about new things, meet new people and learn about different worlds. I once assumed my life would be all veterinary.. I’d have a vet husband and vet children and I’d work all hours saving animals. It can’t be done. I will still save animals, still lead a veterinary life but we have to remember to take time out. It’s not plain sailing when suddenly you have a difficult owner on the phone, you’re thirty minutes behind on consults and have a ton of paper work to finish before you leave.
I must say, alcohol has been a close friend to me in these past years and I have no intention of breaking off ties. 😉 Ha. A glass of wine after a couple of long and knackering shifts is one of the most beautiful offerings. not. even. joking.
But actually, this career is an amazing one, I’m really excited to get going. I could end up anywhere. I’ve had endless strange encounters with vets, clients and farmers and i’m sure they’ll continue to happen. I don’t regret at all where I am but it has been difficult. I’m in the stage now where I’m close to being treated like a vet by many and so it’s becoming so much more enjoyable with an end in sight!
You can see by my post how easy it is to get caught up in the negative and difficult times but looking through my pictures and writing this piece has made me realise how amazing my journey so far has been and how amazing it could be. I just have to take the odd step back and think – is this right for me?
Look out for yourself sometimes.