As my first semester of vet school comes to a close, I would like to describe ten of my favorite things about my experience so far. Some of these stem from my previous career as a high school teacher and some are particular to my school. I hope you enjoy!
Exams are done by Thanksgiving. This may be unique to my vet school, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, we take all of our final exams before Thanksgiving and then have two weeks of selective classes in which we are supposed to learn *gasp* just for fun! It also gives us built in time to participate in externships before our senior year, if we so choose. I can’t begin to describe my excitement at having the two weeks leading up to the holidays free from studying and stressing over exams.
Can’t Buy Me Love…but the drug companies sure will try. Free stuff is every college kid’s motivation and vet students are no exception. If we so desire, we can sign up for free lunch in exchange for listening to a presentation pretty much every day. I now have multiple years’ worth of heartworm and flea preventative that I’ve received for free, and I’m getting dog food at more than 50% off. True, I’m paying admission to qualify, but it’s a nice perk.
People want to help me. I’ve met with four different professors (and have two more meetings upcoming) who want to help me find my passions and advance in whatever direction my interests take me. These individuals have provided advice, connections, and recommendations in whatever way they could. I have repeatedly found that everyone I meet wants to help me succeed. This is, obviously, an incredible environment in which to live. And don’t even get me started on my class. Our Facebook page overflows with helpful suggestions, study materials, supportive words, and social stress relief. Having this shared experience is bonding us in a way I’ve never before witnessed and I’m excited to be a part of it.
I can go to the bathroom whenever I want. This might sound like a simple thing, but I remind myself to be thankful for it. When I was working as a high school teacher, I did not have this luxury. If I had to use the restroom in the middle of teaching a class, too bad, so sad, I had to hold it. When I had multiple classes back-to-back with no break, I had to shoo my students out of the classroom and make them wait in the hallway for me. (Because I taught in a science classroom, I could not leave my students unattended in my classroom without repercussions from administration.) Using the restroom as a teacher is a carefully orchestrated activity that brings you to back to a toddler-like state in which you “just try” whenever the opportunity has presented itself. In my current role as a student, if I really need to, I can get up and go whenever I want without making any special arrangements. It’s a kind of freedom you don’t realize you have until it’s gone.
Passion is contagious and there’s a lot of it here. We get to interact on a daily basis with individuals who have dedicated their lives to their passion. We, ourselves, are individuals who have a diverse set of backgrounds and interests, but who all feel a similar draw to our area of interest. When someone else tells me about the thing that drives them, I understand, not because I necessarily feel the same way about their topic but because I feel the same way about mine.
Getting to work with new animals. Ok, I admit, the majority of the time I’m interacting with dead animals instead of live ones. However, we have a class that I often refer to as Farm Animals 101 with my non-vet-school friends and family. Essentially, every week you get to spend an hour playing with pigs, horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, or turkeys. The amount of prior experience I have with each of those species is different, but it’s definitely an awesome opportunity to go outside and touch living creatures and remember why I’m in vet school.
Learning crazy cool things. Parasitic worms can wander into your eyeballs. Dogs get locked together after mating. Calico cats can’t be male unless they’re genetic mutants. The same hormone in your body can have different effects based on their receptor. There’s no such thing as side effects – it’s just a special name we’ve given to the effects we don’t want. Some snails and slugs shoot love darts at each other as part of their mating ritual. I’ve developed a whole repertoire of fun, surprising, unusual trivia.
Incredible opportunities. Because I’m a vet student, I got to go to Mexico for a week and help with health clinics for working horses, mules, and donkeys. I got to do a castration, draw blood samples from donkeys, give dewormer, assist with sarcoid removal surgery, assist with dental work, and learn a whole lot about Mexican culture. Also because I’m a vet student, I’m traveling to three different conferences this year at which I get to hear and interact with world-class veterinarians who are the bleeding edge of their field.
Applying for funding. Because I’m a vet student, I am eligible to apply for multiple funding opportunities, making all the cool experiences I’ve previously described more affordable than they could possibly be if I didn’t have the title “vet student.”
Meeting/working with world-renowned veterinarians. Where can you find the pioneers in the fields of zoo and aquatic medicine? Where are the researchers who identified Tritrichomonas foetus in cats or emerging vector-borne disease in dogs? Where is an ENTIRE SPECIES of endangered aquatic snails (or at least 90% of it)? Oh, just about a five minute walk from my locker, that’s where.