Lessons from First Year

Summer has arrived, and I have finally finished my first year of veterinary school! I have learned more this year than I thought was possible. For the incoming first-year class, here is some advice on what to do (and not to do) during your first year of vet school.

  1. Stay organized. In the first year of veterinary school, you take 18 credit hours of courses in the fall and 20 credit hours in the spring. That adds up to a lot of assignments, quizzes, and exams! A planner is a great first step for making an effective study plan. Keep your locker neat and double check that you have all of your notes and supplies before you leave class or a study area. It is very stressful to lose something you need for vet school!
  2. Be healthy. It is very easy to fall behind if you get sick, so make sure you are eating, sleeping, and exercising. Since you will be with your classmates every day, illnesses can spread quickly! Mental health is important too. You will not be happy all of the time during vet school, but if you are having trouble, talk to someone. Your classmates will understand, and the counselor, Lanice Chappell, is always willing to meet with students.
  3. Get involved. There are over 30 clubs for different veterinary interests available at vet school. All of them provide guest lectures at lunch or dinner and wetlabs with great hands-on experience. If you’re worried about overcommitting, you should still join any club that interests you, but don’t run for an officer position. If you’re not an officer, you decide which events you want to attend. Hint: lunch meetings are always worth attending. You get to learn something new in less than an hour and food is provided.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others. Dr. Herman, one of the anatomy instructors, told us, “Even an average student from Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine will become a great veterinarian.” If you are accepted, the admissions committee believes that you will earn your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Learning the material is more important than the grade you make in the course. However, if you are struggling with a course, go talk to the professor to find out how you can improve! They want you to succeed.
  5. Network. Talk to your classmates, older students, and professors. You can find out which study materials are helpful and what job or research opportunities are available just by taking the time to talk to people. Attending conferences such as Texas Veterinary Medical Association conference or the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association symposium are great opportunities to network with veterinarians outside of Texas A&M. A friendly and professional attitude will open doors both during and after vet school.
  6. Have fun! As Dean Rogers says, “Find the joy!” There are many amazing moments in vet school, and a good sense of humor will help you survive the not-so-amazing moments. Vet school doesn’t last forever, so enjoy it as much as you can!

A Helping Hand

Second semester of the first year of veterinary school is very challenging. We are in class more often than first semester, and there are many more exams, quizzes, and assignments. We also have to balance academics with involvement in the myriad of vet school organizations. Fortunately, the college offers several resources to support students when they feel discouraged.

One resource that helps students’ transition to vet school is the mentorship programs. Each first-year student is paired with a second-year student mentor. My second-year student mentor gave me great advice about studying as well as a collection of past exams and assignments to study from. The college also has a faculty mentor program, where students are paired with faculty mentors. Each month the school pays for faculty mentors to take a group of students to dinner. Mentor dinners are a great chance to relax and ask questions about life after obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

Another resource for stressed vet students is Student Counseling Services. The college has its own office of the Student Counseling Center for our professional students. Having an office at the vet school is helpful because appointments are scheduled around our classes. The counselor, Lanice Chappell, does a wonderful job helping students who are struggling with academic or personal situations.

Classmates are a great resource for students who are overwhelmed by school. Whenever someone is out sick, we will share notes. We share study guides and organize study sessions to prepare for exams. Classmates also provide moral support. Since I’m with my classmates at least 40 hours a week, they have become some of my closest friends. Over the past few weeks, we have had several birthday celebrations, and later this month there will be a baby shower! Our class officers also do a great job providing fun ways for our class to bond, such as game nights, intramural sports, and a breakfast potluck.

Even though vet school is stressful, there is nowhere else that I would rather be. I’m grateful for the students, faculty, and staff who are always willing to lend a helping hand. It’s hard to believe that I’m three quarters through the first year of vet school! I’m excited to learn as much as I can in the last eight weeks of first year!

Enjoying the Journey

Winter break has reminded me how fortunate I am to be a veterinary student at Texas A&M University. During finals, it’s difficult to remember to enjoy the journey of becoming a veterinarian. Winter break is a perfect time to relax and get excited for spring semester. Many prospective DVM students have visited Texas A&M over the holidays. It’s great to be able to share all of the things I love about our college, from our top-notch hospital to our fantastic professors, clinicians, and administration. Especially around the holidays, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences feels like one big family.

Winter break is also an exciting time for the future DVM Class of 2019. I can vividly remember getting ready for the admissions interview last year, and so I really enjoyed giving tours to the interviewees when they visited this weekend. Many current veterinary students volunteer to welcome the applicants and make the interview process as stress-free as possible. The applicants have been dreaming of attending vet school for a long time, and I can’t wait to see their hard work pay off when acceptance letters arrive!

For part of break, I returned to Corinth Vet Clinic, where I volunteered as an undergrad. It’s amazing to be able to apply what I learned in first semester to help actual patients. I was able to identify fractures on a radiograph of a dog with a broken foot, identify abnormal cells on a cytology microscope slide of lymphoma, and restrain a rat for a physical exam. These were skills I learned in my small animal anatomy, histology, and physiology courses respectively. Helping at the clinic also reminded me that I have a lot to learn before I graduate! I am excited to see what skills I can learn in the second semester.

While I was in Denton, Texas, I came across a newspaper article that I have saved since 2007 as a memento of when I decided I wanted to become a veterinarian. As I was re-reading the article, I realized that it quoted Dr. Bonnie Beaver, my animal behavior professor during the first semester of vet school. It’s incredible to realize that I am taking classes taught by people who inspired me to become a veterinarian. I hope that someday I will be able to encourage the next generation of veterinarians, but right now I am enjoying the journey of becoming one myself.