Everyone at A&M always talks about our traditions, but one of them has taken on a whole new meaning now that it has personally applied to me.

Muster is a tradition that, each year on April 21, honors any Aggie anywhere in the world who passed away that year. Normally, there are Musters held all over the world, honoring local Aggies that have passed on, from the largest one on campus, to over 300 locations worldwide.

The most important part of the tradition is called the ‘Roll Call for the Absent,’ where the names of all of the Aggies who passed away in the previous year are read out. And anyone that knew that Aggie answer’s ‘here’ to show that even though they’ve passed on, they’ll always be part of the Aggie family.

This year, one of those names called was my grandfather, William O’Connor III, class of 1950, who passed away in late 2019. He was the most redass (a term for someone that really shows their Aggie spirit) Aggie I have ever known, so getting to honor him in Muster was a really special moment for me.

Social distancing has changed a lot of events and memories that we may make together, but Tuesday, I saw it open up a special tradition to the world when, for the first time, Aggies around the world were able to tuned in at the same time for the campus Muster ceremony.

People I know who would not have attended the campus Muster ceremony were able to watch from home and say “here” when my grandfather’s name was called, something they would not have been able to do otherwise.

It was a really special time full of camaraderie and love. The Muster Committee did a great job of honoring those whose names were called, and at the end of the night, you could see Reed Arena lit up with candles spelling “Here”. Even though we were not all present physically at the ceremony, I felt the Aggie family coming together as I watched people say here on the website and honor those who could not say “here” themselves.

There has been a lot of change in this time, and Tuesday, I saw the change really bring out the best in the school that I get to call home. I have been grateful for my last 6 years at A&M, and as I enter my last year at A&M, I am grateful that I get to be a part of the Aggie family forever.

Last night showed me that no matter where we go, we are always Aggies, and we will always be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Finding a New Home

This summer, I went on an adventure. Really, I went on many adventures, but one of them was completely veterinary related and I loved it a lot.

To better understand my adventure, you should know that I would like to move to the mountains when I graduate. I love the mountains and snow, and I don’t like it being summer until October.

So, this summer, I decided that I should try to figure out where I want to live when I graduate.

The best thing about being a veterinarian is that the entire U.S. is open to you when you graduate—everywhere needs a vet.

The worst thing about being a veterinarian is that if you have no idea where you want to live, it is hard to narrow it down—the entire country is open to you. I had narrowed it to the mountains, but there are so many mountains, so I needed to figure out more.

On July 5, I loaded up my car and started my three-day solo road trip to Idaho. Solo road trips might not be everyone’s favorite thing, but I love them.

I downloaded some books on tape and drove through areas of the U.S. that I had never been to before, like Utah and northern New Mexico. It was quite an adventure, and I am grateful that my 21-year-old car made it to Idaho. I think I worried my parents, but I was having a great time.

In Idaho, I rode with a few dairy veterinarians in the area that I was in. I had never been exposed to dairy medicine, so it was quite a new experience.

I got to see the difference in working for an operation versus having many large dairies as clients. I also had the opportunity to work with pregnant cows and got to see what the role of the veterinarian was in large-scale operations. It was a great experience that opened my eyes to the different roles of vets in different industries.

I was only in Idaho for a week, so after that week was done, I packed up my car again and drove to Bozeman, Montana, where I spent two weeks at a clinic.

Let me tell you, Bozeman is gorgeous. I loved it there. I would wake up in the mornings, and it would be 45 degrees. To put that in perspective, it is the middle of October in Texas, and I don’t think that is has gotten into the 40s yet.

I really enjoyed the clinic in Bozeman. They were willing to teach me and give me opportunities to work with them.

I really appreciate the veterinary field as a whole because most vets are willing to teach; that means that as students, we have the unique opportunity to reinforce what we are learning in class and learn about what it will be like when we graduate.

My adventure ended with my dad flying to Bozeman and driving to Yellowstone with me. We camped and hiked and saw one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. The bison that were on the side of the road were also great!

We stayed for three days, and I was sad when we had to leave. I hope to move somewhere that will allow more access to gorgeous outdoor scenery like that.

My adventure ended on July 31 when we got home. I drove 4,330 miles in 26 days on this trip. I had so much fun, and I am so grateful for the time that veterinary students get off during the summer, which allows us to have time to choose what we want to do, whether it is veterinary related or not.

This was my last summer off before I graduate because next summer, I will be in fourth year, when we spend an entire calendar year working through the different services in the Small and Large Animal Hospitals.

I will look back on this adventure fondly, and, thankfully, I think it helped serve the purpose of learning more about the veterinary field and about where I want to move.


Having Fun in Second Year

Caitlin with her friends
Caitlin (far right) and her friends at this year’s Fur Ball, an annual formal event for veterinary students

I am in my second year of veterinary school, and I have to say that this semester has been so fun! I think that it has even been my favorite so far.

This semester, we have been learning how to do surgery and anesthesia, while also learning how to interpret radiographs. In previous semesters, I have seen the clinical significance of what we are doing, but this semester, it is even more apparent.

One of the neat things about class is that we have been getting to use what are called syndavers to simulate surgery. They are these very realistic, synthetic models that allow us to perform many different abdominal procedures and get practice suturing.

In “surgery,” we are split into groups of three students, and each week we have a different surgery to learn how to perform. I am really grateful for the dedication that our professors and school have to helping us learn.

As if learning more about being a veterinarian isn’t enough, we also get our white coats in April! That is something to look forward to, because it feels like I have hit a milestone once I get my white coat. It technically signifies the beginning of our experience in the hospitals at Texas A&M, but, even more excitingly, it marks the almost halfway point of veterinary school.

As I think about my time as an undergraduate, I recall how I couldn’t even imagine getting into veterinary school, so now that I am almost halfway done, it is kind of surreal.

I don’t really know what to expect from the final two years of school, but if it is anything like the first two, I think that I will like them a lot.

Puppy Love

Caitlin with her dogWhen I was 8 years old, my mom promised me that she would get me a puppy when I turned 12. Now, when you are 8 years old, this is a pretty big promise and something that you look forward to every day for the next few years. It was also a big deal because she didn’t just say she would get me a puppy—she promised, something that neither of us ever forgot.

If you can’t tell where the story is headed, let me just fill you in.

I didn’t get the puppy when I was 12. My mom decided that she couldn’t handle having a puppy in the house, and she didn’t trust a 12 year old to take full responsibility of a puppy (looking back, I don’t blame her). I was definitely disappointed, but I was a pretty understanding 12 year old, and I quickly let it go…kind of. From then on, I just reminded her of her promise to get me a puppy and told her that she owed me a puppy.

I didn’t really think that she cared until this summer.

Somehow, this summer I convinced my mom to get me a puppy. I have no idea how I did it. Maybe it was that I played the “you promised me a puppy” card, but she gave in much more easily than I anticipated. My only thought is that she secretly wanted a puppy in the house, too, so who better to get it for than the veterinary student.

So, on June 2, we drove about an hour and a half from our house, and we picked up Piper, the Golden Retriever puppy. She is the cutest little lady that I have seen, and I love her a lot. This summer, a lot of time was spent watching her sleep and playing with her. It was so fun to have her in the house, and my mom really enjoyed having her, too. She even told me that if my roommates didn’t like Piper that she would take Piper for me for the semester (which is never going to happen).

Piper SnoozesI am now starting my second year of vet school, and getting a puppy this summer was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. She gives me a lot of joy when I get to go home and see her and pet her soft head, and she helps me remember that I can take a break every once in a while. She has also given me a lot of empathy for puppy owners because having and training a puppy is not a walk in the park.

Seeing the joy that Piper gives me reminds me every day of my reason for entering this profession. When I graduate, I will get to spend my days with people who care a lot about their animals, and that is a special bond to experience. I can only hope to serve them well.

One Down, Three to Go

Caitlin with her friends
Caitlin (far right) and her friends celebrate the milestone of completing their first year of veterinary school.

I cannot believe that I am writing this, but I just finished my first year of veterinary school! I have spent so much of my life anticipating vet school that it was really weird to be done with the first year and considered a “second-year” because I had not spent any time thinking about how that would feel.

It was a year full of adjustment and learning a lot, but my first year of vet school was a blast. Something that is really neat is that A&M revamped their curriculum, so we had so many hands-on experiences this year. My first semester, I learned how to do physical exams on dogs, horses, and cattle, and then we got to practice them again that semester. I liked it so much because working with the animals kept reminding me of the reasons I wanted to be a vet amidst all of the difficult classes.

This semester, we learned how to perform physical exams on tortoises, rabbits, and pigeons, exams I never thought that I would do or learn. One of the most useful skills that we learned (in my opinion) is how to work an ultrasound machine. I have probably put my hands on an ultrasound probe and worked with the machine at least four times; this is a skill that I know that I will need in practice, so it is great to start learning it now. I also have had time to become acquainted with the orientation of the patient when they receive an ultrasound, and the models that they let us practice on were really helpful in being able to figure out how to hold the probe and the types of hand motions needed to move it.

With the new curriculum, our first year in the classroom also looked a little different. Our first semester, we took the typical classes like anatomy and physiology and immunology, but we also had a class called “Integrated Animal Care” in which we learned from the A&M clinicians how best to treat a normal animal. We learned about animal behavior, vaccine schedules, and how best to care for neonates (a newborn animal), things that I know I will need and use when I graduate in three years.

My favorite part about my first year of vet school has been all of the communication practice that we have received. We have worked with actors who simulate a veterinarian-patient interaction, and it has been so helpful to start these encounters early. We learn from professors who know a lot about communicating well, and it is cool to see how it can even affect my day to day life as I listen and try to communicate well with people.

My first year was one of growth and adjustment, but it makes me all the more excited to continue with the program and learn how to be the best vet that I can be. I truly believe that I will learn about being a great vet who practices good medicine, and I cannot wait to continue with that as a second year in the fall.

Celebrating the Small Things

Caitlin O.Veterinary school is tough, but it is so worth it. The best part of school is getting to finally learn about what you have wanted to learn about for so long—veterinary medicine. When you can look at what you are learning and then apply it to something you have seen when you have shadowed or worked previously, it makes class so much fun.

After so many days of class and lab, though, vet school also can be exhausting. It is hard to maintain that same excitement you had during orientation; you forget to look at the things you are learning and see a clinical application. Instead, you see another topic to study before your first test.

One thing that I have learned from this year, my first in vet school, is to celebrate the small things. There are so many times when I wish that I had gotten a better grade on a test or that I had more time to sleep, but when I walk into school everyday and remind myself that I get to go to vet school, I have such a different outlook on the day; I remember that I want to be here and that this is getting me so much closer to getting into practice and seeing everything in person that I am currently learning.

When you look at your day, there are many small things to celebrate. Some of my favorite things are when we get out of class five minutes early or when it is a beautiful day outside and we get to sit in the courtyard for lunch. Another great day is when we don’t have to wear closed-toed shoes. Even getting the clicker questions right in class is something to celebrate.

I think my favorite thing to celebrate is when I get to the parking lot at the same time as my friends so we get to walk the eight minutes from our cars to the school together. It is so fun to see a friendly face before I even walk into the building, and it gives me time to hear about their lives or swap funny stories from the night before.

Celebrating the small things has helped me find vet school really enjoyable. There are late nights studying and difficult tests, but they are all worth it for the learning opportunities that I have. And that is the greatest thing of all to celebrate—I have wonderful learning opportunities because I am now in vet school, a place I have wanted to be my whole life.

Weather Days: A New Tradition?

Caitlin O.The best part of the bad weather days??? NO SCHOOL!! This semester, school was cancelled the Tuesday after our three-day, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend because of the ice. It was so nice to have two extra days of the weekend during which I could get to sleep in and study a little. I did not have much schoolwork to catch up on, because classes for veterinary students had just begun the week before, so I studied some, and then I also got to spend time with friends and just enjoy the extra day. After four weeks apart from people with whom I am use to spending all day, every day, I was so grateful that I was able to spend the day catching up not only on school but on friends’ lives and their breaks.

There is a catch with getting a random day off, though. Because the day was not planned, we did have to make up the labs that we missed, and on Tuesdays, first-year veterinary students have three different labs, so making up the classes was frustrating. I wanted to be back in grade school where some weather days were built into the schedule, but that is not the case here because everything that we are supposed to cover in vet school is important enough to make up.

Last semester, we had an unplanned weather day the second week of class, and there is a saying at A&M that once something happens twice it is a tradition. Maybe days off in the second week of school will become a tradition, but I almost hope that it doesn’t so that I don’t have to spend one of my few free Friday afternoons making up important labs. I guess we will just have to wait and see if the tradition continues.

Finding ‘Balance’ as a First-Year Vet Student

Caitlin with her mom at a football game
When Caitlin’s mom visited for the weekend, Caitlin and took her to an Aggie football game.

Going into a professional program, you hear that all you will be doing is studying and going to class. Say goodbye to sleep, friends, family, etc.

I heard all of these things coming into veterinary school, and, honestly, it was really discouraging. I didn’t want my outside life to be put on hold for four years while I pursued the education that would shape my career.

Vet school was preceded by three days of orientation in which my classmates and I received many reminders to have a school-life balance. That was the first realization that school might not be as daunting as I thought.

While I had thought that I would go in and four years from now I would see my friends, what I was hearing day after day was that I would still have friends as long as I made the choice to see them outside of school. Sometimes studying would have to be put on hold and I would have to make the conscious effort to see the people who matter to me.


Caitlin and her friends
Caitlin with the friends who have helped her make it through her first semester of veterinary school

This doesn’t mean that I have time every day to sit at a coffee shop and hang out with everyone. I am in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and I still want to learn the information and make sure that I understand what I am supposed to know so that four years down the road, I can be the best veterinarian I want to be. I also was reminded day after day that my school could not be my entire life, so I’ve taken opportunities this semester to have some fun by celebrating with one of my roommates on the day she received her Aggie Ring, spending an entire weekend with my mom and going with her to an Aggie football game (which was so much fun!), and taking study breaks by spending time with the friends who have helped me make it through my first semester.

I just also have to remember that on those days that are tough to get through that I don’t have to go at it alone; I can take a break and have a meal with friends because they are important, too.

Reflections at the Semester’s End

Finals are just around the corner, and as crazy as it is to believe, I am going to miss this semester. Not only did I get to take difficult yet intriguing classes, such as anatomy and immunology, but I got to be involved in clubs and have leadership roles that stretched my abilities and caused me to grow.

Going home for Thanksgiving, I realized how different my college life is from my home life, but it is for the better. Being home, I can feel myself getting into the rut of being the same person I was in high school. While this isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t the person that I am now after two and a half years of college. I have learned to build friendships and study until I feel like I will pass out, and being home doesn’t bring any of those characteristics out of me.

I am thankful that I realized it now because it allows me to be thankful for the community that I have here in College Station and to best prepare to go home to something that is different from what I am used to. It is funny. I never thought that I would come to college and consider College Station home, but it truly has transformed into my home over the past two and a half years, and this finals season, I am becoming sentimental about it.

Spring Break Fever

You probably understand what its like to wait for a break from school. I just keep looking forward to that final class at the end of the week before spring break. I keep telling myself I won’t bring anything home to do for school; although I know that isn’t true.

Waiting isn’t the worst part though. The worst part is the week leading up to the break, when my mind wants to take a mental break, but my classes have definitely not taken a break. I still have homework, quizzes, and tests this week—plus none of my classes have gotten cancelled. Now, all of these things are normal, but in my mind—and the minds of other students—I have come close to already taking my mental break. I haven’t yet, but after everything is done, there is nothing holding me back.

A piece of advice for when you are in college…don’t do this. Just don’t. If you are constantly looking forward to the break it is so hard to prepare for what you have the week before a break. I would know because I’m in that position right now. Will I end up preparing well and getting everything done? Yes. Will it be more stress than is necessary? Most definitely.

Spring break is nice because it is time to rest and see friends and family, but the time leading up to and immediately following spring break can be tough because tempting to start the break early or extend the break. Just be prepared because you too will likely face this struggle. Whether it be with breaks from school or work, this struggle will always be there.