New Year, New Mindset

Taylor SheffieldThe same old saying of “New Year, New You” really is one of my least favorite sayings. Instead, I like to think of it as a new year, new mindset.

Every year we create goals and ambitions for the start of the semester, and as life gets a little chaotic, we tend to forget those goals or think they are unreachable. So instead of trying to change who I am and my life style, I decided I am going to change my mindset.

I’ve set out to have a more positive outlook on life, and instead of adding more things to my plate (as a veterinary student, that is a lot), I’m going to focus on how to rearrange the plate to make it less full.

By being more positive and looking at the silver lining, I hope my life can be more focused on the “what can I do to make it better” versus the “this day really stunk.”

In order to do this, there are apps that send me daily affirmations and positivity quotes to start my week. The positivity train doesn’t stop there—I have decided I will try to pass it on to my classmates or fellow colleagues, because you never know who truly needs that small reminder that everything is going to be OK.

As veterinary students, our plates are filled with more activities than a normal student, so the question becomes how do you balance it all without getting rid of some things?

Well, that is where the thought of rearranging comes into play; sometimes you have to get rid of things that may not be of use or benefit to you in order to allot more space to things that are important.

If getting rid of that activity is not your style, I encourage you to look at your time as a puzzle and all of the activities are pieces. Each week may be a different puzzle, and each activity may be a different size, but that is a slightly different mindset than just piling up activities.

With the New Year and new semester, I encourage all students and faculty to think about instead of changing you, change the mindset around you and your life.

Be more positive about the small victories that happen throughout the day, versus focusing on the small mishaps. Spread the good energy from classmate to classmate or friends to family because you never know who needs it. Change the way you look at a busy schedule by focusing on what makes you happy and getting rid of things that are just extra. Piece it together like a puzzle rather than a pile of responsibilities in order to create so more structure.

Welcome to the New Year, and go for that goal!

Fueling the Fire

My first semester as a veterinary student was a whirlwind experience! I was finally living my dream and, ironically, sometimes it didn’t seem like I was living.

Looking back and reflecting on all the time spent studying truly amazes me. I learned so much new information, information that will actually be useful when I land my dream job. I surprised myself with how much stamina and drive I sometimes didn’t know I had.

Surely, though, you won’t be surprised that the end of finals was cause for celebration and relaxation!

The novelty and excitement of starting veterinary school wore off and winter break was spent refueling. I returned to the clinic where I got my start to immerse myself back in the clinic culture and put my new knowledge to the test.

It was fun to see patients again and watch the veterinarians care for them from a first-year students’ perspective. Watching surgeries and actually knowing the anatomy or seeing a patient and understanding the disease process justified all of the study time and created excitement to return to Texas A&M for my second semester.

As the second semester commences, it’s time to draw on everything I learned about myself from last semester and the experiences over winter break to finish my first year strong.

I will take things one week at a time. I will ask for help when I need it. I will exercise regularly and feed my body well. I will give each class my best effort. And I will be a second-year veterinary student in just four short months!

Vet School: Myths vs. Reality

So, you want to go to veterinary school?

If, like I have, you have been dreaming of being a veterinarian for basically your entire life, then I’m sure you’ve heard all sorts of things about vet school.

Now that I’ve finished my first semester at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, I wanted to debunk two major myths I had heard before starting vet school.

Myth No 1:

Vet school is extremely competitive and cutthroat. No one will want to help you, and it will be really hard to make friends.

Reality:

This is FAR from the truth. In the past four months, I have made some of the best friends I have ever had—something about spending 12-plus hours together every single day really does it to you.

Our class Facebook page is FULL of shared study materials, reviews people have made, online flashcards, reminders, and important information professors have mentioned in classes or review sessions.

We all want each other to succeed and we try our best to help one another whenever possible. We are focused on collaboration not competition.

At the end of these four years, we are going to be colleagues. Together, we can make this profession better and provide the best care possible to our respective patients.

Myth No. 2:

You do nothing but study and have absolutely no free time.

Reality:

This myth holds some truth…veterinary school is HARD. You are going to study A LOT if you want to be successful.

However, you can make time for other things. You have to find an effective method to study that works FOR YOU.

Some classes require more time than others and some topics will naturally be easier for you to understand than others. This is normal.

There is no “right way” to go through vet school, but there are many wrong ways. So, find what works for you. Everyone needs to study for a different amount of time and that is OK.

You have to give your brain a break and do something fun, hang out with friends, exercise, go to a movie, or just relax. Your brain functions better when you allow yourself breaks, and you will be much happier. Sometimes you have to make time for yourself and not allow studying to completely take over.

You can study every second of every day and I promise you will STILL not know every single thing that you are supposed to know for all of your tests. Know your limits, plan accordingly, and give yourself some grace.

Awakening a Hunger for Thanksgiving & Vet School

As Thanksgiving approached, it meant more than just good food with good friends, but also that we are closing in on the end of our first semester in veterinary school It is too surreal, coming to grips with the fact that our class has completed so much together, yet we still feel like we’re in week four of the semester.

Multiple Friendsgivings had been in the making, allowing me to eat with my new friends during Thanksgiving week and express my appreciation toward the relationships I formed. I wasn’t involved in such a large group or “family” while in undergraduate or graduate school, and it surprises me how so many of us lift and support each other during difficult times we encounter in veterinary school. Every day we are in the same classes together, and although we can’t seem to get away from each other during our 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. classes, we strongly attempt to meet afterwards, encouraging each other to not let up on the vast amount of material we cover each day.

Having experienced just a drop of the veterinary life, I was immediately taught that the veterinary school program stretches and strengthens not only my intellect but also my critical-thinking process. What first appeared to be cases with a simple issue and solution when presented in class have morphed into complicated, continual problems that veterinarians are expected to solve for months, if not years.

Success with a patient may occur with a simple remedy but that isn’t the most common situation when a patient walks into the exam room. That’s where I need to go above and beyond to give patients their best care and treatment, as well as serving the needs that they require on an individual basis.

This outlook has awakened a hunger in me; it has also make me realize that being a veterinarian requires continual learning and pushing myself to be the ideal veterinarian that every owner will be expecting from me as I face peculiar or problematic cases.

My Strongest Supporter

When I was an undergraduate, I adopted a high-energy shepherd mix named Addie from a local shelter, and she quickly became my partner in crime and strongest supporter.

I had plenty of time to expend her endless energy, even between work and school commitments. But I knew going into veterinary school that I was going to assume a lot more responsibility and have much less time to spend with her; I was worried that it would add extra stress to my life and not be fair to her.

Soon after beginning veterinary school, however, I realized that having a dog while in vet school was the best choice for me.

Even after a long day, she constantly manages to make me smile when I get home. She’s the best kind of study buddy because she’s always supportive and doesn’t judge if I get it wrong. She has also helped me build relationships with other students with dogs.

And, most importantly, she reminds me to make time for brain breaks, whether that be taking her for a run or just throwing a ball in the backyard.

She’s even helped me with my classes; I’ve been able to practice physical exams on her and, a couple of weeks ago, I even used her for a palpation exam in anatomy!

Though I still have to make a conscious effort everyday to ensure she gets the attention she needs, I wouldn’t change it for all the positivity she brings.

Study Buddy

Ashlee A.We are approaching the end of our 12th week of school, and it is crazy to think I’ve almost completed my first semester of veterinary school!

As first-year veterinary students, we have felt many emotions already and finals are still approaching. I’ve always heard these would be the most difficult but best times of my life, and I couldn’t agree more—I’ve learned so much about myself and can’t wait to see what the rest of this experience brings.

One of the things I have have learned is the value of studying in groups. I have always studied independently, but I quickly realized that what we’re learning isn’t the kind of information that is easily grasped alone.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and we all have a unique way to study, so I’m continually learning what this looks like for me. It is key to find a group that meets your needs, so that you also benefit.

The way I studied at the beginning of the semester looks completely different than it does now because I had to learn what works best for me and for the good of the group. After all, we really are all in this together.

For veterinary students starting next year, my advice is to take it a day at a time, and sometimes an hour at a time. Everyone feels the same emotions, even if it doesn’t seem like it, so you’re never alone.

Sometimes, your first friends may not fit your study needs, and that is completely fine. If you’re a people pleaser (like me), don’t deplete yourself in order to help others; you should be your No. 1 priority.

Most importantly, don’t forget why you’re here and how amazing this opportunity is.

I’m so thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve gotten so far. My journey is far from over, but as I write this blog, I’ve enjoyed stepping back to admire how far we have come, and I look forward to the great things we will accomplish in this profession.

You’re Not Alone

Kelsi E.Wow. This Friday will round out week 10 of my first semester of veterinary school.

Had you asked me how I was feeling two weeks ago, I’d have to confess I was debating whether this was truly my career path. I was struggling with the heavy course load, personal issues, and missing home more than any 22 year old ever would. With our exam schedule picking up and time seeming to just melt away, I wondered if I’d ever make it those last eight weeks. “Imposter Syndrome” was certainly rearing its ugly head and I felt totally alone.

Then I received a text from a classmate, who has quickly turned from stranger to best friend, confessing that they were sharing my doubts, and suddenly I was not alone! This changed everything. Having someone to share our struggles allowed us to easily dismiss the silly notions we each had about ourselves and tackle the problems logically.

We reached out to professors, classmates, the professional counselors Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has on staff just for veterinary students, and even the dean (!)—and we were met with nothing but love and support. All of my professors have set aside time in their days to help me work through my struggles and fears, and the counselors have taught me strategies to handle my stress and remind me that I am most definitely not alone.

Since receiving that text message, my entire outlook has changed. Sure, veterinary school is hard. Studying, hard classes, and the craziness that comes with life will never go away, but I now know that I will always have an entire support system who all want me to be the best veterinarian I can possibly be, and with their help, I know I will be!

My advice to anyone aspiring to be a veterinarian is that no matter what is going on in your life and no matter how bad it might seem—reach out. Someone likely is feeling the exact same way that you are and at the CVM, you’re never alone!

The Value of ‘Brain Breaks’

Taylor SheffieldThe first year of veterinary school is fun, exhilarating, and, sometimes, exhausting. With the excitement of class and lab throughout the day and then coming home to study at night, we vet students occasionally forget how to step away from the books and slightly relax.

Now that the semester is half way over, I have learned that those tiny moments away from the books are essential to everyday life. At first, school seemed to take a big chunk of my time, or so I thought, and I could not possibly imagine fitting in any “brain breaks.”

Well, that did not last too long. I found my focus had started to decrease once I got home from school, and so I had to learn how to incorporate a small break here and there.

First, I decided to continue my summer exercise routine of 40 minutes a day of some kind of exercise I enjoyed. Personally, I enjoy running and yoga. Although some days I may not have all of that time, even 20 or 30 minutes of exercise is enough to get me up and away from the books. During those 30 minutes, I get my blood pumping, clear my mind, and take a step away from the bright luminesce screen. On days when studying is long and vigorous, after two hours I take a break and do a workout video from YouTube, and that short, and free 20, minutes of exercise is just enough to get me up out of my chair and reset my brain.

There are days when exercise is just not appealing, so other little stress relievers are useful. Coloring while listening to music, doing a load of laundry, baking a cake, taking 10 minutes for meditation, or even vacuuming up the apartment are all ways I step away from school. An even better brain break, and one I enjoy very much, as most veterinarian students do, is to play or cuddle with my cat, which releases that small amount of stress I was focusing on while studying.

Over the last nine weeks, the most important thing I have learned is to take those small breaks. I know it can be difficult at times, but those breaks help improve studying! Research has shown that our brains are not meant to look at something or stay stationary for long periods of time, so having short mental breaks, ranging from 20-30 minutes, can actually improve information retention.

So, no matter what you’re doing, remember to occasionally take a step away, enjoy the fresh air, and let the mind reset.

‘Flying’ Through the First Semester

Hayley MorganWe are entering the seventh week of veterinary school, and I cannot believe how much time has flown by and that I am almost halfway done with my first semester!

Vet school has been a whirlwind, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, I’ve had to study more than I ever have before, but seeing it pay off in the end and knowing that it’s helping prepare me for my dream career makes it worth it. Learning and practicing how to perform a proper physical exam on all kinds of animals has been my favorite, so far, because it ties in the information we have learned in lecture and allows us to apply those concepts to a living animal—plus, we get to be around the animals.

Another thing that I have really enjoyed is how willing all of our teachers are to help us learn and grasp concepts and to help prepare us for the future; they keep telling us that we’d be amazed at how much we know already, even in the first semester in vet school. As we progress through the semester, I’m starting to see how true that is. Family and friends who know that I’m in vet school will contact me with questions and concerns about their pets and I feel so elated when I’m able to give them an educated answer. It really makes me feel like I’m on my way to becoming a doctor!

A ‘Test’-y Situation

carter mcadooAs I’m writing this, I am finishing up my fifth week of classes in my first year of veterinary school.

At this point I have had an anatomy exam, a physiology exam, and my first immunology exam.  I am a little worn out, but the one thing that never fades is how much I am loving vet school. I have been working toward this goal my whole life and because of that I am truly enjoying my time.

The things we are learning have a new level of pertinence to them and I am trying to soak up as much as I can. We have had multiple opportunities to get hands-on experience with animals, which makes the whole process so much fun.

It is a lot of hard work being in vet school, but my experiences during my undergraduate career are helping me to be successful. Being a biomedical sciences student as an undergraduate, I learned how to effectively manage my time and focus on my studies. Taking classes like anatomy and physiology in my undergraduate days also set me up for success in my first graduate years. I am very happy that I made the choice, four years ago, to pursue a degree in biomedical sciences.