A Different Story

The Story

Here is a little about me: I am a senior at Texas A&M University in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). I serve as a CVM Ambassador, a Regents’ Scholar, public relations officer for Ags of OAK (Open Acts of Kindness), the chair of TAMU’s Alternative Spring Break committee, and a first-generation college student.

As an end goal for my undergraduate years, I will run a marathon just four days before graduation! In addition to all of this, I am also a writer, a podcast lover, and huge fan of non-profit organizations. I strive to be a professional, I strive to work within non-profits, and I strive to write a book one day on my story.

Another Take

Chau and her momWhen I started my freshman year at Texas A&M, my mom began her own college experience in my hometown of Texarkana.

I am the youngest in my family, and to see my mother begin her ultimate goal is just one reason why she is my role model. When exam weeks approach, I get stressed, but my mom has always been my backbone for strength. English is not her first language, so the transition from small exchanges with friends to a classroom setting was drastic.

We both have our ups and downs throughout our journeys, but those are our constant reminders of the goals that drive us. My mom is an aspiring nurse. I am an aspiring therapist. These two pathways are semi-similar, and we have similar courses!

During my four years here, I have had nights that I FaceTimed with my mom to see how her classes are going. “Chau! I received a 90 on my anatomy quiz!”—I always smile ear-to-ear when I hear remarks like this.

These small moments and exchanges with my mother are the highlights of my days. These moments are simple, but my mom’s dedication to her work is truly inspiring to me.

During my time at TAMU, this story was not told, but this story is my constant motivation. I am optimistic because of my mom, and I strive for the same excellence she aims for in her studies. In two weeks, I get to graduate and I owe it to my inspiring mom, a great student.

Being Accepted into Vet School

Carter M.It is official: I have been accepted to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine!

I am so overwhelmingly excited to be a part of the class of 2022. Come this May, I will be graduating with a degree in biomedical sciences and then in August I will start vet school.

I am excited to be graduating, but at the same time, I am not all that focused on it. For a lot of people, graduation is the end of it, but for me, I graduate and then move on to more schooling.

I think that on graduation day I will be really excited because all of my friends and family will be here celebrating. Up until then, though, vet school is really what is on my mind.

I was so happy when I found out I had been accepted, but then I had the realization of, “wow, I really have to do this now.” It has not even started yet and my mind is filled with so many different questions. I constantly think about what it is going to be like and if I am going to be able to handle it.

At the end of the day, I turn my focus back to the here and now. My main focus right now is learning as much as I can about physiology.

In going forward, I just focus on the fact that I have conquered a lot in my undergraduate years and I will continue to do what it takes to be successful.

A Big Saturday in Aggieland

March 24 was not a regular Saturday here in Aggieland. In addition to the veterinary students in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences holding the 25th annual open house, it was also the day of one of my favorite annual service projects, The Big Event.

The Big Event is the largest one-day, student-run service project that allows us college students to say “thank you” to the residents of Bryan and College Station. Originally, The Big Event started at Texas A&M in the early 80s, but it has slowly spread to other schools across the country that participate in this project with us every year. This year, more than 20,000 Aggies came together for a fun-filled day of selfless service. These 20,000 Aggies registered with a group and then were assigned a site, tools, and specific tasks that the resident of that site is requesting.

This year, I was the job site leader for my small group of five. As site leader, I was in charge of checking my group in, checking out the required tools, and making sure everyone was making the most our this amazing experience.

The Big Event begins with a kickoff ceremony to get everyone hyped about helping the community. This year’s ceremony featured fire works, free food, and a send-off speech from new head football coach, Jimbo Fisher. After the ceremony, we all dispersed to stand in long lines for our tools and then shuffle over to our assigned resident.

My resident was a sweet 90-year-old grandma who lives by herself and, due to physical disabilities and a recently broken arm, had trouble with tending to her yard and reaching high places inside her house. So, our job was to lay down mulch, rake leaves, plant flowers, mow her lawn, organize her house, bring down dishes she couldn’t reach, and dust out her air vents and cabinets.

Because we were able to dedicate four hours to making her life a little easier, her yard looks amazing, with fresh mulch and flowers; her house is extremely clean; and she can finally use the supplies in her house that she couldn’t reach before. We were also able to re-organize the majority of her house so that she wouldn’t have to store things in places she couldn’t physically get to. She was extremely grateful and rewarded us for our hard work with amazing homemade pizza!

By the time I dropped off my group at their respective apartments and returned the tools, I was exhausted, covered in mosquito bites, and super sweaty. However, I was also happy and satisfied, as well. I got the amazing opportunity to get to help out the community that I live in and make a true difference in someone else’s life. The added job allowed me to have more responsibility than last year and more insight into group organization.

Overall, this year’s Big Event was a huge success! So many Aggies were able to help out the community through various chores and say “thank you” the most impactful way possible while representing the Aggie Core Values of unity and service!

Preparing to Study Abroad

Kimberly N.Several months ago, I was accepted to the biomedical sciences’ Costa Rica semester abroad program. Woo hoo!

But, now, I have to think about the most essential thing—money. How am I supposed to get the money to pay for this? As a first-generation student who is dependent on financial aid, money is a huge issue for me.

Thus, I started looking into scholarships and found one I am eligible for—The Gilman International Scholarship.

The Gilman International Scholarship is geared to Pell Grant recipients who are intending on studying abroad in a level one or two travel advisory country for more than three weeks. The application requires a statement of purpose essay (basically asks why you decided to go study abroad) and a project plan essay (which is your plan to promote the Gilman Scholarship AFTER you study abroad), along with your official transcript.

It has been a pretty easy process, other than the essay. The application is due in a few days, so I’m struggling to get my essay perfect while studying for my three exams, two of which are the day before the deadline (March 6). But I think the struggle with be worth it!

My advice to anyone considering studying abroad is this: There are resources! Study abroad sends out frequent emails about scholarships available, and you can go to the Money Management Center to work out how to save up for the trip if you need to.

Texas A&M isn’t called the No. 1 public university to send students abroad for no reason!

A Blessing in Disguise

Priya during ASB
Priya spent last her last spring break working at an animal shelter in New Orleans as part of Texas A&M’s Alternative Spring Break project.

With spring break being less than three weeks away, I find myself remembering my spring break last year and how that one week completely changed my college career for the better.

Last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to New Orleans for the entire week and volunteer at an animal shelter through Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

ASB is a service-based organization in and out of the BCS community that primarily aims to provide students with a meaningful spring break experience through selfless service. Every year, a group of about 45 students choose between four projects across the country through which they can make the most out of their week away from school and classes.

Originally, I was signed up and ready to go to Oklahoma to volunteer at a Native American Reservation. When that trip was cancelled, I was, instead, placed on the New Orleans trip, which looking back was a blessing in disguise.

Beignets from NolaI remember sitting in the van en route to New Orleans and being nervous about how my spring break was going to turn out. I didn’t know anyone on my trip because I was added to it at the last minute and I didn’t know what to expect from the volunteer site.

But New Orleans changed my life. From eating beignets every morning, to playing with the sweetest dogs and cats every day and bonding with my group every night, I can definitely say I made some of my favorite college memories on that trip.

The shelter we volunteered at was heavily understaffed and there were way too many dogs and cats for all of the employees to shower with affection, so we were able to do what they couldn’t. After being in their cages all day, the larger dogs, especially, had a ton of energy and got so excited about the smallest things, even just playing with us for 10 minutes.

We left with a bunch of scratches and bruises, but it was definitely worth it to give the animals the loving attention they deserve!

Additionally, were able to help the staff, too, by cleaning cages, changing food bowls, doing laundry, giving some of the smaller dogs haircuts and baths, and organizing the very unorganized linen cabinet.

The pre-veterinary students even got the opportunity to shadow the on-site veterinarian when he was spaying and neutering the dogs that were new to the shelter.

Priya with her ASB friends
Priya, with the new friends she made during her ASB experience

After volunteering from only 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., my group and I were free to explore the city! Some of the things we did included holding baby alligators, taking Instagram-worthy pictures at the Botanical Gardens, shopping around the French Quarter and Magazine Street, going on a haunted city tour, and ending the experience by watching the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

I loved that I was able to positively impact so many people and animals through a fun volunteer experience.When the week was over and we were back in College Station, I knew that I wanted to go on another volunteer spring break trip again.

So, this year, ASB is taking me to Memphis to volunteer at a food bank in an underserved area! I can’t wait to see how Memphis will change my life like New Orleans did!

A piece of advice that I always give to prospective college students is to never be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

I stepped outside of mine by going to a city I had never been to with people I had never met; I left with an incomparable experience, a group of people whom I now consider some of my best friends, and a new passion for selfless service.

Interviewing for Vet School

Carter M.During this past winter break, I was invited to interview with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Upon receiving the emailed invitation, I was elated; it was a very surreal feeling. I have wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember and getting my interview made it suddenly feel real.

Obviously, I had not been accepted at that point but getting my interview was a huge step for me. My interview date was about two weeks from when I received my email.

The interview process for Texas A&M’s vet school is in the form of multiple mini interviews (MMIs). On the date of the interview, you show up and have six mini interviews, with the idea being that if someone does not do as well in one of his or her interviews, not all hope is lost.

Each interview lasts eight minutes, and they fly by. Prior to my interview, I had gone online and found practice MMI questions, and each night I would sit down with my mom (who is a veterinarian) and we would do mock interviews. This really helped me get comfortable with the process.

The day of my interview I was nervous, but at the same time, I was excited. Interviewers stress the fact that they want everyone to have fun in their interviews; I tried to focus on this and I think it really helped me. I just tried to enjoy each topic I was given.

When it was all said and done, I felt really good about how I had done. Now all that is left is to just wait.

The Trials of a Pre-Med Student

Courtney N.The first wave of tests is finally upon us! As the second semester of my junior year flies past, I, like any pre-med looking to apply this cycle, am feeling the pressure of the process. I have found that the life of a pre-med is a delicate balancing act. It is difficult finding time to devote to extracurricular activities, volunteering, research, classwork, and readying applications for submission.  It feels like I am constantly adding things to my to-do list and never crossing anything off.

The first round of tests seems even more daunting when you have to start off the semester behind in all of your classes. I think my experiences are pretty indicative of the typical pre-med experience. I spent the entirety of winter break and the first week of classes studying for the MCAT, and I think about half of my anatomy class took the MCAT right along with me. Medical school hopefuls, and any student who wishes to attend graduate school, do not get time off, even during school breaks. As graduation approaches, breaks are spent gaining pertinent experiences.

I have learned a lot about myself through my experience preparing applications and taking the MCAT. Studying eight to 10 hours a day almost every day for the entire winter break definitely took its toll. However, it showed me how important it is to take some time for yourself. Sometimes stepping away from my studying was one of the hardest things I had to do. There were some days when I became so stressed from not studying long enough that I would force myself to study longer without actually absorbing any of the information; I was my own worst enemy and my stress kept feeding on itself. Stepping away from my studying allowed me to return refreshed and helped me look at old problems from new angles.

Similarly, I found that it was really important to do something fun and stress-free to break up the studying. Whether it was a movie night with friends, a night alone with Netflix, or a nice dinner with my parents, I felt like the day after I had taken a night off was much more productive than one after a long day of studying. Likewise, being able to lean on people who made up my support system (parents, friends, siblings, etc.) was so important during this extremely stressful time. Even if I couldn’t admit that I needed a break, the people who care about me pushed me to take care of myself.

I believe that the things that got me through studying for the MCAT can be applied to almost any kind of situation. It is important to take care of yourself and remember that even if you don’t do as well as you had hoped, you can always find the silver lining and take something away from the situation. With that being said, good luck to all on the first round of tests and good luck to anyone waiting on their MCAT scores!

Letting Life Lead

I had a lot of big moments in 2017, most of which were not planned. Looking back, I see that many of my favorite moments were decisions I made on a whim—to travel, to grow, to take opportunities. Last year was the year of receiving the beauty that is the Aggie ring, seeing my beautiful 91-year-old grandma in Vietnam, helping rebuild a home in Oklahoma for the sweetest family, and falling in love with California when visiting universities for graduate programs. These were the beginning of my senior-year memories that will make me cherish my undergraduate days for years to come.

Chau in California
Chau visited California to learn more about the area’s Doctor of Physical Therapy programs.

On the first day of class this semester, one of my professors introduced himself by first relating to undergraduates. His motive as an undergraduate was to just “get out” and become a veterinarian. But then he added a twist. Along the way and with the mentality to just “getting out,” he found another passion—a passion for teaching, a pathway that made him come back to academia after practicing as a veterinarian, graduating with a second doctorate, and continuing the process that he wanted to get out of. His moral importance for the class was to say follow where life takes you.I came into 2018 with nothing but positivity because I have been waiting for this year since 2014, my freshman year.

And at that moment, I related. I reminisced about my path in college to now and how I stumbled into my passion for physical therapy and to my growth as a student. I can say that this ongoing, four-year journey has changed me. but it is the change that has given me my dedication to strive and be here.

I like to live my life by Einstein’s words of being “passionately curious,” my constant need to question and search for answers through the people around me. So what will I be curious about this semester? A capstone style BIMS writing course, immunology, microbiology, and a neuroscience class. Yes, after three-and-a-half years of hard work, I am excited to announce my interest is in my set of classes this semester! I am on my second week and I am a whirlwind of emotions. I find myself loving my classes every day, even when the workload is massive. I see myself aspiring to be like my professors and express such passion for the sciences. I see my future just beginning as I get through these four months.

2018, the long awaited year, is now, and I cannot express how fortunate I feel for the people I have met and the relationships I have had. This semester I get to balance my classes, student activities, shadowing, GRE prepping, graduate school applications, and, most importantly, studying. And I am really excited!

Right now, I am letting life lead me.

Refreshing During Winter Break

LisaWhat an amazing winter break I had! Because I live eight hours away, I had been loning to see my mom and dad, so I really enjoyed being with my family for a whole month, cuddling with the family cat, and catching up on bunch of Netflix series. My family and I also got to travel and make some new memories; it was great to be close to them and catch up with the lives of my older friends. I was saddened to have to leave them, but they are never too far for a phone call.

On the bright side, I got a new cat named Moose! He is now living with me in College Station, and he is just purrrrfect. He loves to cuddle, eat, and play, when he is not sleeping. What a life he has!

While all good things must come to an end, the start to the semester has interesting because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and an extra day to relax due to cold weather. I was expecting some snow, but a girl can only wish. After that interruption, as I’m getting back into a routine, I’ve decided to try something new—Zumba! Let me tell you, it was a lot harder than I thought. Who knew that dancing could be such a workout? But it’s also very fun, something I believe I am going to enjoy with my busy schedule.

I have high hopes for this semester, as I do every semester, but the homework is going to be another story. I hope everyone’s semester started well and that you really love your schedules. Gig’em, Ags!

My Fall as a ‘Veteran’ Pet Trainer

Angelica F.Fall finals are done and out of the way for undergraduates!!

Yay! I survived…barely. Finals take an emotional and physical toll on just about everyone.

But looking back on this semester, I would say the fall was, overall, successful. Throughout this semester, things got a little crazy in my house with my roommate’s two pets, an 11-month-old Great Pyrenees, Toph, and a 7 year-old-cat, Moo, as well as the service dogs I’ve been training that came in and out of the house.

Back in August, I started off with a white Labrador Retriever named Pokey. He got along very well with the other pets, rough housing and keeping Toph company and even bothering, with mutual respect, of course, Moo. Training a service dog during the semester can be difficult; however, what made it harder was my replacement dog for Pokey, who returned to the headquarters of Patriot Paws of Aggieland to learn more advanced training. He may graduate as soon as spring 2018 to a veteran in need.

In his place, I received a white English Golden Retriever named Woodward (or Woody, for short) in late September. Woody was a puppy of 7 months and only knew the command for “sit.” I had a handful in trying to balance training a puppy, keeping up with academics, and continuing my active involvement in my organizations like Pre-Vet Society and as an MSC Hospitality tour guide.

All in all, having to train a service dog, or even deciding to have a pet of one’s own, is a very difficult challenge while in college. It takes a lot of responsibility and time to care for a pet and, perhaps even more so, to train one. My word of advice is to wait before you get a pet and do some research on budgeting both the time and money that will be required to invest in one. If you already have a pet, look up ways to maintain your pet’s health by exercising, training, and feeding them healthy, correctly portioned food.

Best of luck to everyone still finishing exams and have a very Merry Christmas!