The Drive

Nantika (far left) and her surgical team
Nantika (far left) and her surgical team

As I am driving along State Highway 21 from College Station back to Dallas for winter break, I am feeling both joy and anxiety.

 

My friend’s words are stuck in my head: “We are 5/8 doctor!” as we just finished our fifth semester in veterinary school. The joyful part is that I’m more than half way through my veterinary education; the anxiety-laden part is that there are only three semesters left before I become a doctor and go out into the real world.

It feels like it was just yesterday when I drove along this highway from Dallas to College Station for my vet school interview. Five semesters have gone by very fast.

However, it has laid a very strong foundation. The highlight of this semester was the surgery class. It was stressful, but I gained more confidence after each surgery laboratory, which includes a surgery group of three students rotating weekly through the roles of surgeon, assistant surgeon, and anesthetist.

The surgeon needs to be certain in surgical procedures and the anatomy of the patient. Once the procedure starts and the patient is under anesthesia, we are on the clock.

The anesthetist must monitor how deep the patient is under the anesthetic gas and that adequate oxygen flow is delivered to the patient. The blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature must be within normal range. The assistant surgeon needs to be sure that the proper surgical equipment and aseptically (protected against infections) technique be prepared for surgery.

During this learning process, besides the surgical knowledge, I also learned to communicate effectively with my surgerical team. Upon completing this course, I feel I’ve gained the confidence to continue my journey as a doctor.

I can see that next time I drive back home on this state highway, I will be driving as a “6/8 doctor,” and, finally, in May 2020, I will become “a doctor.”

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.

Looking into the Future

So, the good news is the semester is finally almost over! However, that also means I must make it through finals first.

The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy and filled with tons of information, but it’s all important to know for my future.

As I plan to attend veterinary school, I’m beginning to take more rigorous courses geared toward my specific career path, so my classes are getting more interesting than the typical core curriculum classes. I’m majoring in biomedical sciences, which helps to get a lot of the veterinary school prerequisites out of the way, but my schedule is always busy.

After this semester, I will have completed my first semester of my second year here at Texas A&M, and man, it’s been an experience. I’ve heard people say college is the best time of your life, and so far, it’s been really fun but full of busy schedules and lots of classes to study for.

With that said, it can get really busy when finals time comes around, since there’s so much to study. I enjoy the classes I’m taking, but as I’m sure a lot of people have heard, finals can be stressful for many people.

Although there’s so much to do at this time of the semester, it’s definitely doable if you don’t procrastinate. With there being several finals to study for, it helps to start studying early, rather than pulling all-nighters the night before the exams. I’ve tried studying both ways and quickly found out that I should start studying early so that I can actually understand the material for the test rather than cram the night before and remember only about half of it.

This can be one of the busiest times of the semester, but finding your groove ahead of time helps decrease the stress of studying. Just relax, take one day at a time, and everything will be OK.

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.

My Friendsgiving

While Thanksgiving is now over, the Thanksgiving day is a great reminder to appreciate for the little things.

One thing that I really appreciate is lifelong friendship. After two and a half years at the veterinary school, I have met great friends who are going to be my colleagues one day. It is amazing to be around people who share the same interest and passion as I do.

A few days ago, we shared our third anniversary of celebrating “Friendsgiving” together. It was a good excuse for us to forget about exams and quizzes for a little bit and just enjoy having a good time with friends.

Every year, it is at Emily’s house, and I thank her for offering her place and not minding her house getting messy afterward. Because it is a potluck event, everyone is encouraged to bring a dish. I made my “famous” corn bread using my secret recipe. I also made some creamed corn. I was excited to have holiday dishes that I enjoyed last year, such as Annie’s green bean casserole.

We also had some non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes, such as dumplings and beans to show the diversity of our group. My favorite dish was the homemade egg rolls by Duc. He joked around about how he almost burnt his arm making them because he had not made them in a while.

At the end of the night, my stomach was so full from food and hurting from laughing.

The amount of support that I receive from my group of friends is immeasurable; they are also a motivation for me to keep pushing myself.

I already cannot wait for our fourth “Friendsgiving” next year.

Off-Campus Living and New Roommates

Erin H.I am finally a senior (WHOOP) and this is my first time living off campus.

For the first three years here at Texas A&M, I lived in the same residence hall with the same roommate. Fortunately, it was modular style, so it was bigger than some of the other dorms, but the kitchen was not very clean, the sharing spaces were messy, and there was not much privacy in the room itself. However, I lucked out because my roommate and I got along really well and we are still great friends.

While the living conditions were not great, the community and the friends I met made up for it.

I could not recommend enough, especially for freshmen, to live in the dorms their first year. Not only is being on campus much more convenient because of its proximity to dining places and classes, but it shapes you into the Aggie that everyone should strive for; you get involved in so many events on campus, learn about all the traditions, and are surrounded by peers to whom you can relate and connect.

But as three years came to an end, my roommate and I decided it was time to move on. We wanted to find a nice apartment with two other close friends and experience the off-campus living for ourselves.

Boy, has this been a learning curve.

Living with one other roommate was one thing but living with three other girls was an entirely different ball game. All four of us had different ideas of what we considered clean, figure out what temperature to set the thermostat, and establish common house rules…that change weekly.

Not only that, but we were all new to off-campus living so we had to adjust to waking up earlier to get to class on time and set aside time to make food like real adults.

What a time to be alive! I have to say…it is nice to have our own kitchen and our own rooms to crawl back to when we need some alone time, but most importantly, I love girls’ night whenever we get the chance to have one.

Recently, we had a new addition to the “family”…and his name is Khaki. My roommate adopted this Catahoula/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix at 3 months old, and he is one spoiled puppy. He has every toy you could ever imagine and better jackets and clothes than I will ever have, but that’s OK, because he deserves it.

Currently, he is being potty trained and learning new commands every day. He does make mistakes here and there, but he is the one of the most well-behaved puppies I have ever met. I always say he’s an old soul trapped in a little body. We can’t wait to see him grow into a big dog!

Big Decisions

Karly B.I have recently been tasked with submitting my fourth-year rotation preferences for our next, and last, year. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. I was so overwhelmed when the administration first introduced this process to us.

The way our fourth year of veterinary school works is we enter into the Small and Large Animal Teaching Hospitals from May 2019 to May 2020. During this timeframe, we spend two weeks’ time on each of a series of rotations to gain experience in a clinical setting, making our own decisions, and taking care of patients.

It is our last step to becoming a doctor, other than passing the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Examination), of course.

The first decision we must make for our fourth year of veterinary school is choosing a track. These tracks include small animal, large animal, mixed, or alternative track. I settled on doing mixed animal, which is a combination of small and large animal track.

Although most of my experiences outside of school are small animal related, I have found a passion and interest in ruminants and chickens that I would like to continue to pursue through my education here at Texas A&M.

Then, we are given a choice of our rotations; some are elective and others are required. Of some of the required rotations, we have a month of anesthesia, two weeks of surgery, and two weeks at the Houston SPCA. In my chosen rotation selections, I chose community equine practice and the exotics rotation.

We also select a month to do externships at other hospitals and clinics. This was my most stressful decision. It’s so difficult to decide a timeframe to commit to going to another clinic when it’s so far away.

All in all, I believe I chose the right rotations, externships, and track to make the most of my remaining time here at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine.

A Little Perspective

Emily T.It’s hard for me to believe this, but I am now just a few weeks away from completing the first semester of second year of veterinary school!

My friends and family love to ask me, “How is second year going?” And my answer to that has been, “It’s going much better than first year!”

Their reactions are always a mixture of surprise and wonder. Is it an easier semester? Are there fewer exams? What’s different?

Well, the truth is that veterinary school is still extremely difficult, and the exams are still just as stressful and overwhelming as ever.

That hasn’t changed, but my perspective has.

See, there were several times throughout first year during which I felt like my life had been put on hold. I watched as my friends from college moved to new places, accepted full-time adult jobs, and traveled to countries around the world, all while I was sitting at a local coffeeshop studying for my upcoming exams.

I had fallen into what seemed like an endless routine of wake up, go to school, study, sleep, rinse, and repeat. I found myself wishing that I could just skip to graduation and become a veterinarian, so that I, too, could start living my life. But then I realized that by wishing that, I was wishing time away.

Oftentimes, we let ourselves be blinded by our goals and the finish line and we don’t realize that life is happening at the same time; I realized that I am never going to get these years back.

It struck me that my life is happening right now—I need to be present in the moment and I need to live it.

So, this past semester, I made a conscious effort to lead a more balanced life. Of course, I still spend the majority of my time either in class or studying, but I made time for myself.

I started exercising regularly again and I didn’t let myself feel guilty for taking breaks and spending time with my friends. I deliberately set aside time for loved ones back home.

Every time I take a little bit of time away from studying and from school, I come back rejuvenated and excited to learn again, and it has made vet school so much more enjoyable than when I was just consumed by its stressful rigor.

It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can do.

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!