Life Update: Positivity & Thankfulness

Hello all!

For those of you that followed the blog, my apologies for not writing for a while. It’s been a big, busy year! I have been completing my various clinical rotations and placements, studying for and passing (YAY!) the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE), starting the job search, AND planning a wedding. It’s been stressful but also very exciting as I start to picture what life after vet school will look like for me, Kelsey, and Sagan.

I currently have a week off from rotations. I had planned to do a trip with some friends to Portugal, but given the current pandemic have decided not to travel. Instead, I am using the time to study, get things done around the house, and also take some time for myself to do things like write in my sad, neglected blog.

And today specifically, on a serious note, I’m taking time to think about and reflect on what March 17th means to me: today marks 5 years since an apartment fire completely changed my life.

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Although it stirs up a variety of conflicting emotions, when I look back at it now, the thing that stands out the most is how thankful I am. After the fire, I had so many family, friends, and coworkers reaching out to me and providing support in any ways that they could. I always had a place to stay, care for my pets, and pretty much anything else I needed. My sister in law helped us look for a new place, my coworkers looked after our pets at the clinic as they recovered, aunts and uncles gave us furniture and household items, and so many kind people donated to help us get back on our feet. This amazing support is what made us able to be where we are today, 5 years later: living in Ireland, soon to graduate and start our careers.

So though I feel a bit stressed by the current situations in the world and the uncertainty that comes with them, I am thankful for what I have and where I am.


Stay safe, everyone. ❤

Commonly Asked Questions

I’ve been very excited to receive so many e-mails and messages from prospective and incoming students in the past year. I’m thrilled to hear that this blog is succeeding in one of its main goals: helping and informing others about vet school and about living abroad in Ireland. I wanted to compile a list of questions I have been asked as they may help others.


General questions about moving to Ireland:

Q: What made you decide to move to Ireland and attend UCD?

On a pragmatic level, attending school in Ireland was going to end up being about the same price as going to certain schools in the US – and even cheaper than some. Yes, that includes the associated costs like plane tickets, a car, general living costs, things like that.

On a personal level, I’ve always wanted to experience living (and studying) in a different country and Ireland was at the top of my list for countries to visit.

IMG_0605On a much more personal level, and a level I don’t usually go into when asked in person, 2015 was a rough year for both myself and my fiancé. We experienced an armed carjacking and, two months later, an apartment fire that destroyed everything we owned. I felt like I needed to hit a sort of reset button in my life and get a fresh start, and what better way to do it than moving across the world and starting a new degree? I do want to make it clear, though, that this recovery and huge move were only possible because of the amazing support system that I have back in the U.S.

Q: How did you find a place to live? 

Finding accommodation was easily one of the toughest parts of the move. Dublin is experiencing a bit of a housing crisis at the moment – prices are high, supply is low and UCD is on the edge of one of the nicer parts of County Dublin. I spent months searching in advance, not realizing that it isn’t the most effective way to do it. Once a property comes up as available (the typical site to find these kinds of things is, for those of you looking), it doesn’t stay up long. To make matters worse, landlords usually want an in-person meeting prior to signing – and believe me, that is completely understandable. Recently, UCD has even had to put out warnings about possible housing scams in the Dublin area. You need to be very careful and vigilant when looking.

The way I DID eventually manage to find a place was to post my own tenant ad on, which is something I would recommend to anybody who is in need of housing. I received multiple responses, including the one that we ended up taking (we are still living here now!).

It should be noted that our situation was complicated by the fact that there were two of us and a dog; we were very lucky to find a landlord that was alright with that. We live outside of the city, which means a bit of a commute, but our dog has a huge yard to run in and everything else he needs. Our rent is also quite a bit lower than what you typically see around UCD.

So just be aware – if you plan on moving with a pet and/or a partner, accommodation can be tricky to find (especially close to campus). I would say that getting a car and dealing with a longer commute has been absolutely worth it for us.

Q: How did you bring your dog to Ireland?DSC_0306

We used Pet Express, a service which helps you transport your pet safely and conveniently. (No, I’m not getting paid to say this.) It came at a cost, but it was worth it to us.

Q: How did your fiancé come with you to Ireland?

Kelsey is actually also studying at UCD (computer science). If that isn’t your case, it’s important to note that it is very difficult to bring your partner with you. If they don’t have a good reason to stay, such as being a student or having a job, they must leave within 90 days. It also isn’t very easy to find work.

Q: When should I arrive in Ireland before term starts?

This is a tricky question depending on your situation, but most people have to come at least a few weeks to a month early in order to find accommodation. You will also need time to set up your bank account, cell phone, figure out transportation, what you need for school and home – and, more importantly in this situation, where to get it.

Q: What is public transportation like around Dublin?

Luckily there are many choices for public transport around UCD and City Centre. Dublin Bus, the Luas, and commuter trains are all popular options. As a student, you can get a Student Leap Card which allows you to get discounted public transit. You can easily top up your card and it also gets you some nifty discounts at certain stores, movie theatres, and restaurants.

Q: What stores and banks are common? What do you use?


We use AIB, which has great offers for student accounts. They also have a location on campus which makes them a very convenient choice. Bank of Ireland caters to students as well. There are other banks, but these are the two that were recommended to us as students and we couldn’t be happier with AIB.

Grocery stores:

For groceries, we shop at SuperValu and Tesco. Dunnes, Aldi and Lidl are other common options that just aren’t as close to us. SuperValu and Tesco both offer delivery and often have free delivery deals – which can be great when you’re finding yourself too busy studying to shop.


Penney’s and Dunnes are sort of Target-level clothing. TK Maxx is just like TJ Maxx in the states. There is a mall near campus and available by public transit (Dundrum Shopping Centre) that has plenty of choices popular among students. Schuh is one of the main shoe stores, and even has a student discount with your student card.

Home Goods:

We live close to an IKEA, which is great for affordable furniture, kitchen items and decor.  The school even offers occasional bus trips there for students at the beginning of the semester. Penney’s is a good place to buy linens, towels and bedding.

Pharmacies (chemists, as they’re called here):

Boots and Stacks are the two biggest and most popular chemists in our experience. I usually prefer Boots as it has most of the major brands of makeup, hair products and toiletries that I used back home. They also have student discounts with your Leap Card!

Q: What are cell phone plans like in Ireland and what company do you use?

Cheaper than the US! We have a “Top Up” (pay as you go) plan with 3, one of the major carriers in Ireland. We pay 20 Euro a month for unlimited data and unlimited talk and text to other 3 customers within Ireland. To communicate, though, seemingly everyone here either uses WhatsApp or Facebook messenger so the talk and text don’t get used much. The cool thing about this plan is that the 20 Euro is actually then able to go fullsizeoutput_349btowards other things. You top up with it, but it then counts as credit for things like international calls, calls to other carriers, and even paid parking around County Dublin. Other major carriers used by some of my friends are Vodafone and Tesco Mobile.

As of 2017, you can use your plan anywhere in the EU as though you’re at home, which is great for students who want to travel while they’re here!

Q: What are GNIB appointments?

GNIB stands for the Garda (Irish police) National Immigration Bureau. All students have to schedule a GNIB appointment once a year to renew their GNIB card, which they need to stay in Ireland (think student visa). It’s a bit of a long and painful process: not just attending the appointment, but even booking it. You must book WELL in advance – the window you can check is 3 months and there’s typically literally nothing available. In fact: mine expires on the 31st of October, and I’ve been checking every day this week (It is now the 5th of August) and haven’t been able to find an appointment yet. UCD is good about providing a list of documents you need to bring to the appointment – do NOT forget any of these documents! You will also need to pay 300 Euro each time, only payable by card. If you have any questions about the documents needed or the process, please feel free to contact me – I know it can be confusing.

Q: How did you go about getting a car and driving in Ireland?

Due to where we live, a car was an absolute necessity. Finding a car with automatic transmission wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be, and it was very affordable (it was ten years old – now 12!). Driving on the left isn’t as scary as you might think – we got used to it very quickly (even with all the multi-lane roundabouts).

By far the hardest part of driving here is getting insurance. It’s expensive and not many companies want to insure older cars or foreigners. They also expect a minimum of five years with no claims – even if that claim has nothing to do with your driving. In my case, I’ve never been in an accident or even gotten a ticket in my 11 years of driving – but was denied coverage because of the carjacking I mentioned earlier. So because somebody stole my car at gunpoint, I’m not allowed to drive in Ireland. Luckily Kelsey was able to get insured – but unfortunately that means he has to do all the driving.

In addition to insurance, car owners in Ireland have to pay an annual road tax and have a sort of combination automobile evaluation and emissions test known as an NCT.



UCD and veterinary school questions:

Q: What books do you recommend the most for first year?

Some of the main books I recommend are:

Anatomy: Anatomy of Domestic Animals: Systemic & Regional Approach by Pasquini OR Textbook of Veterinary Anatomy by Dyce (both are good but you probably only need one – check them out and see which one you prefer!). I also highly recommend Guide to the Dissection of the Dog by Evans and The Veterinary Anatomy Coloring Book from Saunders.

Physiology: Cunningham’s Textbook of Veterinary Physiology

Just a note – previous students often sell their books cheaper than you could buy them anywhere else so be sure to check the bulletin boards in the vet building!

Q: What is pre-clinical EMS?IMG_4438

Pre-clinical extramural studies or EMS is animal handling experience that the school requires you to organize and obtain on your breaks. This is to make sure that you are competent and safe around different types of animals (companion animals, horses, sheep, dairy cows, beef cattle, and pigs). You will receive more information about the specific requirements at orientation. Your EMS must be completed before your handling exams at the end of your second year.

Q: What is CEMS?

CEMS is your clinical extramural studies. This is similar to EMS in that it has to be set up by you on your breaks but these placements are for clinical experience instead of just handling experience. Requirements for CEMS are presented in second year.

Q: What societies should I join on campus?

That’s totally up to you! There are some awesome societies on campus and you don’t have to just join veterinary ones. I like OneHealth and Vet Society personally but there are also sports societies, gaming societies, history societies, language societies, Harry Potter societies – you name it! One of the first few weeks of classes is ‘Freshers Week’ and during that week there will be a large tent where all the societies set up booths. You can browse through and talk to them there and decide what you are interested in joining!

Q: What is orientation week like?

Your orientation week schedule is fairly packed. This is important to note as that means you probably won’t have time to set up your bank account or cell phone and you also probably won’t have time to go to shops for things you may still need before classes start the following week. This is one of the main reasons I suggest that students arrive at least a few weeks in advance so that they can get settled in appropriately.


Orientation week for the graduate entry vet students consists of multiple long days at the UCD Lyons teaching farm. You will be taken to a shop where you can buy wellies (rain-boots) and coveralls prior to your first day on the farm so don’t worry if you don’t own any already or don’t want to pack yours to bring to Ireland. Also, make sure you pack a lunch for those long days on the farm!




These are just some of the main questions I have been asked. If you have any other questions or would like clarification on something I’ve mentioned, please feel free to contact me!

My Preclinical Extramural Studies (EMS)


What is preclinical EMS? We are required to get a certain amount of handling experience with different species (companion animals, dairy cows, beef cattle, horses,  sheep and pigs). This experience is our chance to learn about management of food animal systems and become more comfortable around these animals – especially those we may not have previously had much/any experience with. The EMS has to be completed on our breaks and must be finished by the end of our second academic year.

In my opinion, this is a bit of a double-edged sword for international students. Obviously the experience is invaluable, but there are certain drawbacks. For one, we look forward to our breaks from classes as times to visit home, travel around Europe, and just relax. With our two spring breaks, two winter breaks, and one summer before the handling exams at the end of the second year, we are expected to make time for a total of 11-12 weeks of this experience – this may not sound too difficult, but some of the placements have to be done at a specific time of year. For example, we are required to get lambing experience as part of our sheep handling. This really only happens during the spring, and so must be scheduled during  the March break. Your breaks start to melt away a little bit as they fill up with extracurricular activity.

Additionally, it can be difficult to find willing farmers and organize the experiences as somebody who isn’t from this country. I was lucky, and had an Irish friend and classmate who helped me find farms – and who did the experience with me (UCD recommends EMS be done in pairs). The school itself doesn’t really assist in finding placements – they do get occasional requests from farmers (mainly for calving and lambing) and pass those along, but that is about the extent of their role.

It’s not all bad though – in fact, this requirement has led to some pretty amazing experiences. I’ve gotten up close and personal with baby lambs, beautiful horses, cute sheep and some personable cows. I’ve also been able to see some parts of Ireland you wouldn’t get to as a tourist or even a typical resident – some of the farms I’ve helped on have been in the mountains with some incredible views of the city and the bay.

For my first week, I was able to assist with lambing on a farm in the Wicklow Mountains fullsizeoutput_4168that had been in the farmer’s family for over three hundred years. That was a pretty crazy thought – this farm had been in operation by his family longer than the United States had been a country. It wasn’t just the age, either: his farm and its views are so beautiful that they have been featured in commercials and movies, and are a frequent stop for European tour groups. While I was there, in fact, a French tour group came through the farm to learn about the history of the area and the Irish sheep farming business. Beyond what everyone else was able to see, I had the privilege of getting a few private tours during my time there from the farmer himself, who of course was very knowledgable about the surrounding farms and countryside (including Glendalough and the area around it, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the Powerscourt Waterfall). The work was hard but rewarding and the days were long and full of activity, but looking back on it I had a fantastic time and learned a lot.


For my next EMS experience, I was again in the Wicklow area. The farm was near a town fullsizeoutput_44d1called Roundwood, but was up in the mountains – again with stunning views. This farm was unique in that it had: two different breeds of sheep, beef cattle, horses, and some quail and chickens. The family was unbelievably welcoming and helpful, and went above and beyond to teach us. We had the opportunity to inject and dose lambs and sheep, lunge and care for horses, and evaluate beef cattle. We had such a great time with them that we were considering coming back to help them during lambing season this year.


My most recent placement was on a dairy farm in Newcastle, which is a small town west of Dublin. Once again, this farm was on a large hill from which we could see over the city IMG_4523and surrounding area. This was especially beautiful in the early morning – we got to see the city lit up in the dark, the sunrise over the bay, a blanket of fog covering it all, and the mountains in a heavy snow. In addition to the typical tasks like milking, feeding, and bedding, we were lucky enough to have some special experiences while we were there. We got to administer vaccinations, watch artificial insemination and ultrasounds, and attend a market and auction for dairy cows and calves. As an added bonus, we were lucky enough to be there while their sheep dog had a litter of puppies! It was another amazing and helpful family – and a farm labourer that was always willing to answer questions, demonstrate techniques, and give advice. The farmer also invited us back to help with calving in the spring, which my friend and I are both looking forward to.

I have some pig experience planned for the spring, and then handling exams happen right before summer break. Overall, though the EMS placements can be difficult to find and sometimes exhausting, they offer some unforgettable experiences and provide students with a practical way to begin applying the knowledge we gain in lectures.

Sunrise on the farm.

Disclaimer: the photos used in this post were taken by me and shared with permission from the respective animals’ owners as per university regulations.

The Dreaded Second Year of Vet School?

Since I was first accepted to vet school, numerous vets and vet students have warned me about the ‘dreaded second year’… but why? At this point, I’m only halfway through my second year, but I’m going to try and provide some insight into why I think so many people say this and give a bit of an overview of the first semester.

The first semester of second year (at UCD at least) includes these courses: Veterinary Microbiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Parasitology. Initial thoughts? Those sound like some tough classes…but at least there are only 4, right? Well, sort of. Two of the courses (micro and parasitology) are actually double the credits because they include so much information and a LOT of lab time. And while these courses are happening, we are expected to be simultaneously getting our pre-clinical EMS/animal handling experience finished up this year (more about that in an upcoming post!).

One of the most difficult aspects of the semester is the lack of clinical work – that comes in semester two. For now, the coursework is all about lectures and lab work. Our first day of second year, one of our professors was trying to give us a bit of an overview about the semester. What he said stuck with me because it really was true: this semester is all about you learning the overall language of veterinary medicine. Learning the names of diseases and what they do in pathology; learning the scientific names of dozens of parasites, which species they affect and how in parasitology; learning about the drugs that are used and how they work in pharmacology; and learning the families and species of over one hundred microorganisms that affect veterinary species. All of these separate concepts combine to form the overall veterinary language, with which students must be familiar in order to have success in the field.

With all of this rigorous coursework, the evaluation phase comes mostly in the form of a final exam worth 60-80% of the overall marks and which contains maybe a handful of the topics you are required to know. For instance, you may be expected to write a detailed essay on only two of the over one hundred parasites you learn about throughout the semester.  That bit of required knowledge can determine whether or not you pass the course – it’s a lot of pressure!

Another aspect that may be specific to UCD is the hectic scheduling of the semester. We received our schedule bit-by-bit instead of all at once before the semester; every Thursday, we would find out what we had the following week. As someone who likes to have everything written in a planner far ahead of time (a fantastic thing to do for any student, as I’ve said before), this was not an easy thing to adjust to. Part of the reason for this constantly changing scheduling is that all of the classes consist of separate smaller concepts, taught for a few lectures by ever-changing lecturers, that added up to form a bigger picture of the course.

So yes, I can see why people often say that this year is extremely difficult. I’m not sure if it’s the most difficult of vet school yet, but if it is then at least I’m halfway through! If you’re reading this and either applying to or are attending your first year of vet school, please don’t let this post deter you from that. Many aspects of this degree are trying and strenuous, but it’s not impossible. Remember your supports and keep going!

Christmas Party 2017 with the vet school girls

Excursion Edition: Edinburgh


This past winter break, we took a little trip over to Edinburgh, Scotland. We booked our trip through Groupon in the fall and were happy to have something to look forward to after finals – especially since neither of us were going to be traveling back home to the States for the holidays. This was the first trip we had ever booked with Groupon (though we had gone through LivingSocial for our first Ireland trip). We loved that the Groupon included our flights and hotel for an extremely reasonable price – if you’re flying out of Dublin, you can typically find 2-4 day vacations with flights to all kinds of European cities for between $150 and $300. I was very pleased with how it all turned out and will probably be booking trips this way in the future – in fact I have my eye on one for Krakow, Poland right now.

We visited Edinburgh at the beginning of January, so the Christmas market was still in full swing. This was a big draw for me as I love anything Christmasy and had adored the markets we had previously visited in Munich, Germany.


Our flight to Edinburgh was through Ryanair, which some of you may know is one of the cheap, easy ways to fly within the European Union. Our flight arrived at the airport around 4:30 AM, and we took a quick tram ride to Princes Street – if you ask people for advice on where to start in Edinburgh, you will undoubtedly hear this street mentioned. It overlooks the Princes Street Gardens, shown above, that divide the city into its two halves – New Town and Old Town. I could immediately tell upon exiting the tram which side was which – New Town, built in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, is in a flat grid pattern and filled with Georgian/Neo-Classical architecture.


Old Town is a stark difference with winding streets over hills and medieval style buildings, including Edinburgh Castle sitting proudly on top of a hill overlooking the city. Together, both sides make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Given that we got in so early, we started our morning with a much-needed caffeine boost; we found a trendy little cafe just inside Old Town called The Milkman. The coffee and croissants were an excellent way to start our trip, and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier.

After coffee we continued our morning by exploring Old Town on foot. Our first destination was one of the most famous in the city, the Royal Mile. This avenue runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill at one end to Hollyrood House (where the Queen stays on her royal visits) at the other. Along the way, visitors can see everything that makes Edinburgh the charming city that it is: tartan stores, whisky shops, medieval cathedrals, statues, and (of course) pubs. If you find yourself in Edinburgh and want to just take it all in, this is the place to start.

We finished our first day by visiting the Christmas Market, which filled the gardens and overflowed out onto the nearby streets. The stalls had everything from woolen goods and handmade crafts to hot chocolate, coffee, gluehwein (a warm spiced wine that is a staple of the German markets), and all the fair food you can imagine. DSC_0450We did our late Christmas shopping, drank hot chocolate and ate some sweet treats, and took a ride in the Ferris Wheel overlooking the market. We spent the evening there and didn’t even scratch the surface of what this holiday festival had to offer. Luckily our hotel was along the same tram line we took from the airport, so it was very easy to trudge, exhausted, to our room for the night.


IMG_1163We started the second day with a trip to the Edinburgh Dungeon, a fun jaunt through the more sordid history of the city put on by people who had a lot of fun doing their jobs. Part haunted house and part history lesson, we had a good time taking a trip through time and learning about witch trials, torture methods, some local ghost stories, and Burke and Hair (two infamous grave robbers-turned-murderers who made a living selling bodies to scientists eager to study anatomy – eek!)

After the dungeon we had a quick lunch (Kelsey insisted on trying haggis) before getting on the Hop-On Hop-Off tour. This bus ride took us through both

Haggis – sheep heart, liver, and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal and spices. Traditionally cooked within a sheep’s stomach.

halves of the city and talked about its rich history from medieval times to the 19th century, along with some local folklore. We saw the Royal Mile again, Grassmarket (an old town square in the shadow of the castle that used to be the site of public hangings), various pubs with colorful histories (including Greyfriar’s Bobby, where a loyal pup once waited dutifully for its master that never came), Arthur’s Seat (the famous volcanic hill which offers amazing views of the city), and much, much more. These bus tours are a great way to get around a city cheaply and easily and be able to spend as much time as you want at a particular location, and I would recommend them in any city where they’re offered. At one of our stops along the Royal Mile, I noticed a crowd forming around a  man with two owls. While we were stopped, I realized  that the crowd was waiting for their turn to hold the birds. For any of you that don’t know, owls are easily one of my favorite animals so, of course, we immediately got in line. Unfortunately they were closing for the day, but the man assured me they would be back the next day – and you’d better believe we would be first in line. We ended the day by returning to the Christmas Market before heading back to the hotel for the evening.


Aside from the prospect of holding an owl, a highlight from the day was just seeing all of the pubs around the city and learning that seemingly every one has its own fascinating story. So again, I can’t recommend the bus tour enough.

DSC_0473After getting the general tour of the city and seeing a small part of it on foot, we had a good idea of what exactly we wanted to visit on our last day. We started the day at The Elephant House, a fantastic Asian-inspired cafe that also happens to be a Mecca for Harry Potter fans. This was where J.K. Rowling penned the first chapters of the Harry Potter series on napkins and scraps of paper, and they have mementos on display such as a signed book and pictures. Aside from the awesome history, I would recommend The Elephant House for its tasty coffee and pastries and a nice location in Old Town. I personally ordered Fleur’s Fantasy which is hot chocolate with a shot of Bailey’s Irish cream.


After breakfast, we had reservations at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Although it was IMG_1306never itself a distillery, this museum/tour did a fantastic job of teaching about the history, art, and enjoyment of Scotland’s most famous drink. I myself am not much of a whisky drinker, but I still very much enjoyed learning about the different types and the regions in which they’re distilled. At the end of the tour we did a tasting in a gallery housing the largest private collection of Scotch in the world. The assortment was a sight to behold, and I think Kelsey may have felt like he was in heaven. I would recommend the tour to anyone regardless of whether you enjoy Scotch, and they even let you keep your tasting glass as a souvenir. The Scotch Whisky Experience is just down the road from Edinburgh Castle, and after leaving we headed up there to spend a little time taking in the views from the top of the hill. Even if you don’t want to tour the castle itself, it’s worth making the trip just to see the square and look out over the beautiful city.

Finally, we made our way to Gladstone’s Land (the place with the owls) – needless to say, I was very excited. A small donation is asked, which we were happy to give, and everyone is given plenty of time to really enjoy their experience. I held Guinevere, a beautiful European Eagle Owl, while Kelsey snapped about 50 pictures. It was even better than I had hoped, and I was able to cross it off of my bucket list.


For lunch, we headed back to Grassmarket to get a better look at it (since we had only seen it from the bus). Once the site of public executions, like I said earlier, it now holds open-air stalls selling produce and various goods – and is lined on both sides with pubs and restaurants. We had a hard time deciding where to eat with all the options available, but settled on The White Hart Inn – one of the oldest pubs in Scotland. Originally founded in 1516, this is the place where Burke and Hair picked up their victims to murder and sell the bodies – quite a dark history. The interior was small and exactly what you want in an old pub, and we ate delicious Scottish fare – including Irn Bru, a soft drink that is the most popular (non-alcoholic) beverage in Scotland. Afterward we took a roundabout path through Old Town back to the Christmas Market, where we ended the evening once again.

DSC_0434The next morning it was back on a Ryanair plane to Dublin. I would love to go back some day, but I felt like we had a perfectly fun-filled three days in an amazing city.







Vet School Survival Tips

The first year of vet school was as challenging as it was rewarding, and after two semesters under my belt I thought about a few things that were important for me to remember so that I could stay sane during the stressful parts.

1. Build relationships

Vet school is hard enough as it is; for me, going it alone might have been impossible. The friendships I’ve cultivated have given me the support I’ve needed  through things like study groups, stress relief, and in general just having other people to talk to who are in the same boat.


2. Stay organized

This topic has two important elements: mental organization and physical organization.

In my experience, the role of a planner is vital to a vet student’s success. I found it easiest to look at my syllabi for each module before the semester started and copy all relevant information immediately into my planner. This became a resource I used to look at my weeks “at a glance” to know exactly when and where I needed to be at all times and to keep track of all important deadlines.

As the semester went on and I learned more about social and society events on campus, I could easily arrange my schedule and block out times both to study and to take a (much needed) break.

This may not be the case for everyone, but I thrive in a neatly organized environment (which I’m sure will come as a surprise to my mother). I find that having everything in its place allows me to feel more relaxed when I begin my daily study sessions. It’s also nice to take study breaks and do some cleaning, which helps me clear my mind and gives me a sense of accomplishment before hitting the books again.

3. Study smart

There are countless different ways to learn, and a lot of thought has gone in to finding what works best for each individual. I myself thrive when I rewrite important points from my notes, lectures, and practicals. I also found drawing to be extremely helpful for both my anatomy and physiology courses – my review notebooks are filled with diagrams and pictures on almost every page.

Some resources I find to be helpful are Microsoft OneNote (for in-class note taking), Khan Academy (for another approach to learning certain important concepts), and Quizlet (for creating your own online flashcards – free). As far as veterinary-specific resources, a few of my go-to books were Guide to the Dissection of the Dog by De Lahunta and Evans, Cunningham’s Textbook of Veterinary Physiology by Klein, Anatomy of Domestic Animals: Systemic & Regional Approach by Pasquini, and the Veterinary Anatomy Coloring Book by Singh. There are also many useful online resources from a lot of the U.S. vet schools including Cornell, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa.

Again, everybody is different – the important thing is to find what works for you early on.


4. Don’t stress…too much

Let’s face it, stress and vet school go hand in hand – but minimizing the damage is crucial. It’s important to find ways to de-stress, whether that be through exercise (for me, cardio and yoga – anything that helps clear your mind), meditation and mindfulness, creative outlets (like drawing, music, photography, or…maintaining a blog), connecting with nature, or finding time to keep up a social life.

5. Sleep!

Sometimes, an extra two hours of sleep is better than two hours of study. Especially around finals, your body needs sleep to keep you going and to keep your mind charged and ready. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s rest.

6. Utilize your resources

It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re the only one going through this, but remember that you are surrounded by people who can help. From your classmates to your professors to your advisors and counselors – there is always someone who can help you with whatever you may need.

7. Get involved

Most schools have a variety of societies and clubs to offer. UCD in particular has a large number, with many being specifically geared towards veterinary and health sciences. The Vet Society here at UCD is popular and hosts a wide range of social and educational events. Another society I particularly like is OneHealth, which is working to bridge the gaps between all medical fields – including human and animal medicine. Through the societies I’ve joined, I’ve been able to attend events ranging from a suturing clinic at a local hospital to presentations from leading researches and industry figures from around the world.

However, it doesn’t need to all be geared towards your degree. There are societies for almost any interest from music and drama to history and debate, Harry Potter, gaming, geography, sports, foreign languages, and many more.

8. Know your supports

Especially when attending a school away from home, don’t forget your support system. Whether it’s friends, family, coworkers – whoever you are close to from life before school is still there. It can be easy to forget when you become engrossed in the rigors of vet school, but you always have someone rooting for you at home. And with things like FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger, those people are easier than ever to connect with from all over the world.



It’s essential to remember that, as a vet student, you are going through things that thousands of other people are. It’s certainly difficult, but you’re doing this because you want to. Keep things in perspective, remember that it isn’t insurmountable, and take care of yourself. 

And most importantly: if you find that you need help, just ask for it.




8 Great Places to Take Your Dog Around Dublin

I’m sure there are even more wonderful places out there (and Sagan and I will find them) but for now, these are 8 great places we have found around Dublin to take your best friend.


1. St. Anne’s Park

I absolutely adore this park. It has a wonderful mix of everything I want in a good walk with my dog and it keeps us both interested and happy. It’s quite large with plenty of nature (various types of trees, a river, large areas of grass for dogs to run) but also has charming rose gardens, beautiful stone walls covered in ivy, a clocktower, great playgrounds for kids, and cafes. On Saturdays, this park is host to a nice little market where you can buy arts and crafts, flowers, and homemade goods. This is by far one of my favorite places in Dublin. Sagan seemed to approve, too!


2. Ardgillan Castle

Perfect place to see some history, take in some great views AND the best part – it’s very dog-friendly! Located north of the city, Ardgillan has a large, beautiful castle to look at plus you can see the water and mountains in the distance from the grounds. They feature a dog-friendly cafe outside the rose gardens where you can have a light lunch and enjoy a little break between walks with your furry friend. The dogs aren’t allowed in the rose gardens but are allowed to walk all around the grounds and, believe me, there’s plenty to enjoy without entering the garden areas.

3. Wicklow Mountains

South of the city, the Wicklow Mountains span a large area with numerous trails to choose from. This area is great for breathtaking views of not only the mountains but lakes, waterfalls, cliffs, and the overall beauty of nature.

4. Loughshinny Beach

This is a peaceful, quiet beach north of Dublin. Great for when you want a calm setting for your walk. It’s rarely crowded and has really unique rock formations to look at.

5. Sandymount Strand

This is a nice stretch of beach with a walking/jogging trail along the coast southeast of Dublin city centre. There are good views of the Dublin Bay, famous Poolbeg chimney stacks, Dun Laoghaire, lighthouses, and the Wicklow mountains.

Sagan really enjoyed the day here and even made some new friends!

6. Howth

Howth is a peninsula just to the east of Dublin city centre.  There are many different trails and climbs that offer fantastic views of Dublin bay, the city, and the mountains. You can take a walk along the water from pretty much any side of this small peninsula or you can go to the Howth summit to get some gorgeous views of the city from above. You may also want to hop by the local fish market to buy some of the fresh seafood while you’re exploring.

7. Malahide

Malahide is a charming small coastal town located north of the city. It offers peaceful walks by the sea with long stretches of beach. We always see plenty of dogs and their owners out for a stroll when we visit and most of the time we can bet that Sagan will make some friends (and so do we)! You can also take your dog for a walk around the Malahide Castle grounds which are dog-friendly and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Overall, Malahide is definitely a great place for dogs – and their people!

8. Skerries

Skerries is another coastal town north of Dublin and, as with many of the others on this list, provides phenomenal views. Here you can see the boats on the water and the rolling countryside on the hills. You may, if you need a little post-walk refreshment, enjoy a pint outside at the various local pubs facing the sea.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment if you know of some other great places to take your dog around Dublin!



Vet School Semester 1 Overview


Wow. I cannot believe my first semester of veterinary school is over already. In a way it feels like it went by in the blink of an eye, yet at the time it felt the opposite.

The first semester started with a week-long orientation which included campus tours, meet and greets, and team-building exercises – but most of our time was devoted to scheduled trips to Lyons Research Farm. Almost every day, my fellow 30 classmates and I would travel by bus from campus to the university’s research farm about 30 minutes away. We purchased coveralls and Wellies and spent the days learning about handling and behavior basics with horses, sheep, and cattle. It was a pretty exhausting week, but very informative and fun.

The first few weeks of classes were pretty intense as I was juggling a new school with a very different scheduling style, a lot of difficult classes, a new home in a new country, and trying to make new friends. Luckily, as time went on, all of those things did get easier. The classes were always hard of course, but the material is very interesting and fun to learn about. Unfortunately, vet school is a lot of information overload at times and it can be quite a task sorting it all out. Much of my time this semester was spent in the vet building library studying and tying all of the information together. The modules are good in that, for example, aspects of my histology class would relate to particular organs we had been looking at in one of my anatomy dissections that week. The module coordinators try to arrange things that way in order to aid students in piecing together the big picture.

The modules this semester were:

  • Cells, Tissues, Organs and Development
  • Neurobiology and Structures of the Head
  • Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems
  • Animal Behavior and Welfare
  • Professional Skills
  • Cell Metabolism and Dynamics


As a side note for anyone interested in applying to/attending vet school at UCD, most professors say that no books are required  but there are books that they recommend. The ones I found to be most helpful were: Anatomy of Domestic Animals: Systemic & Regional Approach by Pasquini, Cunningham’s Textbook of Veterinary Physiology, and the Saunders Veterinary Anatomy Coloring Book. Pasquini’s anatomy book has great diagrams and pictures as well as a wealth of information on anatomy of many domestic species. Cunningham’s Veterinary Physiology can be a little terminology and detail heavy but does a good job of explaining more in-depth physiological processes that you learn about in your classes. The Veterinary Coloring Book is an amazing study aid. It’s a great tool to work with in the days after your dissections to help you reinforce what you’ve learned.

I was lucky enough to make friends with a great group of fellow classmates and we created a study group. I highly recommend study groups, as it’s a great way to cement what you know and also a wonderful chance to talk through the things you don’t understand. We put this weekly group together about midway through the semester and I believe it helped me a lot with finals. We’ve already set it up for next semester so we can start right out of the gate.

Finals. Where to begin? They were very different than what I’m used to. First off, the exams are taken off-campus – about a 10 minute drive (5 Euro parking each exam) or a 40 minute walk from campus. You take the exams in a very large hall with around 2,500 other people. Most of the exams are essay only and (at least in the vet program) make up the majority of your grade – as in between 60 and 80 percent. You are only allowed into the exam hall with your student I.D., pencils, pens, erasers, and a calculator (all in a clear plastic bag). No backpacks or purses can be brought in. They also do random desk searches and may ask you to roll up your sleeves. If you come in with your phone or a smartwatch, it has to go face-down under your chair. If you are unlucky and your phone makes any kind of noise during the exam, you have to pay a fine and meet with a disciplinary board to discuss the situation. If you forget your student I.D., you also have to pay a fine and fill out a form. This was all very stress-inducing to me at first but after the first exam, it gets a lot easier.

Overall, this semester was exhausting and very stressful. Yet I know it was all well worth it as I reflect on the knowledge I gained over the past several months. I am also very lucky to be surrounded by supportive friends, family back home (sending me lots of great care packages), and wonderful locations around Ireland and the rest of Europe to travel to and get some much needed stress-relief. <— Posts about those trips to come soon! 😉





7 Things You Might Be Surprised to Learn are a Little Different in Ireland

It’s January 8th and Christmas is just wrapping up in Ireland. From Christmas Eve to St. Stephen’s Day on the 26th, to New Year’s and “Little Christmas” on January 6th, the Irish have a full festive fortnight in which to enjoy the Christmas season. The post offices close, a lot of people take a couple of weeks off work and the celebration doesn’t end quite when you think it would. Upon coming here last summer, I had never heard of Little Christmas and didn’t know anything about St. Stephen’s Day beyond the line from Good King Wenceslas. It was quite a treat to learn about, and partake in, the holidays that were completely new to me, and it certainly made the already enjoyable holiday season that much more fun.


This little difference at the end of December got me thinking about some other peculiarities in Ireland that you may not realize are not quite the same as they are in the States, and I thought I would talk about a few of them for a fun little first post of 2017.


  1. Shopping and Dining: Differences and Similarities

It should come as no surprise that the quintessential worldwide American food/beverage chains are common in Ireland – Starbucks still seems to be everywhere, and you can’t go far without finding a Subway, Burger King or McDonald’s (although Kelsey says not to expect the same burger – the price and quality both tend to be a little higher). It was slightly more interesting to see chains like KFC and Hollister, and a few Texaco petrol stations. These made sense, though. It was the subtly different but unrelated chains that I found to be even more surprising.

There is no Johnny Rockets in Ireland, but you can find a strikingly similar ‘50s American diner called Eddie Rockets (owned by a different company), and the atmosphere and logo are alike enough that I went as far as to look up whether or not they were related.


I was happy to find an affordable clothing and home goods store that can be found in most malls, and its name (Penney’s) led me to believe it might be related to the familiar J.C. Penney chain that I know from the Midwest. Again, I was surprised to find out that they are completely unrelated; although, interestingly, the Penney’s here has a few locations in the States that go by its more common name – Primark.


As an avid Victoria’s Secret PINK clothing shopper, I was very excited to see a PINK store here in Ireland. Imagine my disappointment when I found out it was a completely unrelated designer clothing store – mainly aimed at men’s fashion! The font is similar and the brand name is capitalized, but this store just so happens to be named after a man named Thomas Pink – who most assuredly has nothing to do with the PINK I know and love.


I did, however, find one similar chain that was simply too much like its American counterpart to be a coincidence. It came as no surprise that the extremely affordable department store here – TK Maxx – is owned by the same company that owns the American TJ Maxx.


On a somewhat related note, Ireland doesn’t have a one-stop-shop anywhere near the level of Wal-Mart, Target, Meijer and other American stores in the same vein. It is much more common to see rows of smaller, more specialized stores. For instance, a copy-print store next to a book store next to a shoe store. This is nicer in a lot of ways and definitely adds to the quintessential Irish charm, but I can’t say I would mind being able to buy a pack of bagels and a $5 DVD at two in the morning every once in a while.

The closest thing I could find is a brilliantly designed store called Argos. There are a few screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-21-25-32little toys, electronics and various small items on the walls when you walk into the store, but the floor is dominated by banks of computers and catalogues which you use to look up the item you want – whether it be a TV, toaster, LEGO set, etc. – and write down its catalogue number. You take the slip of paper with that number up to the counter, pay for your purchase, and wait while an employee pulls your order from the attached warehouse and brings it to another counter for you to collect. It is affordable, convenient and quick.


Also, a sad side note – there is currently no Amazon Prime in Ireland. That means no 2-day shipping and the inventory that may be shipped here at a decent cost is much smaller. 😦


  1. Most Things Close Earlier

I mentioned not being able to buy random items at 2 AM, but it was quite difficult for me to get used to almost everything closing by 5 or 6 in the evening. Even pubs, which might stay open until midnight or 1, usually stop serving food by around 9 o’clock. It’s also very rare to see “Open 24 Hours” signs anywhere. I have gotten used to planning, sometimes a week in advance, when I would be able to pick up dog food after class since I sometimes couldn’t get to a pet store by the time it closed at 6.

It happens at the other end, too – there was one day I wanted to grab Starbucks before class and was shocked to not be able to find one that opened before 7 or 7:30 in the morning!

These shorter hours coupled with (what feels like) random bank holidays certainly took some adjusting to, but I definitely see the appeal for the people who work in those industries.


  1. Interesting License Requirements

I was a little shocked to read, in preparation of moving here, that any household with a TV is required to have a TV license. The current standard cost is 160 Euros a year, and you will be fined if you don’t have it up-to-date. Luckily, only one license is required per household, regardless of the number of televisions.

So where does the money go? Most of it pays for public broadcasting and is used on programs promoting Irish culture and heritage and improving adult literacy, and providing funding for the primary news and cultural channel, RTE.

In addition to the TV license, you must also pay a license to own a dog. This is currently set at 20 Euros a year per dog, or 140 Euros for the lifetime of the dog. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any concrete information about where that money goes.DSC_0754.jpg

Along with licensing, there are also leashing and muzzling laws for certain breeds: these breeds include German Shepherd, Akita, Pit Bull and more. These breeds are required to be muzzled in any public place at all times.


  1. Energy Consciousness

It was something I heard early and often when we first moved here: “Don’t forget to turn off the immersion!” I live in a more rural area, and it’s very common in houses like mine to have the water supply heated by a source that, rather than being constant like a water heater in the US, is controlled by a switch or timer so no energy is wasted. This is the “immersion.” As someone who didn’t need to commit this to memory for 26 years, it was a bit of an adjustment and a common source of stress in my early days in Ireland. Obviously this is important to my Irish landlords partly because nobody likes throwing money away, but I think it also shows a certain energy consciousness ingrained in the culture here that you don’t necessarily see as much back home.

It isn’t just the immersion: recycling is the norm, including a separate bin for food waste. Clothes dryers are not nearly as common as they are in the States, and most people (around us at least) still use clotheslines. Seemingly every single power outlet I’ve seen has had a switch that can be turned off when not in use. (As a side note, if you’re reading this and planning on visiting Ireland, remember that the power outlets here also use a different plug than the States – this plug is referred to as “Type G” and is also used throughout the UK.)


  1. Cell Phone Plans

While we’re on the subject of saving money, let’s talk about cell phones. In the United States it’s common to pay upwards of $50 for a plan that doesn’t even offer unlimited data, and a lot of plans tend closer to $70. Coming from this, I was absolutely floored to see the pricing on plans in Ireland – so much so that I assumed there must be some catch. fullsizeoutput_349bCurrently I pay a monthly 20 Euro top-up which covers unlimited 4G data, unlimited texting, and unlimited in-network calls (and free calls all weekend). It gets better, though, as any fees accrued from calling out-of-network, in-app purchases or roaming data actually come out of that 20 Euro top-up, rather than adding on to your bill. I made enormous use of this when I first moved here, as I had to make frequent calls back to the States to sort some things out, and was able to pay for these calls out of the 20 Euros that I had already paid.

The big American networks, such as Verizon and Sprint, are nonexistent here. Instead the big three are probably Vodaphone, Tesco and 3. I have 3, which is also available in the UK, and when travelling there I can use my phone plan at no additional cost. There is also a very minor add-on fee for using it elsewhere in the EU, which is extremely convenient.


  1. Sports

You won’t find much baseball, basketball or hockey here in Ireland, and American football – while somewhat popular – isn’t followed all that closely either. What you will see are rugby, golf, horse and greyhound racing, MMA, boxing and, of course, soccer. Bigger than all of those, though, are the archetypal Irish sports of Gaelic football and hurling, which are both overseen by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The most interesting thing about this is that none of the sports in the GAA are professional – they are entirely amateur. This has a predictably enormous effect on ticket prices – my Irish friends were shocked when Kelsey mentioned the general cost of an NFL ticket to them.


  1. Roads and Driving

The first thing you will notice about Irish roads, as soon as you leave the motorways or County Dublin, is that they are small. Many roads are narrow enough that if two cars meet going the opposite direction, one will have to pull over into the grass to let the other pass. In addition to being narrow, these roads also tend to be very winding. Roundabouts are extremely common and many times will have multiple lanes, figure-eight structure, and traffic lights. This can be a lot to consider when you’re first driving in Ireland, since you’re also on the left side and going around the roundabout clockwise instead of anti-clockwise.

I’ve tried to learn a little bit about the road system in Dublin from a combination of online research and friends who have grown up here. What I have found is this: since the Celtic Tiger, a decade of enormous growth in the economy and infrastructure of Ireland from the mid-‘90s to the mid-‘00s, the traffic in Dublin has grown a lot due to several factors. The combination of large multinational corporations in Dublin, economic growth leading to more people driving rather than relying on public transit, and a population boom in the last fifteen years has led to a bit of strain on the motorway encircling the city of Dublin, the M50. Rush hour tends to look more like Chicago than you would expect from a modest (by American standards) city of about 1.3 million. I had a hard lesson in this when dealing with that traffic every morning and evening on my way to and from UCD first semester, so I can attest to it.

The common car types are what I’ve come to expect in Europe: small, compact and mostly hatchbacks. I see more sedans here than I did in my short time in Italy and Austria, but SUVs are extremely rare and you would be hard-pressed to find a pick-up truck that isn’t a company vehicle. I honestly can’t even remember the last pickup truck I saw. It’s certainly a far cry from my home state of Indiana.



Bonus Observations!

  • When you order a beer at the pub, it will almost definitely come in a glass with the name of the brewer on it. Guinness obviously comes in a Guinness glass, Heineken comes in a Heineken glass, Orchard Thieves (amazing cider!) comes in an Orchard Thieves glass, and so on.
  • I don’t think I’ve seen a single house with vinyl or wood siding here. It’s almost all brick or flat stone.
  • Kelsey insisted that I point out that lamb is often the same price as chicken, and barely more than beef.
  • Hopefully you don’t get thirsty easily, because the drinks here are small and you can forget about a free refill. Also, when you go to a restaurant, don’t expect water to be brought to your table without you asking for it.



Some of these changes have certainly taken some getting used to, and I don’t think any of them are bad by any means. It has been a fun and exciting learning experience, and hopefully if you’re planning on visiting (or moving to) Ireland then some of this will come in handy.

Words/Phrases You Will Hear a Lot in Ireland

Some of these you may know and some you may not, but these are terms you are likely to hear with a visit to Ireland.


“Hey, this place has great craic!”

General Terms

  1. Cheers! – often used as “Thanks!”
  2. Crack on – continue on
  3. Craic (pronounced “crack”)  – Fun or gossip. You may hear this as “What’s the craic?” or “That pub has great craic.” If a place has great craic then it is presumed to have grand conversation and good times.
  4. The Gardai – the Irish police
  5. Half eight – This would mean 8:30. Half eleven would be 11:30. Just how they denote a half hour.
  6. How’s the form?  – How are you?
  7. How’s she cutting? – How are things?
  8. It’s grand, I’m grand, you’re grand – Instead of saying something is “cool” or “awesome” you are likely to hear an Irish person say that something or someone is grand. Also, if you thank someone for something, their reply may be “Ah, you’re grand.”
  9. The Jacks, the loo or the bog – the restroom
  10. Knackered, Shattered or Wrecked  – words to describe being tired
  11. Mad – crazy. This is much more likely to be used over the word crazy, which is rarely if ever used. And words other than mad, like “cross,” would be used to describe someone who’s angry.
  12. Petrol – gasoline. Not called gas here.
  13. Pissed, Plastered, Flaming or Ossified – words to describe being drunk
  14. Queue/queuing – a line/waiting in line, say at a ticket office or a supermarket. This can also apply to car traffic.
  15. Wee – small
  16. Yoke – a thing or a person you can’t remember the name of off the top of your head, like Ireland’s version of a “thingamajig.”
  17. Your man or your woman – referring to someone you are speaking of



“Can’t get enough of the black stuff.”


  1. Afters – dessert
  2. Bangers – sausage
  3. Biscuit – cookie
  4. Black stuff – Guinness (of course!)
  5. Chips – French fries
  6. Crisps – potato chips
  7. Minerals or Fizzy Drinks  – pop/soda/soft drinks
  8. Off-license (Offy) – you see this a lot on store windows or awnings; it means that you can buy alcohol at this establishment to take with you and drink elsewhere (a liquor store).
  9. Streaky bacon – what Americans would think of as bacon. The bacon in Ireland is more like thinly sliced ham.
  10. Spuds – potatoes
  11. Sweets/Sweeties – candy
  12. Sláinte (pronounced slon-chuh) – a toast “to your health” or “cheers”
  13. Take-away – carry-out


Some Extras We Have Heard…

  1. Arseways – if you did something arseways then you messed it up!
  2. The boot – the trunk of a car
  3. Creche – daycare
  4. Current Account – at a bank this is just like a checking account in the U.S.
  5. Dodgy – disreputable, an area of crime
  6. GAA – Gaelic Athletic Association, which handles Gaelic football and is very important here. You rarely hear it called Gaelic football or even football, they’ll refer to it as “G-A-A” or “Gah.”
  7. Holiday – vacation
  8. Jumper – sweater
  9. Pictures or cinema – the movies. Instead go saying you are going to the movies you would say you are going to the pictures or to the cinema.
  10. Trainers or Runners – tennis shoes
  11. Trad – Traditional Irish music. Sometimes you will see pub signs listing “Trad Sunday Nights” or “Trad here!”
  12. Windscreen – windshield
  13. Wingey (pronounced “win-jee”) – cranky/fussy