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! 😉