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.
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.