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!