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.

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!