First stop – School… didn’t really go to plan for me. A combination of separating parents, moving schools and quite honestly my being more interested in rushing home to ride my horse before thinking about any school work, inevitably led to A level results far from what I needed to pursue a veterinary career.
After cocking up my A levels, I started to think that studying vet med was becoming a more distant aspiration. With all my friends heading off to university, I didn’t have the patience to give exams another go and so applied to study Bioveterinary Science. I (by some absolute miracle) was given an unconditional place at UWE Hartpury. I loaded up the horsebox with all my belongings (horse included) and off I went, with the plan to finish this degree and start vet med after my graduation.
I wouldn’t say I regret scarpering off to uni at the first chance I got, but I do wish I had considered my plans with more of a long term plan outlook, understanding the complications that might follow. For students studying their first degree in the UK, there are loans that cover your tuition and maintenance. Having decided I couldn’t possibly leave my horse at home, I got myself a weekend job to cover the extra cost. No one warns you that when you are set free into a world of £1 jagerbombs and 24hr food delivery, that you might burn through that Student Finance gift of life just a little quicker than you realise. Being from a small island where the biggest (and only) ‘club’ is a half filled room with your creepy neighbour, your mum’s friends and 16 year olds with fake ID, suddenly being in a student rich city was so surreal.
The course was interesting, not as practical as I would have liked but did open my eyes to broader topics and spike my interest in reproduction and pathology. The fact that this degree didn’t lead us straight into a particular job or even field of work, left me feeling quite directionless. The conversation of Vet Med was an ongoing topic with my classmates and it was through this that we discovered the financial and logistical hurdles when applying as postgrad. For me, this felt like a dead end to the path I had been trying desperately to follow all my life. In our final year, a small handful of people had decided they were going to take the plunge and apply. Meanwhile, I convinced myself that maybe there was some other career that I would enjoy more. Whilst two of my closest friends were invited to interview, and subsequently given offers, I was heartbroken not to be in their shoes. But in the midst of dissertation hell and final exams, it was nudged to the back of my mind. I got a First in my dissertation, graduated with a 2:1 and went off to explore Europe for a month, with little thought on what I was going to do on my return. (if only that bliss could have lasted!)
I returned to the Isle of Wight at the end of summer and it took a mere 3 weeks of living back at home, working a full time cafe job and applying for lab based jobs that I didn’t want, to realise that I wasn’t going to be happy. After a brief (catastrophic) breakdown to my mum and boyfriend, we came to the decision that somehow we were just going to have to overlook the huge financial barriers and make it work. With my Mum kindly juggling her finances in order to pay for my first year of tuition, I was left with a scary sum of £28k to save, without even taking living expenses into consideration.
With a new found surge of motivation, came the fun task of working as much as I possibly could while also clocking up the work experience hours I needed. I am a year into the work & save life and working all hours has become the norm for me now. I work approx 3-4 days at a Cafe, 5 days at a school with various evenings and weekends spent babysitting. It hasn’t been easy; I’ve had days where all I want to do is take a share packet (or 2) of biscuits into my bed and not move for a week (this will inevitably happen soon). The thought of this all eventually paying off and being able to get myself to vet school is all the fuel I need to keep slogging on.
So over the course of the year, I have managed to spend a total of about 14 weeks seeing small animal practices, equine practice, hydrotherapy centres, kennels and farms. This was the best bit. For anyone in a similar situation to myself, I would recommend seeing as much practice as possible. Not only because it will strengthen your application, but because it acts as a constant reminder to why you are doing all of this.