Second Semester of First Year…

What can I say about the spring semester of my first year at CSU? It was…incredibly difficult. The material isn’t unmanageable but the volume is crazy. They say veterinary and medical school is like trying to drink from a fire hose, and this semester really felt like that. We averaged 2 exams a week, which doesn’t sound so bad until you’re taking two exams every week for the whole semester. I never felt like I could catch up, I was continuously treading water to just keep from drowning.

This past semester was filled with the following classes:

  • Foundations (1 credit) this is basically our skills class
  • Neurobiology (4 credits)
  • Nutrition (2 credits)
  • Bacteriology/Mycology (3 credits)
  • Parasitology (2 credits)
  • Virology (2 credits)
  • Biology of disease (5 credits)
  • Food animal (2 credits)
  • Large animal dissection (elective, 1 credit)

This came to a total of 22 credits. Which I think is par for the course in vet school, it was just a lot of little classes compared to a few very credit heavy classes last semester.

I felt like this meme applied to my life this entire semester. In addition to all the classes that is vet school, after some serious burnout from last semester I have also been trying to strike that life-vet school balance which is still elusive. However, I survived this semester, so it’s not all bad. I’ve also been told that the second semester of first year is the “worst” semester for many students studying at CSU, I hope that holds true.

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This summer holds a lot of exciting opportunities, I have to do some case studies for school (summer capstone) and study for an exam on the first day back, called the capstone exam. It’s supposed to cover material from all of first-year and passing it is required to move on in the curriculum. While I could talk until I’m blue in the face about why I disagree with having this exam at CSU when no other veterinary school has anything like that; I’m just going to move on! This summer I will be doing an externship for 2 weeks at Pioneer Equine in Oakdale, California. Once that is completed I will be spending most of the remaining portion of the summer doing an externship with a cowhorse trainer in South Dakota. This is more of a personal project for me than veterinary experience and, right now, a break from veterinary related activities will be great! Check back for updates! I’m sure there will be many stories to tell on these shenanigans!

In addition to everything else, I found out I’m pregnant during my second semester. Luckily I won’t be due in the middle of the fall semester (my worst fear). I was really hoping that I wouldn’t be due until winter break, but alas that’s not the case. I’m due over Thanksgiving¬†break, right before finals (ugh). Though it could be a lot worse, and next semester’s schedule is relatively lighter so should allow for a bit more wiggle room to figure things out. I’m hoping everything goes smoothly and I can complete finals on time and then have winter break to get used to the whole parenthood and vet school thing! Definitely going to be a steep learning curve, and next level difficulty when it comes to vet school. Though, I feel like I have a really good support system going into this, so everything should work out with time. ūüôā

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Year 1, Take 2: Back at it again!

Wow I can’t believe my first term is already over.¬† I’m so glad I’m one step closer to being a vet.¬† This year my program is two years worth of material rolled into one insane year.¬† I spend more time studying than anything else and it is more exhausting than I could have imagined.¬† My flatmates and I spend all afternoon when we are not in lectures in the common room studying like crazy.

At the end of term we had our first exam, which covered almost every section we had done so far in one test.  We had 4 days off to study, and I think I spent the majority of the first two procrastinating so the last two were horrible.  Thankfully it was only 5% of my grade and I only need a 50 to pass the year, so the stress is a bit less than US schools (for now).

Being Stateside again was great.¬† I missed my dogs so much while I was away, especially my old lab who was diagnosed with mast cell cancer in November.¬† It is really hard that I can’t have them at school, so much that sometimes I wish I picked a US school.¬† Luckily she is doing much better and I left her with a promise of a picture a day from my mom.

Last term I was able to get away to Scotland for the weekend with friends from home.¬† We went to Edinburgh and Glasgow and saw all the sights.¬† It was a desperately needed and reminded me that I came to the UK for a reason.¬† This coming term I have trips planned as well–since travel is dirt cheap in Europe–I want take advantage of being in Europe.¬† I am planning an Italy trip for later this month with some friends.¬† Thankfully RVC has some built in long weekends.

I got back to London on Sunday and all I can say is neuro anatomy is giving me a headache.¬† I have to get used to studying 5+ hours a day again after being oh-so unproductive at home.¬† I already miss the convenience of an American store, food, and my car.¬† City living is something that I am enjoying for this year, but it is definitely something I won’t do again.¬† Overall I’m glad I am here, but sometimes I wish traveling home/bringing my pets/shopping/everything was easier.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Mindy, who I miss every single day while I’m away.¬† She hates her picture taken and refuses to look at the camera, but she’s still so cute!

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Term 1: Complete

This winter break has been the most unproductive month of my life and it’s been absolutely¬†wonderful. I’m really pleased with my grades for my first semester of vet school, and that has motivated me to start applying to different summer programs that will broaden my veterinary horizons. I’ve looked into different opportunities at local zoos, community outreach programs, and animal hospitals. There are so many branches of veterinary medicine, it’s hard to pick just one thing to gain experience in. So instead, I’m casting a wide net and seeing what comes up. Its somewhat scary to think about the fact that I only have two summers left before I start clinics, but I’ve already learned so much in my first semester and I am excited for what comes next.

I’m leaving to go back to school in a couple of days and I have mixed feelings. I love my classes and the challenges that they bring. At the same time, I’m not ready to go back to the island. I get incredibly homesick. Life is just a lot easier to manage in the States when you have a car, water pressure, a dishwasher and all the other little luxuries you don’t appreciate until they’re gone. It may sound petty, but when you’re studying all day on Saturday for a big test, you really don’t want to take two hours of your time to walk to the grocery store and back in the 90 degree heat! (I can’t afford my own car) If you have applied to SGU and are granted an interview, you will be asked a lot about how well you cope with low-key chaos, international travel and other such bumps in the road. Think about your answers carefully before coming. When you come to Grenada for school, you are embracing a lifestyle. It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it may not be for everyone. SGU is a great vet school and you have the option of completing your clinical year pretty much anywhere which is really cool and an opportunity unique to the Caribbean schools. We make great doctors and isn’t that all that really matters in the end?

Speaking of school, my friend and I have been thinking of ways to keep our heads above the water throughout the whole semester. Last term, I found that my brain just collapsed right before the finish line and I performed poorly on some of my finals. A handful of these turned my A’s into B+’s which was so frustrating! As I said, I’m still really pleased with these grades because I did my absolute best, but a small part of me keeps thinking there must be a way to prevent these end-of-the-year brain meltdown episodes. I’m going to test out some study strategies this semester and if they work, I will be happy to share them with you.

As a parting gift, I leave you Pickett’s face

-Colleen

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Winter Break update!

So I survived finals of semester 1! It was a crazy ride, and honestly, I feel like the first set of finals was the scariest part for me. All the exams are difficult but finals are the only time I have exams in all my classes back-to-back.

The first semester had it’s own set of challenges, getting used to veterinary school (sitting in class ALL day) and getting used to the workload is probably the biggest. I also had to adjust to having all of the horses away from me, but over winter break I was able to go pick up one. Plans to move the others (and the cows!) are being made, but so far poorly executed. I’m just not used to them being gone, and not being able to ride at whim. However, I’ve filled my time with clubs. I’m a member of SCAAEP, SCAABP, and Small Ruminants, in SCAAEP I’m also the first year representative. This has been great, but also trying at times. I’ve had to do a lot of last-minute learning with the wetlab¬†I put on and now helping organize the symposium to be held in February this year.

I also work at the veterinary textbook store, which I’ve learned a lot about over this past semester. I’ve never been one to sit idle but I also procrastinate, so I’m always moving on something that I’ve put off!

Winter break was definitely needed, my motivation tanked after the third round of exams. It’s good to be kind of idle sometimes, I still have a few things to do for work and clubs over break but not having classes has recharged my batteries (a bit).

This next semester is rumored to be either the hardest or one of the hardest (depending on who you talk to) in our curriculum. So I’m planning to work heavily on my organization skills and to stop procrastinating as much (but let’s be real, that’s been a goal for awhile now).

Bring on Semester 2!

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Freshers’ and the First Few Weeks

I made it to London! It has been a crazy 6 weeks, but I have finally settled into a routine here at the RVC.  Moving across the pond had many challenges, most of which I did not foresee, but it is all worth it now to be in my first term as a vet student!

The first 3 weeks I was here consisted of orientation and Freshers’ Week.¬† Orientation for International students was aimed to prepare us for UK-style teaching, but to be honest we are 3 weeks into the term and I’m still unsure what the next day will bring.¬† Freshers’ Week is unlike anything that would ever happen in the US.¬† It was a week of binge drinking hosted by the¬†school’s¬† student union.¬† It made me very thankful my flat is on the top floor full of older students, so we could avoid the crazy 18 year-olds.¬† We did take a trip out to the other campus just outside of London, where we will be next year, and we got to tour the hospital–the busiest in Europe! It’s hard to believe we will be doing clinical rotations there in less than three years.

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The first week of classes started off slow, but it has gotten very busy very quickly.¬† The set-up of the program is so different that US programs.¬† We have no ‘classes’ instead lectures are arranged in modules and we do 1-2 modules at a time by various lecturers.¬† We also have no in-term exams.¬† We have small exams in December and March and then a big 4-day final in June covering the entire year.¬† It is a little daunting, but it allows me to schedule my own studying and not only study based on my next test.¬† I still study at least 5-6 hours a day, and much more on nights before dissections.¬† We are essentially completing 2 years of coursework (the normal UK program is 5 years) in 1 year, so the schedule is tight!¬† I really hope I am studying effectively for the exam; thankfully we will have a practice exam in a couple weeks so I can see if I have to change anything.

The good part about our exam schedule, is that it is possible to take a few days off and go do something fun– like go to Scotland for the weekend! After recovering from freshers’ flu I¬†was ready to do something fun, so a friend of mine was in Scotland for vacation and I got to meet up with her for the weekend.¬†¬†The highlights for my nerd-self were the Harry Potter sights–even a grave for Tom Riddell AKA Tom Riddle! I would definitely not do that every weekend because I spent this entire week playing catch-up, but I will be travelling more this year.

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I really miss the US, even though I am having fun here.¬† I miss my dogs more than anything, it just isn’t the same without them.¬† I just keep telling myself they are so happy with my mom at home and that they would hate living in the city.¬† ¬†I didn’t know how much I would miss American food! I realize how lucky we are in the US that we can find pretty much anything in the grocery store, that is not the case in the UK.¬† I already have a list to buy when I visit home at Christmas.¬† Other than some culture shock, it’s been a good transition into vet school.¬† Every day I’m one day closer to being a vet!

 

 

 

1/16 a Doctor

We all made it through 8 weeks of veterinary school! That’s halfway through our first semester, we are 1/16 of the way there!!

The first 8 weeks of veterinary school is quite hard to explain. You’ve been thrown into a whole new world and the train stops for no one! This meme basically sums up our lives:

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One very positive thing I can say is that the amount of studying time I do vs the grade I receive seems a lot more correlated than it did in undergrad (and even my master’s), so that’s really nice. For the most part, I actually enjoy learning the material, our teachers do a very good job of giving clinical relevance for everything we are learning. There are a lot of really cool things CSU does to support their first-year students, but alas, I cannot talk about them too much or else I’d spoil the surprise for those of you who may end up coming here. I’m halfway through this semester and while this has been a lot of hard work I don’t feel particularly overwhelmed, there are definitely days I feel that way but I usually get a pretty good handle on it.

My advice to anyone going to vet school: get into a good routine early and adjust as needed. I definitely made the mistake, those first couple weeks¬†of just studying for a little bit after class, and thus felt really behind. I had to do a lot of catching up for those first exams (luckily I got caught up just in time for the exams), but that’s a really crappy feeling so avoid it!

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That’s all I have to report that’s school related. Everything else is going OK, I definitely can’t wait for the horses to be back up here but that won’t be until at least this summer, so I’ve been making trips down to Denver to visit my remaining horse, Jamaica. She’s been doing good and looks a bit plump and out-of-shape.

Orientation and the First Few Weeks

I’ve been somewhat of a recluse since school started. I wish I could tell you all vet school is easy but that would be an utter lie. I spend roughly 30% of my time in dissection and feeling like I have no clue as to what is really going on; trying to find things on the Virtual Canine Anatomy program we use and then hunting for it on the dog in front of me.

What I can say is though veterinary school is a lot of work it is a blast! I’m very happy with my classmates and love how many people came out yesterday for a beer after our very first exam (more on that later)!

CSU does a different orientation than most schools, we have a few days of death by powerpoint but we also go up to CSU’s mountain campus for basically a class camping trip. I had a blast, we did ropes courses, many more powerpoints and group activities to help you get to know your classmates before we are thrown into classes together. It was really great and I think helped a lot of my classmates (myself included) to prepare for the oncoming semesters and come to terms with the reality; we finally got in!

Once orientation week is over though, school comes barreling at you like a deranged¬†llama. I was sitting in anatomy class on the third day of classes when the sheer volume of information hit me and I realized that my life would now consist of studying and sitting in class basically all day. I do what I can to keep up, and I do study outside of class a lot but I’ve just survived my first exam and while I hope to continue to improve on the grade scale I have realized that these are just more classes and more exams. There is more information on each exam and the information comes at you faster than a machine gun fires bullets but you can make it through with a lot of work and a bit of luck. I always feel behind on studying since information comes so rapid-fire, but I still have found somewhat of a balance.

Outside of studying for the exam this past week, I took all of my large animals (excluding one horse, Jamaica) down to Arizona for safe keeping through the winter. I brought the horses and cows up with me from Texas, found a place to board but had to come to terms with moving them since we couldn’t find a place to rent with property, the boarding facility was 30 minutes from campus and where I lived (precious study time) and shelter for them during winter would be limited. So the decision was made and I scoured my schedule to find an appropriate time to move them before winter hit, labor day weekend was my last shot since it was a three day weekend and the next break I would get would be over Thanksgiving. Moving the horses made it very difficult to study for that first exam, but I know that it was MUCH better to be moving them now, at the beginning of the semester, vs somewhere in the middle. Luckily Jamaica is still here in Denver with a friend so I will at least get some horse time this semester. I’ve only been separated from the horses one other time, when I moved to Colorado for my undergrad it was three months before they followed, so being away from them for this long I’m sure will be difficult but they are in good hands for the winter as my grandfather is watching them. The trip to Arizona, despite taking away from study time, was great. I was able to see a couple old friends that I almost never see due to finances and distance, the drive back was an adventure as my truck decided then would be a good time to randomly freak out but we made it home and another week went by.

 

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Are we there yet? -Reveille on the trip to AZ

 

In summary, vet school is difficult. I’m not sure that CSU is any more difficult than any other school but I really enjoy the sense of community our class has and our professors are really there to help us learn. Most of them are very animated and make those long hours of sitting in the same chairs bearable. Added bonus: we have “cubes” which are desks, everyone has one assigned and so you always have study space you can go to.