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Finding the true significance of community during a pandemic

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Christina Lai is a current pre-veterinary student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn working towards her undergraduate degree with a major in Behavioral and Biological Sciences. Always caring for her community, Christina partakes in multiple community service organizations and has been volunteering at her local Humane Society ever since her middle school days. Other than using her hard work ethic towards her academics, she maintains a school-life balance by spending time with her friends, playing Pokémon GO, and sharing her love for art and music on her Instagram and YouTube.

I never thought a global pandemic would lead me to recognize the importance of touch. The warmth radiating from the sun onto my skin, the embrace of a hug from a close friend, a grasp of soft fur from a kitten; I never realized the significance of it all until now. However, I have realized I do not need face-to-face contact to touch lives.

“I just wanted to say thank you for being a true friend. I’ve never actually had one before.” Her voice echoing through speakers. I cannot believe I have only known her for six months. Three of which I was unable to see her familiar, smiling face that wasn’t on a screen. Little did I know, within these few months she would act as my chemistry tutor and become my best friend. Whether I struggled with science or heartbreak, she was always there to help put the pieces back together. It is mind-blowing how much one individual can impact another when times get hard. Even being several miles apart, we can still be together virtually.

I recognized at the beginning of the pandemic that I learned best face-to-face. Chemistry was already a difficult course to grasp in person, but with its transition to an online format, I was mortified. A voice in my mind told me it was over. However, each day I scheduled a time to study with my peers via video chat. We all motivated one another to do the best we could at home, now that both our school and home environments had merged together. Video chatting allowed us to be there for each other and stay mentally sane. Between practice problems and online tutoring, I wasn’t going to allow a pandemic to push me into giving up on my goals. Not only did I achieve an A, but I wouldn’t have been able to do so without my peers.

Our companionship and teamwork helped guide one another towards success.  As an individual with a passion for music, I also decided to make YouTube videos. Taking songs and making covers, I felt relieved when viewers appreciated my voice. I had the ability to influence others positively the same way that musicians did with their songs. Music will continue to influence my life for the better, especially during times like this. Due to the sense of community I have with my audience, I no longer felt alone with my own thoughts during the pandemic. Other than maintaining my mental health, I took advantage of my time whilst in quarantine to focus on incorporating a fitness routine to whip myself back into shape. Thanks to my best friend, I discovered a new love for dancing through playing Just Dance via video chat. Due to her efforts, I’m in the best shape I have ever been.

The use of social media during these times has opened my eyes to seek what the veterinary world holds for my future. Reaching out to other individuals in the veterinary field has made me realize how everyone, just like my best friend, is just one call or message away. During this pandemic, we have all been left alone with our own thoughts, allowing us to self-reflect on who we are as individuals. As a pre-veterinary student, I am taking this time to discover my own personal aspirations. The assistance I have received from others during this time has tremendously helped me get on the path towards my future veterinary career.  Receiving advice from others in the veterinary community has made me grow as an individual. It has also opened a window for success when entering a new environment, something I aspire to do for others in my career.

The members of the veterinary community are willing to help a complete stranger like me to the best of their abilities through online communication. This is all due to their caring nature: A characteristic the whole veterinary community tends to share. Inspired by this, I strive to be an individual who holds this sense of selflessness towards those I encounter throughout my veterinary career. To be a part of a community that goes out of their way to bring you into their community with loving arms allowed me to see how connected we are.

I am so grateful to already be a part of such a welcoming and caring community.  No matter who you are, I will always assist others towards their own successful path, the same way the veterinary community has done for me through social media.

Through my current occupation as an Orientation Leader at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, I have successfully learned how to touch the lives of others without meeting them in person. As an Orientation Leader, I assist incoming students to the university over online orientations held through Zoom video calls. Not only have I built on my problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills, but I discovered I have the same ability to help others grow into a new environment, the same way the veterinary community did for me.

My experience with the pandemic may have started on a bad note, but I will end it with a positive one.  Whether you are a high school student, a pre-veterinary student, a veterinary student going through rotations, or a veterinarian who just finished their shift at the clinic, take a second to remind yourself why you’re a part of the veterinary community.  Throughout my journey, I will continue to remind myself of the roles that I strive to be: an educator, a therapist, a medical professional, and a friend to lean back on in the community. I will continue to be an influencer to others, to inspire and touch the lives of those in any community. Fellow members of the veterinary community, I dare you all to do the same.

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