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My journey toward making the most of studying abroad

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Windy is a fourth-year veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K. Originally from Canada, she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She has a strong interest in ophthalmology and neurology in small animal medicine and hopes to further continue her education in those fields. Outside of school, she likes to play a variety of sports and loves a good board game night with her friends!

Studying veterinary medicine abroad is a huge commitment to make, especially when you know you’re going to be over $200,000 in debt by the end. So, if you’re going to go miles away for school, you may as well make the most out of it by taking as many opportunities as you can.

Vet school is not easy and can take away all the school-life balance you thought you had. When I first moved to London, I thought I was quite prepared because I’ve always been quite an independent person who loves adventure. I’ve also travelled with my family a lot growing up so I didn’t experience the culture shock that most people did. However, I still felt quite stressed overall because we were taught so much content every day, I felt the need to study all the time.  In fact, I often stayed in when there was a social event at school and when people asked to go out, I didn’t feel I deserved to join in. On top of that, I would tell myself I did not come all the way to the U.K. to go out and have fun; I came here to study.

Money was another thing I often had at the back of my head. Going out in London is expensive, regardless of what you’re doing. Whenever I had the thought to do so, I often reminded myself about the amount of debt I was going to be in and that I should minimize my spending. Due to this, I didn’t have much of a balance, which took huge hit on my mental health. I got extremely homesick and there were many nights where I went to bed wondering if I even made the right decision to leave.

Luckily, after my much-needed summer holiday from first year, I decided to make some changes to start my second year of school differently. One of the biggest things I worked on was to believe in myself and I couldn’t have gained all that confidence without my family and friends who supported me when I went back home. My parents especially would remind me about all of the other struggles I had in my life and how I would always doubt myself. For example, I had already accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to get into vet school with my grades before I even gave it a try. It was because of my parents that I tried applying and I was absolutely shocked when I got accepted. Having worked on my confidence, I soon incorporated better time management into my life. I’ve always been jealous of students who can pass with flying colors despite barely studying. It’s one of the reasons I forced myself to hit the books as often as I could. However, it’s important to remind yourself you managed to make it this far—from graduating undergrad to getting accepted into vet school. You got here because you’re capable. When I finally realized this, I took as many opportunities as I could, whilst still managing my time for studies.

Since I was all the way in the U.K., I felt it was appropriate to travel around Europe when I had the time. They are all short haul flights so it’s quite easy to fit in a weekend trip. Of course, it’s not cheap to be doing this, but I decided to look at them as an investment. If I ever wanted to fly to Europe when I finish my studies, I would have to fly from North America, which would make my trips much more expensive. One of my most recent and memorable trips was going to the French Alps. When my friend mentioned she wanted to snowboard there before our rotation year starts, I couldn’t turn it down—it just felt like the perfect opportunity. Yes, it did cost about £400 ($517 USD) in total for a three night trip, but as I mentioned, it was the cheapest opportunity I would ever get. It’s also no surprise that sports positively affect your mental health. I barely thought about school for the four days I was there and when I came back, I felt much more refreshed and motivated to do all the rotation-prep work.

At one point, majority of my money went to playing polo since I joined the college’s club in second year. My new flatmate who I had moved in with that year was in the club and would always talk about how much fun polo is. I was hesitant at first because I’ve only ever gone on trail rides where I follow the guide in front of me at a walk and maybe occasionally at a slow trot. However, I was excited to challenge myself at a new sport and realized it would also be beneficial because I would feel more comfortable around horses with more exposure. I spent a large sum of money on lessons, competing, and equipment. Despite the price, I had no regrets. Polo is not a popular sport back home in Canada compared to the U.K. so I will unlikely have the opportunity to play it again. The cherry on top of it all? I met some amazing and supportive friends in the club. As you can tell, most of the opportunities I took are ones I would probably not have again and I know I will never regret. It made my vet school experience so much more enjoyable and memorable. It forced me to take my mind off of school once in a while and to learn how to organize my time, both of which are important skills to have when you are working as a veterinarian.

Long story short, don’t let the fear of financial burden and the idea of the possibility of failing your studies stop you from living your best life when you’re at vet school. It’s stressful enough as it is and you deserve all the breaks you can accommodate into your schedule, while staying on top of your studies. You went into vet school because it’s something you love so you have to make sure you stay happy and healthy while you’re trying to achieve that.

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