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My journey toward studying veterinary medicine in Australia

INSTAGRAM @aliispeura   
Aliisa Peura is a second-year veterinary student at the University of Melbourne. She graduated from the University of Guelph, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Animal Biology in 2016. During her gap years before veterinary school, she was a surgical assistant for an orthopaedic surgeon. This sparked an area of interest for her and hopes to complete a small animal surgical internship after completion of her DVM degree. When not in school or studying, she enjoys camping, hikes with her border collie, and traveling.

Everyone has their own unique story about how they got into veterinary school. The age old saying “you must fail to succeed,” resonates well with mine.

Being from Canada, our vet school choices are limited—even if you’re “lucky” enough to reside in a province that has one. As with most colleges in North America, undergraduate and graduate students are endlessly trying to obtain a large amount and variety of veterinary experience. Sometimes, however, this does not pose to be an easy task. Depending on where your hometown is, being able to even find a veterinary clinic that will take on inexperienced students, let alone volunteers, can be challenging. This sets you up for an uphill battle in the experience portion of your school application.

That said, I made it work and moved to a different city to pursue an undergraduate degree. After completing an undergraduate degree in Animal Biology, I moved home and stumbled upon a dream position at a vet clinic in my area. The job was initially as an Animal Care Attendant that evolved into a surgical assistant position with an orthopedic surgeon. This position allowed me to gain confidence with interacting with clients in addition to hands on clinical skills. During this time, I applied to vet school (three times to be exact) and was rejected each time. At this point all the self-doubt began to creep in. Am I truly meant to do this? What else do I need on my application? Is this even worth it? This is when the soul-searching stage of rejection starts and you begin tapping into hobbies and self-care methods that you may have let go over the years, hoping that it will help reconnect you with your past-self.

This is how and when my journey to veterinary school came to an abrupt halt. I decided to take some time off of work from the clinic. I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to continue to pursue the dream of becoming a veterinarian and even looked into pursuing a profession in no way related to the field. A short time later, I returned back to work full-time feeling recharged, refreshed, and motivated. I ended up applying to a veterinary program in Australia and was accepted. It felt at that point, an enormous weight being lifted from my shoulders. After a year of study, I am happy to announce that I am glad I stuck with the dream of becoming a veterinarian.

So, what helped me during these challenges and feelings on my way to veterinary school?

Mentorship has always been focused on immensely in the veterinary profession. I believe it’s important to have someone in your corner who can help you grow and someone you can turn to for advice. I have gained two key mentors, both of which relationships developed organically during time I spent at their respective veterinary hospitals. One is a general practice veterinarian, the other a veterinary surgeon. Both are invaluable to my growth and success in this industry thus far.

A strong support system is important, whether this is family, close friends, colleges, or any other person. Through the long journey into a professional program, you will need the support of those closest to you. They help lift you up and help remind you why you’re doing this when you begin to doubt yourself. During what I have deemed my “quarter-life crisis,” I had the support of my family and friends to discuss my concerns with, as well as the help from my co-workers who allowed me to take a step back from work and then return when I was mentally ready. Having this type of support helped ground me, allowed me time to regain mental clarity, and made me feel that regardless of what move I was to make next it would be the right decision.

How do I feel about studying abroad for a professional degree?

I was skeptical about how I would fare being so far away from my immediate support system. It was a legitimate concern that did begin to subside once in Australia. As my hometown in Canada has around 10,000 people, moving to a metropolitan city was a large adjustment. Between the large magnitude of people, the complete change in climate, living in a studio apartment alone for the first time, it did take some time to settle in. That on top of returning back to university for the first time in over two years and into a profession program was a challenging study curve I had to overcome. What helped the transition was the ability to open up and discuss with peers about any insecurities I was having, being able to find a core group of friends I could count on, and seek professional assistance if needed did seem to help. Secondly, the financial debt you gather from studying abroad is substantial. However, it was a so-called cheaper alternative to study in Australia compared to the U.S. or in Europe. It was a factor that my family and I did have to strongly consider when looking into studying abroad for veterinary school.

In my opinion, there seems to be a stigma towards veterinary students studying abroad. Though it does not seem to be as prominent as it is among those studying human medicine, I still do believe it is present. The standpoint that I take is, as long as the veterinary program is accredited toward where you foresee yourself ending up, all is good. It is important to remember that ultimately, you did make it into veterinary school, you will grow to become a highly independent individual, and you can succeed in a difficult program far away from your comfort zone. At the end of the day, you will be just as strong as a candidate as any other veterinary graduate.

If you’re on the fence about your decision about studying abroad for veterinary school my advice is to do your research. Talk to students who have graduated or are in the program you are looking into, find out more about the city the veterinary school is in, and reach out to program heads. Studying abroad is the chance of a lifetime, you grow and learn things about yourself you never knew or could have imagined, you get to experience a new culture, city, or country, gain a ton of new friends and colleges, and create memories you can forever cherish.

This article represents the author’s personal views and not those of the programs she has applied to or is enrolled in. 

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