My mom keeps a box with all of the old assignments and report cards that my sister and I accumulated throughout elementary school. Some are really fun to look through and some are humbling, like my progress report from preschool that said I struggled to bounce a ball. I guess it’s a good thing to test when you’re three years old (though I would like to report that now at the age of 26, I can dribble with minimal issues). One particular paper she likes to look at from time to time is a little assignment I did in kindergarten. It was one that asked questions like: “What is your favorite color and animal?” and “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answers were blue, guinea pig, and even at that intelligent age of five, I said that I wanted to be a guinea pig doctor. I can’t remember if at the time I knew “guinea pig doctors” also worked on other animals, but I do know I had a one of my own named Timmy and I probably just wanted to keep him alive forever.
Whatever my reasoning was, that tiny answer grew into a dream, goal, and passion. That last one is so important—passion. Without it, this field would wear me down so fast. Whether you are just getting into vet school, thinking about it, or you finished years ago, you know that without a deep love for this field, you won’t last. The educational road to becoming a veterinarian is long, arduous, challenging, and often bumpy with the occasional pothole along the way. But, it is also rewarding.
Along the way, there will be those who fully support you and those who, even if they mean well, can be quite discouraging. Surprisingly, I found that many of the doctors and technicians I would cross paths with or the students in the terms above me would challenge my eagerness with a, “Really? Are you sure this is what you want to do? You know it’s really hard right? I wouldn’t recommend it.” Ugh. My least favorite thing right after I started school (and still had all of that wonderful and rare first term, new student enthusiasm) was more often than not I was met with a “well, that won’t last,” from an upper classman. Now, I can sort of understand where they were coming from. I am now entering my fourth year of veterinary school and have completed all of my class work and just have hands-on clinicals left. If I am not careful, I can also sometimes have that attitude of “Yeah, you’re excited now, but just wait.” That’s a terrible mindset to have. This is my dream, my passion. Am I terrified to start clinicals? Uh, yeah! But this is what I’ve prepared for. This is what is needed to become the doctor that I want to be.
Let me try to encourage you with these thoughts. I’ll first reaffirm that, yes, challenging is an understatement for this field. You will be pushed and pulled indirections you didn’t even know possible. You may be forced out of comfort zones, but you will see growth in yourself that you never expected. That enthusiasm you have about becoming a veterinarian, keep it. It’s yours and you have a right to it. If you have recently gotten into a vet school, that’s awesome. Celebrate that because it is no small feat. If you are trying to get in, keep at it. Most of us who applied got more than one rejection letter. It hurts, but that doesn’t mean your dream is dead. One of mine practically told me, “No, and also, please don’t apply here again.” Maybe it wasn’t that harsh, but at the time it seemed like the end. I was told my application and transcript didn’t look like I could handle the workload. Sure, it was discouraging and didn’t exactly make me feel all that great about myself at first, but I wasn’t about to let it stop me. I went to a couple doctors who had become mentors throughout this process and after some discussion, came back to the conclusion that I’m going to be a doctor. I am getting into a vet school, even if it’s not this one. I could’ve gone with my plan B which would’ve definitely been less work, but instead, I took that as a challenge and I don’t back down from a challenge. I not only accepted enrollment at St. George’s University, but I also accepted a dual degree in public health. I have plans to go into small animal general practice back in Gilbert, Arizona after completing this final year. I love the interactions with clients I get to have and the opportunities to educate owners about the public health aspects of veterinary medicine and choices they make regarding treatments for their dogs or cats that can actually have effects on their whole family.
I don’t say this to attempt to make myself look cooler than I am, but rather to try to encourage you. If this is your passion, own it. You are capable of more than you think. It’s difficult, it’s tedious, it’s demanding, but you already know that. Don’t let what others have to say dictate your passion. Feed it. Grow it. Follow it.