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What I learnt about myself and career since COVID-19

INSTAGRAM @chelsey_lynn_vetmed   
Chelsey Chapman is a second-year veterinary student with the intent to practice as a mobile, mixed large animal veterinarian. She graduated from Sonoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a passion for IHSA western horseback riding competitions. Her initial year of veterinary school experiences included serving as Vice President for her university’s AASV chapter and participation in a Donkey PZP study. Despite plans to continue large animal research, hands-on club wet labs and her veterinary program, COVID-19 had other plans, to relocate international students back to the U.S. for online learning. Although the transition has had its challenges, Chelsey is enthusiastic about helping veterinary and pre-veterinary students successfully navigate their new normal!

Saddle up and hold on for the ride! That has been my motto when it comes to navigating each day since COVID-19 threw a wrench in my veterinary school journey.

Many of us have been affected by the virus, whether it is transitioning to digital lectures, online clinical rotations, or providing curbside veterinary services. I currently attend Ross University Veterinary School as a second-year student in the pre-clinical program, pursuing a career in large animal medicine. Since making the calculated decision to fly home to continue my instruction before the borders closed, due to quarantine of the island, I have learned a lot about myself as a future veterinarian.

Since my time at home in Texas back in April, it feels like my entire life has been turned upside down, which called for a new routine. With both of my parents working from home and speaking on conference calls during my weekly cumulative block examinations and lectures, I had to set some boundaries. Setting boundaries and asking for the things that will help me be successful is something I have always struggled with due to my people-pleaser, caring personality. I have always put others’ needs above my own, but with the transition of moving back in with my family and desire to be successful in my learning this semester, I learned to speak up for myself and my needs. This includes having my own quiet learning space with a desk to work at.

In addition, I learned saying no to things for my own mental health and study time is necessary. For instance, when I am on the island for school, I meal prep on Sundays and often eat dinner while studying in the evening so I can fit my workout in and go to bed earlier. However, when I moved home, my family had to adjust to the fact that sometimes I would not want to take a break for dinner, eat something healthier, or make time for my meal later on, after a workout. An essential part of me joining a group practice someday will be the ability to speak up for myself and what is needed—which will no doubt help me be successful in a team environment. This new space taught me to view my family and the man of my dreams as part of my team instead of others who do not know what I am going through on a daily basis.

When I first started my veterinary journey, I was dead set on not entering any serious relationships, because I was not going to let anyone stand in between me and my future career goals. Then of course, I met an amazing man who made me feel confident, motivated, driven, and unstoppable, and suddenly all of my doubts and imposter syndrome fears went away. Crazy as it was, we actually met on a dating app! And if you know me, you know this is completely out of my comfort zone, especially after just moving across the US from California to Texas. I really was not looking for a relationship as much as I was looking for friendship, but you know what they say…The best opportunities come to you in life when you stop looking! Despite all of the chaos and uncertainty in the world, my relationship and family became my stability and support system.

Oftentimes my peers, veterinary mentors, and I try to do it all on our own and prevent our families from taking on our emotions and stress but I learned I can achieve so much more if I just allow my support system to help me through these difficult times. My boyfriend has spent countless nights helping me study for my block exams, allowing me to read out my study guides to him as I would do with my classmates at school. If it wasn’t for his help, I would not have received the best grades of my life so far in veterinary school last semester. I appreciate his help so much and am glad that I was able to let go of my pride and allow my support system to help me so that I can learn better. I now have the tools to be successful when I graduate and go into practice, as I understand the benefits of having a shoulder to lean on or colleagues to reference in cases of uncertainty.

In addition to learning to open up and accept help, I realized too much of a good thing can be bad! Coffee. It has been my addiction and my lifeline at times throughout school. We, as future veterinarians, survive through long hours of studying and endless surges of caffeine. As someone who has testing anxiety, I decided to quit drinking coffee the morning of my exams and developed a new routine to keep my energy steady throughout the day.

With eight hours minimum staring at a computer screen and many others without moving from my desk, I decided to workout in between classes or after as a study break. Not having any of my peers to interact with and no sense of social life or scenery changes to disconnect from learning has been difficult to adjust to, so getting outside and sweating it out has become the best way to clear my mind. Recently, I joined a CrossFit group that poses new challenges to my mind and body and I am so much more focused and efficient during my online lectures and study sessions. I began prioritizing my nutrition and making protein smoothies for energy and nutrients in the morning to give my body fuel that would sustain me throughout the day. And if I am missing my peers, we are just a FaceTime call away.

On the tough days, I just remind myself that the twenty four hours in front of me are all I can control. If all else fails, I throw on some happy music and get my body moving and grooving or take a walk out to the barn for a little horse therapy. There’s nothing this girl can’t do with her cowgirl boots on!

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