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What it’s like to be vet student in the land down under

INSTAGRAM @Dogtor_Danielle   
Danielle Lancer is a second-year veterinary student at the University of Sydney in Australia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from California Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2015. For three years, she worked as a veterinary assistant in the oncology and emergency departments at VCA West Coast Emergency and Specialty Animal Hospital. She is on the committee of the Veterinary Society and the wildlife society. Danielle’s future career goals include working with small animals in emergency or oncology.

Getting into veterinary school is one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. Though it was a great thing, much of it was followed up by people asking me why I chose to not attend any universities in the U.S. or if I even got in anywhere else. See, I decided to attend the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science.

These reactions took me time to get over and afterward, I realized none of this made me failure. Veterinary school is hard to get into no matter where I attended and I was ready to prove everyone wrong. The reason I decided to go to Australia was to be able to live in a different country and be open to new adventures. Within two months of my acceptance, I packed up my life into three suitcases and flew 14 hours away from my home to start my veterinary school journey.

Before veterinary school, I had never been to Australia before. The seasons are different. When I arrived in February it was summer and hot. I feel that the weather is comparable to California but it does rain in the winter time, which is the states summer time. I even had to buy a puffer jacket because it gets colder than California there. Australians are very friendly and welcoming. Even though they speak English in Australia they use different phrases, which took some time to get used to. For example, they say, “How you going?” when you first meet someone and they shorten words. I do not have an Australian accent, but I do use the phrases and shortened words, for example Barbie for BBQ. One of the biggest differences from the states is that shipping is not a quick process. I rarely order things online since it takes well over a week to get here, unlike amazon prime in the states with next day shipping.

Attending the University of Sydney gives me the opportunity to work in North America, South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom, and some parts of Asia upon graduation. Because of this, I feel as though there is a huge advantage to living in a different country. Being able to immerse myself in a different culture and lifestyle is eye opening. The school’s curriculum is different from those in the states. The veterinary core topics: Anatomy, Histology, and Physiology, are all on one combined exam and class. I struggled with this concept at first, but then grew to understand it. In practice, all subjects will be combined, and this is good training for the future. I am able to think about all of the aspects of medicine instead of thinking of them individually. This teaching style helps me grasp the big picture. I have only had one to two exams each semester, making them very content heavy. I have completed my first year and I now have classes three days a week. The other two are hands on animal courses. I enjoy having that time to grow my skills along with the knowledge I have gained along the way.

Veterinary school is full of struggles and hard times. Adjusting to it, plus a new grading system was a huge leap for me. Australia prides itself on how hard they mark—students cannot expect to get 100% on any exam or assignment. The hard thing about adjusting to the grading system is that they do a lot of essays, which is my weak point. I feel that Australians know exactly what the teachers want from the essays but the international students struggle with the details. I study a few hours a day to break things up and give myself a day off on the weekend to recover. I try to study the big concepts and not every fine detail. There is so much information they expect us to know that there is no way for to learn everything. Most students in Australia undergo a five or six-year program to become veterinarians, meaning sixty percent of my class has already been together for two years. This puts a gap between the students going directly to the four-year program and the ones who started in the six-year program. The first two years of schooling are undergraduate courses, but they do not receive a bachelor degree. Most of my friends in veterinary school are international students or Australian students who completed a four-year degree before applying to the DVM program. We have a bar and grill across from the university, where we will go to hang out. This is a good bonding experience for my classmates and I. One of my flatmates loves the same type of Hallmark movies as me and we tend to watch a movie together every week to have a break from school. One of my biggest challenges is being away from family, friends, and my dogs. It is hard being so far away from my loved ones, but this is an amazing opportunity. I now have a camera to watch and talk to my dog from Australia.

After my first semester, I not longer spent all of my free time studying. I began to get back into the school aspect of the program. One of the most important things in veterinary school is to have a healthy work-life balance. I am on the committee for the veterinary society and the wildlife society at my university. I also take the opportunity to explore Sydney and workout. I also started volunteering for a free clinic once a month. One of the most important things I have learned is to have a social life while attending school. Grades are important to pass the classes and continue on but they will not dictate what type of Veterinarian I will be. I want to make sure I take care of my mental health too. I want to be a veterinarian who puts my patients first and puts their care above all. I want to be able to leave work at work and decompress on my days off.

Veterinary school in Australia has been an adventure of a lifetime. I have grown and learned so much about myself. Now that I have successfully completed my first year, the number one question I am asked by American friends is if I have seen any huge spiders! I am proud to say, I have not encounter one yet, though I do live in the city. Attending an international university does not mean you have failed or not good enough. Veterinary school is difficult to get into everywhere in the world and we will all be veterinarians upon graduation. Be proud of how far you have come and one day you will be called doctor.

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