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Why I decided to study vet med and how it’s going so far

INSTAGRAM @diaryofadogtor   
Victoria Tsang is a second-year veterinary student at the University of Queensland. She started her degree in 2019 after graduating from high school in the United Kingdom. Victoria grew up in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities, where she did not have many chances to expose herself to a lot of animals because there is only one veterinary school. Her decision to move to Australia and start her undergrad degree at UQ Gatton was very serious as she had to leave her family and friends and blend into a different culture. Victoria is glad that her parents never questioned her dream of becoming a veterinarian and fully supported her idea of moving. Victoria enjoys hands-on experience with all kinds of animals in Australia. In her free time, she likes cooking, going to the gym with friends, hiking, scuba diving, exploring the country, and spoiling her two adopted cats at home.

“Why do you want to be a veterinarian?” is a question vet students often get asked. Like many others my answer is, “I have dreamt of becoming a veterinarian ever since I was a child.” It seems so tempting to be able to work with animals on a daily basis and cuddle them all the time, right? Well, that was my first view of the industry, until I started my journey as a student. It made me realize being a veterinarian is much more than that.

A career in vet med is not only about working with animals; there is a lot of communication that needs to be done between us and owners. No doubt, the time you have to spend with people could be just as much as with their pets. The profession forces you to get out of your comfort zone. With that, I have to admit my personality changed since I started university. I used to be a person who was the opposite of outgoing and thought I might even have social anxiety disorder. My first-year was eye-opening, as I learned and did things I never experienced before, such as flipping a sheep that was heavier than me, picking up the back leg of a horse (meanwhile realizing one kick could kill me), and going through stressful anatomy exams and having to remember all the muscles, nerves, arteries, and veins that make up the locomotion system of dogs and horses. Despite all the hard yakka and sleepless nights, these experiences actually helped boosting my self-confidence.

Often, people seem excited and willing to hear about my story and things I do in veterinary school. This makes me realize how important it is to open yourself up to others and share your opinions. Your experiences are valuable and inspiring.

I am currently a second-year veterinary student at the University of Queensland. “G’Day mate! How you going? Welcome to the Sunshine State,” was the warm welcome I received from locals when I first arrived. (I suggest you Google “Gatton” as it might be easier to picture it). Though the KFC is around four miles away from campus and there is no UberEats, I still love it and have absolutely no regrets of coming here to pursue my goal of becoming a veterinarian.

I have learnt so much throughout my time here. During the first semester of first-year, we took a course covering the foundation of the skills and values required of veterinarians. In this class, we visited a veterinary clinic and gained an in-depth insight into the reality of running a practice. I learned that the personality and quality of every single individual including veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and other clinical staff, such as receptionist and office managers, make up an important team that contributes to the smooth running and success of an animal practice. Good communication is essential to build rapport with your colleagues, clients, and patients.

Another lesson that stood out to me during degree so far is that failure is a stepping stone to success. When I was in first-year, I failed my animal handling practical exam. We had to carry out certain animal husbandry and restraining skills on cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, dogs, and cats. The passing mark for that exam was 70 out of 100 and the full mark for each species was 25, which meant we had to get at least 17.5 out of 25 for each species. Even if you failed in one of the species, you still need to retake all the exams. So, I retook the practical exam in the second semester. Eventually, I passed with a good mark. I know it is very cliché to say, but practice makes perfect. I remember the days and nights I spent practicing the animal husbandry skills at the school’s Veterinary Skills Hub where animal models are provided. I could train with the animal models as many times as I wished, but there was only one go on the real ones. Luckily, I got lots of supports from my teachers and peers. In most circumstances, you are not always given a second chance, but it is important to remember your limitations and seek help from others. It is the mistakes that make us all human so do not fear failure because failure fears courage and determination to improve.

During the peak period of Covid-19 in Queensland, there were lockdown protocols and travel restrictions. Under these restrictions, I could only travel within 50 kilometers from Gatton, face-to-face lectures were now online, and all the hands-on practicals and arrangements for EMS placements were cancelled. My education and lifestyle were affected by this ongoing pandemic. We are all in the same boat. At some point, I told myself, “Let’s recharge your motivation.” Then, I started my veterinary Instagram account (also to avoid “spamming” veterinary stuff in my personal account) and was impressed by so many educational accounts of both veterinary students and veterinarians. I see how they show resilience through tough times by spreading positive messages and supporting one another. Positivity is contagious and this is the kind of pandemic we need to create during this difficult time. I am glad to be part of this veterinary community and make friends with people from different backgrounds at the same time.

I am now forty percent veterinarian with still far to go to reach the one hundred percent mark. A degree in veterinary science is more than a license to practice and I believe it is a career that requires lifelong learning.

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