halfway there: a reflection on the past two and a half years
It is still with some disbelief that I can now say I am halfway through my vet degree. Two and a half years out of five. Two and a half years of happy moments, of endless learning, of realisations, of doubts and of more struggles I have ever had in my twenty years on earth. It would be silly to think I could condense all of this into one post but this is the best chance for me to reflect on my time at university up to now and hopefully it will act as a springboard for other pieces.
My time at vet school seems to have gone by at once fast and slow. In one and a half years, I will be in final year, free of lectures and on rotations in the hospitals. Everything seems to have come so fast; sometimes when I think back to when I was in first year, a little lost and trying to find my feet, it was only yesterday. Yet when I look at all that I have experienced and achieved since then, it feels like a lifetime ago.
I could wax lyrical about how close I am to accomplishing a long-held, childhood dream, how thrilled I am to be where I always so desired to be. I wish – more than anything – that I could truthfully proclaim, hand on heart, that these have been the supposed ‘best years of my life’. But in interests of honesty, I can’t deny that this journey hasn’t been tainted with a kind of hollow sadness, blue and unkind to my mind.
I could tell you enthusiastically about all the fascinating things I’ve learnt and seen in lectures and practicals. However, there have also been countless late nights when I have stared at my notes in a state of utter despair, wondering how on earth I am going to fit all that information in my brain and retain it. I have sat through early morning and late afternoon lectures, not entirely interested but trying to focus because I need to know these things – a terrible mindset, I know. Now that I’m in my clinical years though, the information feels much more relevant and interesting. There are plenty of placements at veterinary practices to come. The nerves are simmering now that the vets and nurses will have an expected standard of me but I am looking forward to learning more and applying my existing knowledge. Anything that serves a a refreshing reminder of why I want to be a vet is always most welcome.
My journey thus far has been punctuated with challenges, struggles and doubt to chip away at my mind, both on a personal level and academically. But I think it’s important for me to remember that every time I felt I had fallen, I always got back up. Undoubtedly, all of my experiences have helped shape who I am today, taught me more about myself than ever before. Lessons about me, my character and the people who surround me. And I think I can say I have come out the other side a stronger person. More confident? Not quite, not yet, but I’m getting there.
I am rarely my own greatest supporter, with little faith in my abilities. I’ve been plagued by this sinking feeling that I won’t be a good enough vet, wondering whether I am suitable for this career. But each time I meet with my personal tutor, without fail, she tells me to believe in myself more, that all that I have achieved show that I am more than capable. And the study support tutor, who I check in with every so often to chat about study techniques and any other issues, once told me she can’t wait for me to graduate because she thinks I’m going to be a great vet. I’ve had positive feedback from various placements, I have family and friends who continue to believe in me so firmly. If I were to take only one thing from the first half of my degree, it’s that I can do this. That my worries usually turn out to be unfounded, that I never do as catastrophically as I might think.
And so, I look to the next two and a half years with renewed hope and reserved anticipation. I’ve made it this far already, halfway to being thrust into the real world and expected to tend to society’s animals. It’s all rather surreal and despite the bumps along the way, I managed to successfully pass all my exams and have grown as a person in more ways than I could have imagined. Admittedly, when I am overwhelmed and struggling to keep my head above water, I am prone to complaining about vet school. When this happens in future, I want to remember how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to study here, to have met the people who have helped me in so many ways. Honestly, I wouldn’t change what I have for the world; it can be tough and emotionally exhausting but I can’t think of anything I’d want to do more than veterinary medicine.
Below are a selection of photos taken at the Halfway Ball held last weekend, as we gathered to celebrate this milestone.
Here’s to the next half and whatever it may bring, to new experiences and opportunities for growth, to making the most of my time here so I can look back on it fondly in years to come.
I‘d love for you to share your university experiences with me in the comments below, whether you’re still in university or have already graduated. Equally, it would be great to hear from you even if you are not yet at uni or bypassed it altogether.