The Vet School Series: Transitioning from Undergrad to Professional School

In honor of starting my second year of veterinary school, I’m back with Part 2 of my Vet School Series!  In case you missed the last one on applying, you can find it here.  In this post I want to keep with the flow and talk about how it was to go from interviewing in undergrad to being a full blown veterinary student!  I want to start out by saying no it was not an easy year, not by any means.  The transition was tough in ways I hadn’t expected, but with that being said I made it through!  Just because it was tough does not mean it wasn’t doable.  Much like the process of applying, people make out the transition and first year to be traumatizing and impossible, I’m here to tell you it most definitely is possible!  

I went from studying the bare minimum, maybe a few days before an exam at most.  I did the assignments I was assigned when I had the time to, but didn’t really have to spend every night or very many weekends working on things or studying.  Boy was I in for a change when the 1st week of classes I was now studying from the moment I got home from class to the moment I went to sleep.  It also was a bit of an adjustment to have class from 8am-4pm or 5pm most days when I was used to only having about 4-5 hours of class each day.  Between these two changes I was feeling exhausted before the year even really started.  

I had to get a schedule put in action, and it had to happen quick.  I decided I would work out twice a week in the evenings, and never the night before an exam.  I would try to be in bed by 9pm each night, eat breakfast every morning, pack my lunch for the day, study for a few hours when I got home, break for dinner, and study more until bed.  This schedule stuck with me for basically the whole year, granted if it was a crazy week I would slack on working out or buy lunch at school and occasionally I did have to stay up until 10 pm or 11pm but that was the most I ever differed.  I found having a set schedule helped because it was one less thing to think about.  

I also think that working out was very important for me.  Yes, school was the most important thing for me during that time, but I couldn’t preform my best if I wasn’t feeling my best and working out always made me feel good.  Finding something like this that’s quick but impacts your attitude, and even body, in a positive way is very important to try to keep your stress levels low.  I still made time on weekends when I didn’t have upcoming exams to see my family, attend my alma maters homecoming, and even have game nights with my study group.  You’re allowed to still have a life while you’re in school 🙂  

Along with making time to do things, finding a group of people you fit with in your class is also hugely important!  I didn’t think much of this during orientation until the 2nd or 3rd day, then I realized wow I really need to make some friends, this isn’t something I want to go through alone.  I got really lucky and found my group right after coming to that realization, but don’t give up if you don’t find your place right away, just keep branching out!  Having peers to reach out to when I was confused or needed some extra study time really made a huge difference for me.  Sometimes I study really well on my own, but for other things I found going through it with others helped it stick way better.  Plus, the support system was something I never realized would be so important.  No one not in your situation can truly understand exactly what’s going on each and everyday, but the people in your class do!  They will be right there with you when an exam was awful or an awesome case was gone over in lecture.  Don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need to, I definitely did!  
Lastly, take advantage of every opportunity you can your first year!  This is the time to decide what you want to partake in and what you don\’t.  I chose to join 2 clubs; the Shelter Med Club and the Swine Club.  Fortunately through Swine Club I was able to attend the annual meeting for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Orlando, Florida!  I also chose to partake in a program that assigned me a local mentor and let me tell you, this was a game changer!  I never thought they would match me as well as they did and my mentor has given me amazing advice!  I highly suggest seeing if your school or state association offer a mentorship program because I can\’t even describe how thankful I am for finding mine.  Along with taking advantage of opportunities, you can also say no to things because staying on track and managing your time so you don\’t burn out is still the number one priority.

As I’m writing this I’m thinking it must sound like I actually had a pretty easy time, all I had to do was make some friends and change up my schedule, how hard could it be?  That part was an adjustment, but wasn’t necessarily hard.  The hard part comes from the pace, you’re expected to learn things much faster than in undergrad.  You also can have multiple hard subjects in the same quarter, which I always avoided doing in undergrad.  This is where the challenge starts, in the beginning I felt I was doing okay with it all, but around spring break I realized I was definitely not.  I let all my stress build up, the feeling that I could not be good enough to be there, the feeling that I had so much to do constantly, everything.  It all built up and finally it started to break me down.  I tell you this not to scare you, but because it can happen to anyone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I reached out to a campus counselor we are provided access to and she helped me work through how to manage my stress better, how to keep myself in a positive mindset, and how to focus even when I don’t want to.  After meeting with her multiple times throughout the last quarter I started to feel like I really could do the things I needed to and I knew I was in a place I deserved to be.  It really can apply to anything from vet school to family life to work; if you start to feel like you aren’t able to figure things out yourself, reaching out for help is always a good idea! 

All in all, I wouldn’t give up the last year of school for anything.  I’m grateful I have the opportunity to be where I am and continue to learn and grow into a profession I love.  

If some of you are where I was last year, don’t be afraid to reach out!  I would love to hear how your journeys are going!
XOXO, Cierra

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