It’s the beginning of the year which means a lot of introductions – to new professors, new classes, new students.
Especially during my first year, it felt like I must’ve introduced myself about a thousand times during orientation alone. I could recite my name, hometown, interest in vet med and a fun fact practically in my sleep.
How do you introduce yourself? How do you describe yourself?
The better part of a veterinary student’s life – my life – has been dedicated, driven and dictated by the things I needed to be doing to get into veterinary school. What classes you take, what activities you do, what leadership roles you pursue, what types of jobs you get, what type of volunteering you do…it all boils back down to being a vet student.
You take AP or college courses so you can get ahead to take more advanced electives that relate to vet med. You are a member of your college’s pre-veterinary club, and maybe you run for a leadership role within this club. You try to join a variety of activities to make sure your resume is well-rounded. You volunteer/work at animal shelters and vet offices, barns, therapeutic riding stables, wildlife centers, aquariums, zoos.
You spend so long completing all of these tasks in a marathon to-do list so that your vet school application is bursting with all the right accolades.
And when you get in – after years of hard work and education – you get to claim the title of ‘veterinary student’.
When someone asks you what you do, what is your answer? What is the first thing you think of yourself as? Is it as a shelter volunteer, or an equestrian, or a musician, or any of the other things you have done for so long – or do you define yourself first as a veterinary student?
Veterinary schools – Purdue included – are really starting to promote the importance of mental health in the veterinary school and veterinary profession, and the importance of work-life (or school-life) balance. So what is the problem with defining yourself as a vet student, first and foremost?
I think it wipes out all the experiences you have had before getting into veterinary school. Sure, most of what you may have done was with the intention that it would help you get into veterinary school, but I know a lot of my experiences influenced me greatly – serving as the equestrian team president and living in the equine center were 2 of my proudest achievements of my undergraduate career, and I often used those descriptors before saying what my major was.
Now, choosing to define myself as a veterinary student first has the same effect. I won’t lie – school is a majority of what I do with my time, there is no way around that. It is a full-time job, and then some. But the things that I do outside of the classroom, I believe are equally as important, even if they do not consume as much of my time. I see myself as an artist – a hobby I thoroughly enjoy honing when I can. I see myself as a musician (pianist, specifically) – a craft I have loved and pursued since I was 4 years old – I even have a digital piano so I can continue to practice and play while at school. I see myself as an equestrian – my horse definitely competes for a large chunk of my time as well, but I would not have it any other way. I can honestly say that without my horse and the ability to do something physically active like horseback riding, the stress of veterinary school likely would have already broken me. Moreover, my horse gives me the ability to set goals outside of the classroom and pursue dreams of mine that are not related to veterinary medicine.
Equestrian. Artist. Musician. Dog mom. Sister. Daughter. Niece. Cousin. Friend. And yes, veterinary student.
In a program that some days feels like it demands all the time we have to give and then some, I think it is so important to remember all of the other things that define us; not as vet students perhaps, but just as individuals. Because if we don’t, if we let school consume every bit of us, we allow ourselves to lose those things that make us unique and those things that bring us happiness and stress relief. It is why I make time for a part-time job at the barn, I make time for my horse and my dog, for my art, for my music, to catch up with friends (although not as often as I would like, at times).
I had a professor last year who had us write down some information about ourselves, and she compiled it into an entire list about our class. It was spectacular; not one thing she read out had to do with who we were inside the walls of the vet school, and that small moment of reflection let my class share who we are when we aren’t cramming information into our brains at brake-neck speed.
So as we jump head-first into another busy year…who are you?