When starting vet school in September 2021, my biggest fear was how little I knew about it. I simply had no idea what it was going to be like. Due to an unfortunate combination of covid-19 lockdowns and travel distances I had never visited the vet school, had spent a total of half a day in Edinburgh and not met a single fellow vet student. Therefore, I have complied this list as an attempt to provide future first years with a resource that I wish I had when I arrived two months ago.
- Firstly (and perhaps most importantly), it is normal to feel overwhelmed but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help. Many people have told me that during a veterinary degree feeling the pressure is expected. While this reassured me that I wasn’t alone in struggling, it caused me to believe that I didn’t need to contact my lecturers or personal tutor for help. If you have a problem or are finding it difficult to understand a concept, then get in touch with your professors. They are there to help you and will most likely be happy to hear you showing an interest in the subject and being proactive about your degree.
- Not all your friends have to be vets. One of the most beneficial things for my mental health since starting university has been to separate my social life from my degree. Having close friends that study different subjects and having conversations about topics that have nothing to do with veterinary medicine has stopped me from becoming too wrapped up in vet school. The bubble of vet school, while very supportive, can make it challenging to get a break. So I really encourage you to get involved in activities outside the Dick Vet and try to maintain friendships will people who aren’t vets – Edinburgh has a plethora of societies (sport, social or just fun) available to join.
- Do not expect to know and fully understand the content after just the initial lecture. Each lecture that you attend is like a mini topic and is jam-packed with complex names and terminology. In the first couple of weeks, I spent a lot of time panicking that I was never going to be able to learn the content, however once consolidated through practical classes I was really surprised how much I managed to retain. Your lectures will build on each other and as you get used to the teaching style it will get easier; you just have to stick with it.
- You are fully responsible for your own studies. While you will have support and help from your lecturers and personal tutor, they will be a lot less involved in your studies than your high school teachers. The only person holding you accountable and checking that you have completed your work or are revising for exams is you. University doesn’t just make you an independent person in terms of domestic tasks, it pushes you to stay organised and on top of your classes without the influence of others.
- Be gentle on yourself. It is a lot to transition to university, especially remembering to take care of yourself. Don’t sacrifice basic things like food shopping, cooking a full meal or doing your washing in exchange for working. When you let the little things build up it can be detrimental to your mental health; they sit in the back of your mind and affect your day a lot more than you realise. My flatmates and I will often do washing or cook together, and this helps keep me accountable and stops me from getting sucked into work late at night.
While these tips may only be little things, they are what I needed to hear seven weeks ago and hopefully will help you at the beginning of your degree. I find it very easy to start worrying over the small details here and it really helps to be able to take a step back and give yourself credit for what you are doing. If you are eating food regularly, attending your classes, enjoying a social life and have clean clothes to wear then you are doing just fine and give yourself a pat on the back for that. Vet school may be hard, but it is extremely rewarding and I am so happy I undertook this degree, as I am sure you will find too next year at Dick Vet.