A guest author from our anonymous submission form lays down some great advice (and a killer conversational writing style)
Let me begin with a cliché. At the age of three, before I even knew “veterinarian” was a word, I proudly exclaimed that I was going to be a “doggie doctor” when I grew up. And so began the 19+ year journey to where I am sitting today: in an anesthesiology lecture bored out of my mind worried that I just failed a musculoskeletal exam. This is veterinary school, the goal of my life, second only to actually graduating (and you know marrying Channing Tatum). As I write this, my lovely friend next to me is oscillating from diligently writing notes and googling summer externship opportunities, VVMA events, and registration costs of various veterinary seminars/symposiums. This is a theme I’ve noticed throughout my class. Everyone is talking about how they have to stack this summer with veterinary experiences, veterinary research, or attending conferences related to our amazing profession. Or they are discussing the several wet labs and club meetings they will be doing in the next week, all while finding time to study. And let me pause for a moment to say: THIS IS NOT A BAD THING BY ANY MEANS. I am literally in awe of those around me currently doing all that and remaining (at least outwardly) sane. But I want to take this not-so-brief post to reach out to those of you who maybe aren’t doing all of the above and are feeling inadequacy or guilt over not packing your life with veterinary medicine. If you relate to that, then you may feel like I do on occasion: that I’m not “doing enough” to PROVE that I actually want to be a veterinarian. I can attempt to pacify my imposter syndrome thoughts with the knowledge that I don’t really have the money to take on volunteer/no-pay positions and that I do not have a vehicle so travelling is difficult. But there are just some days where I feel so overwhelmingly inadequate in my pursuit of that coveted “DVM” and that’s crazy! Nothing and no one should ever make you feel that you have to prove you belong in vet school or in the veterinary profession. Veterinary Medicine does not need to be your life. You can be a good veterinary student and an amazing future clinician without a resume bursting with vet experiences. I spent last summer as a camp counselor, and let me tell you the skills I needed to excel at that job will translate wonderfully to veterinary medicine. Managing 30+ 5-13 year olds for 8 hours a day is no joke. Yes, I didn’t get to practice suturing, administer fluids, or assist in a neuter, but I learned communication, time-management, and stress-management. These “soft-skills” are not easily taught in a lecture hall, and they are universal- you DO NOT need a veterinary experience to learn and practice these things. And what if you spent your summer hanging with your family/friends reading books and watching TV? THERE ARE SO MANY SKILLS YOU PRACTICED RIGHT THERE MY FRIEND! Mental health awareness, analytical/processing skills, and cultural awareness are all honed by the activities I just listed above. Being able to relax, a foreign word to vet students, is more important than any surgical skill you can practice (fight me on that if you want), and being able to understand and analyze what you read (whether it’s a medical journal or the latest teen sci-fi romance) is a valuable skill for a profession that thrives on evidence-based medicine. Watching TV seems mindless, but we subconsciously learn cultural standards, methods of communication, and arm ourselves with wicked water-cooler small talk all by marathoning old episodes of “New Girl” on Netflix. So to my friends who have wonderful veterinary experiences lined up, I am so proud and happy for you and can’t wait to live vicariously through your stories and photos this summer. But to the rest of you out there not sure what you want to do this summer, or know you won’t be doing vet work, I’d like to say: Kick ass! You do you, and I can’t wait to see you build confidence and self-love through your “non-traditional” experiences.