Former Mearns Castle High School Pupil, Elizabeth Groom, Has A Tail Or Two To Tell…

Hi guys, I’m Elizabeth Groom and scarily now half-way through Vet School at Glasgow Uni. Hopefully this article will give a bit of insight and help all the budding potential vets out there! I have wanted to study Veterinary since I was 7 years old when my mum had just brought the most gorgeous puppy called George into the family.

At high school I began work experience at farms and veterinary practices, and I developed a much more realistic expectation of the profession. Of course, cuddling animals is great. But treating animals from their first puppy vaccinations to then in a lot of cases giving them a dignified ending felt like a much more rewarding career path. There are always problems that need to be solved. From Thumper the rabbit that has stopped eating to a prize racehorse that has stopped galloping midway through a race, veterinary is all about identifying the problem and finding a solution. If you are a solution-orientated person who loves animals then this might be for you!

How to get in

Throughout high school, I did quite a lot of work experience. This is a requirement for getting in.
My first two weeks was at a sheep farm during lambing season when I was 13 years old. It was the first time I was exposed to some of the harsh realities of farming and the difficult decisions that must be made. But it was also incredibly rewarding, especially the first time I assisted a ewe in giving birth. There is no greater sight than a newborn lamb within 10 minutes of being born standing and getting milk from its mother. I spent every Easter for 6 years at this same sheep farm, worked in a dog shop on Saturdays for 4 years, spent 2 weeks every summer at a vet practice, did work experience at a vets every Wednesday night for the last two years of school, spent Sunday mornings at a stables and some Christmas holidays at a dairy farm.

Getting into vet school is a big commitment, you need to do a lot of work experience whilst being a straight-A student and having hobbies/interests outside of wanting to be a vet. It takes a certain type of enthusiasm to get up at crazy o’clock during school holidays whilst all of your pals are having a long lie! Taking biology and chemistry to advanced higher is an essential requirement.

What to expect from the course

A vet once told me whilst I was waiting on my sixth-year exam results that the hardest part of vet school was getting in. This is FAKE NEWS!
I found the first year of Veterinary extremely difficult. Veterinary Medicine is an entirely different ball game and it took me the whole of the first year to appreciate just how big a jump it was from High School to University. The volume of information is coming at you at a mile a minute.
Nearly everything you learn at vet school is the knowledge you could need for the rest of your life which can be daunting at times! The course is split up into three phases. The first phase is the foundation phase which is the first two years. The foundation phase is about gaining an understanding of anatomy and the main physiological processes that underpin all the main body systems such as digestion, reproduction, respiration, etc. Third and Fourth year is the Clinical Phase. These two years are spent learning and understanding the major disease processes, pharmacology of the essential drugs used in veterinary and essentially how to treat a plethora of conditions. The final year is the professional phase where you are on rotations for the whole year gaining practical experience in a variety of veterinary disciplines.

Campus life

The Veterinary School at Glasgow is away from the main University campus which is the case for most (if not all) vet schools in the UK.
We spend much more time together than other university courses as we have lectures most mornings and practicals most afternoons so we all sit and have lunch together and socialise quite a bit outside of uni. It means the vet school is one massive family which is lovely. There are some key events in the social calendar which means you get to know everyone from different year groups as well.

However, you can sometimes feel like you are not part of the main university when you spend all your time at the vet school. To avoid feeling isolated from the main campus I am part of Glasgow University Cheerleaders. Joining a society is a great way to meet people in other courses and make friends outside your course. I am also part of Glasgow and Strathclyde University Officers Training Corps which is an army reserve unit that takes you through the basic army reserve training.
The GSUOTC involves every uni in Glasgow so it is a great way to meet people from other unis. There are also incredible opportunities for adventurous training. I have spent a week skiing in France and five nights sailing on a tall ship around the west coast of Scotland.
With Cheerleading and OTC there is a lot of socials which is good to get a break from all the vet school chat!

What I wish I’d known

I live at home so adjusting to the commute in the morning was a big change for me.
In my first year I couldn’t drive so I had to get two trains and then walk which took me about 1hr 45 minutes each way. If you are planning on living at home I would recommend learning how to drive if there aren’t great transport links.
Now that I can drive it takes me about 35 minutes which is much more manageable. I feel you definitely don’t get the full university experience when you live at home but for me, my dog is at home who I could not leave, and I am relatively close that I could not justify the cost.

If I had my time again I would have moved into halls in my first year then moved back for the remainder of the course just to get that experience. The biggest thing that I wish I’d known is it is impossible to know everything, so don’t beat yourself up about it just try to learn the main things and don’t get bogged down by all the details. I know lots of vets who wouldn’t think twice about looking at a book if they are unsure of something. You cannot know everything!

Time management is an essential part of uni but especially Veterinary, as you don’t have a teacher telling you what needs to be done. You can do as little or as much work as you desire so it is essential to discipline yourself to study and attend everything. Get involved with as much as you can just make sure you are managing your time correctly as ultimately passing exams is the number 1 priority. It is hard work, you have to be prepared to put in the hours, but it will be worth it in the end – or so I keep telling myself!

The future…

I am still unsure as to whether I want to be a small animal vet or farm animal vet. The ideal for me would be to do mixed practice which tends to be found in more rural areas and you are treating virtually every and any animal small or large. However this year I have started working at a small animal vet practice in the evenings and weekends as an animal nursing assistant which I am really loving and is drawing me much more towards small animal practice. I am excited to see what lies ahead but currently, my only focus is passing my third-year exams!
by Elizabeth Groom