Life as a Vet Student: Why It’s All Worth It – With Youtuber Jess Cliffe

Life as vet student

People often ask me if I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian. 

It seems to be one of those careers people assume comes to fruition as a result of a childhood dream. And I’ll admit, as a child I was absolutely obsessed with animals. I vividly remember staying awake at night and wishing upon a star that a pony would appear in my backyard. I also think I have an old school book where I wrote that I wanted to be a ‘zookeeper’ when I grew up. My various pets used to get sick of my man-handling. 

But no, veterinary medicine wasn’t always on the cards for me.

I considered many things – human medicine, law, engineering, the list goes on . . . I kind of stumbled upon the degree by accident in the process of trying to make up my mind. So I thought I would give it a go, to see if I could actually get accepted into vet school. Thankfully, they let me in (and haven’t kicked me out, yet). 

When entering vet school I thought I had a relatively good idea of what may lie ahead in my next five years of university. I knew it would be hard work, overdosing on caffeine, late-night library trips, and always instantly forgetting everything I’ve ever learned when I get called on to answer a question in a clinic. What I didn’t expect is everything else that would come with the high cortisol levels coursing through my veins. 

Because of vet school, I’ve had so many incredible opportunities. 

I’ve posed naked in a calendar sold across the country. 

I’ve white-water rafted down rapids in some of the most picturesque scenery in New Zealand.

I’ve learned the best way to cure a hangover so you can make it to your 8 am class. 

I’ve been bullied and tormented by blue and gold macaws.

I’ve started a social media platform that allows me to connect with peers around the world. 

I’ve fallen in and out of love, made friendships that will last me a lifetime, and become someone I’m proud of being. 

During my life as a vet student, I’ve found a community, a passion, and most importantly – a profession I’m excited to be a part of. 

While studying, I’ve picked up something else to fill in my days – filming and editing YouTube videos. Because, you know, the endless extra textbook chapters to read weren’t quite enough for me. 

I love vet school – if you hadn’t gathered that yet – and I wanted to find a way to share this love with others. My goal with my YouTube channel was to encourage more people to get into the field of veterinary medicine, as there seems to be a global shortage of veterinarians. It also seems to have a bad reputation at the moment, possibly due to the emotional burden of the job, the long hours, and variable salaries. Through YouTube, I want to change this bad reputation, and document the fun I’m having alongside my degree. 

Of course, I’ve gained valuable veterinary skills too. I don’t want my university to think they’ve failed me. Surgery, medicine, pathology, behavior, pharmacology (just to name a few) are all things I absolutely adore and can’t wait to practice. I’ve discovered a particular interest in exotic, wildlife, and conservation medicine. Recently, we’ve begun doing live surgeries, and it’s starting to really make me feel like a vet. Just don’t ask me too many anatomy questions. I’m yet to have memorized Halstead’s principles too (don’t tell my lecturers). 

My whole degree I’ve been trying to find ways to achieve a balanced lifestyle to set me up for the rest of my life – so that I don’t end up hating my eventual job after university. Now that I’m in my fourth year I think I’ve finally found a way of doing so. I think many of us get caught up in measuring our success in productivity, grades, or work ethic, and it helps to remember that my degree is just that, a degree.

Lately, I’ve been trying to measure my success by the opportunities I’ve taken, the satisfaction I feel at the end of the day, and the number of laughs that I have.

And with that, here’s my advice to future vet students…

Find A Routine That You Love- But Don’t Restrict Yourself By It

This year, after 3 years of struggling to find a routine I like and can stick to at university, I’ve discovered that I’m a morning person. I start my day at 6 am, and I go to bed as early as I can, and if you’d told me that 6 months ago I would’ve laughed at you. 

This way, I get up, get some work done, start my day peacefully and quietly, which sets me up for the day ahead and I feel fantastic. However, there have been countless occasions where I’ve stayed up too late having meaningful conversations with my flatmates, going to a pub quiz, or late-night trips to the supermarket because the craving for dessert is just too much. I want to look back on my time at university and reflect on the fun spontaneous things I did.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others 

In a degree such as veterinary medicine, you’re coming into a pool of people who are used to being on the right side of the bell curve. This means unless you’re superhuman, you won’t outperform your peers. Everyone learns differently, studies differently, organizes differently and plans differently. Find like-minded people that you are compatible with, make amazing friendships, but don’t compare yourself to them.

Take Opportunities 

Anything that sparks joy, give it a go. Life is too short to miss out on things that spark your interest. Whether this is within your classes, putting your hand up to ask a question, participating as a volunteer in labs, or coming up with ideas on group assignments. Extra-curricular opportunities in hobbies, sports or other endeavors too. Take them, and worry about the logistics later. 

Most importantly, work hard, study consistently and put in the effort. Feel satisfaction in your work, and use that as your motivation to be in vet school. 

I haven’t always wanted to be a veterinarian, but now it’s all I want to do.

For more on life as a vet student, check out Dr. Moriah’s guest blog on whether being a vet is worth it here.

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