Travel is Good for the Soul

School and Travel: Advice from two Vet Students

Many who follow me on Instagram (@traveling_dogtor), probably also follow my girl Kristi (@dogtorkristi). Kristi is a third year veterinary student at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and has become one of my closest confidants and friends over the past year. We started this blog post back in the summer, but both had our fair share of “life” happen in between. We finally finished and I am so excited to share our joint experiences with veterinary school and travel.

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What was your biggest fear starting veterinary school?

Shelby:

Before starting veterinary school, I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the material. I graduated from college in 2013, so I had not studied for anything in four years! I was really nervous about studying and taking exams again. During the first week of class, I remember talking to a friend and saying: “I don’t even know if I’m smart anymore!” I have always excelled academically, but I knew veterinary school would be a different challenge. In the end, I think this fear pushed me to focus and study in advance. I knew returning to school would be a challenge, so I focused on giving myself grace if I didn’t make the grade I “wanted”. It was hard at the beginning because many of my peers came straight from undergrad and were very grade-focused. My advice is to keep doing you and perform to the best of your ability. The great part about vet school is that once you are accepted, you don’t need to make A’s! All you need to do is pass. So give yourself a break and know that if you stay committed, you will reach your end-goal.

Kristi:

My absolute biggest fear was not being able to have a life. I would ALWAYS hear current vet students complain about how they can’t do anything other than studying. I voiced to an older vet student that I wanted to start a solid workout routine and the response I got was “Ha, good luck”. That really resonated with me and made me want to prove her wrong and you know what? I did. I was able to find a way to incorporate working out 4-5x a week alongside all my academic obligations. I’m still able to do this. It all comes down to what you prioritize and what’s important to you. Yes, we all consider vet school an important part of our lives otherwise we wouldn’t have gone through the blood, sweat, tears to get here, right? But ask yourself if getting straight A’s is important to you? Is traveling important to you? Is seeing family/friends regularly important to you? Really ask yourself what’s important and think about how you want to invest your time and energy. I prioritize my wellbeing (mental/physical) first always. If I have the choice to sleep or study, I always go with sleep. I always pick the option that will benefit my overall health the most.  

What has been your favorite class?  Your least favorite?

Shelby:

My absolute favorite class was small animal anatomy, although I never want to take it again! The formalin smell never leaves you. I really loved the professors and the material. It was amazing to learn all about the different muscles, nerves, and vessels in the dog. They are so similar to humans. I think this might change though because I just began my second semester of second-year and I absolutely love my classes. My least favorite class BY FAR was Animal Behavior. I took it last semester and made the lowest grade I have ever made in vet school – and it was supposed to be an easy A. I did not like the style of teaching and found that I just could not make myself study. Animal behavior is a very important concept for veterinary medicine, so I was really disappointed in the class format.

Kristi: 

I’m going to start with my least favorite class because it’s stuck in my brain. I really did not enjoy histology. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s the study of microscopic structures of tissues. It was so tedious and never clicked quite right in my brain! My favorite class up to this point would probably be hematology (the study of blood). The class was difficult but so interesting!

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What do you want to do after veterinary school?

Shelby:

After veterinary school, I have a few different goals. Part of me really wants to do an internship and residency. I am very interested in ophthalmology, but I am open-minded. I also think it would be amazing to own my own business or clinic with an opportunity to travel to consult for other veterinarians. There are so many options in veterinary medicine. The world is truly our oyster. This concept is something that I have really taken away from the program at UGA CVM. They do a great job at introducing us to different career opportunities. I could be a veterinarian and work in a human hospital! How crazy is that? Most importantly though, I want to continue to be happy. I would love to integrate yoga into my veterinary career somehow, but time will tell!

Kristi:

At this moment I have no definite plan. I am interested in so many things which I never thought was possible. I went into vet school thinking I wanted to be a neurologist and one day teach at a vet school. I soon realized that probably wasn’t the best path for me. I have a strong passion for education and would love to have a role that really enables me to teach others someday. I’m also very interested in public health and having a career where I can incorporate working globally. My school has a curriculum where we “track” what animals we want to work with and I have selected the mixed animal track (all animals). First-year Kristi barely worked with any large animals and now she’s picking a mixed animal track over the small animal track. Vet school can surprise you!!!

How did your love of traveling start?

Shelby:

I began traveling when I was very young. My dad worked as a sales representative for a pest control company and drove around the United States for his job. Oftentimes, he would take me with him and we would make a vacation out of it. I would sit next to him, talking about my life plans and directing him with an old-fashioned map. When I was fourteen years old, I got the opportunity to raise money to travel to Australia and New Zealand through a Student Ambassador program. After that trip, I was completely hooked! I took every opportunity presented to me to travel to new places. Along the way, I made great friends and now I often travel to visit them! I might not always go to a new destination, but I try to leave the United States once a year.  

Additionally, fluency in French is something that I worked so hard for, and something that gives me a great sense of self. I have been to Paris, France more than any other city in the world (besides where I have lived). Walking through Paris, I find myself every single time. No matter how I feel at the moment or where I am at mentally, I find an enormous sense of clarity through traveling. Seeing new cultures and speaking in a different language – these things help you realize the power of your mind! We are told in our culture that “these things are right”, but in other parts of the world these same things are wrong. I don’t know if that makes sense, but what I am trying to say is that traveling exercises your mind to be more open in your interactions with humans… and that is a truly beautiful thing.

Kristi:

My love of traveling started at a very early age. My mom is Japanese so I had many opportunities to travel back and forth to Japan to visit family. I had a couple of opportunities to travel abroad during high school to Italy, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic too! I believe that my exposure to traveling at such a young age ignited the travel bug inside me and hasn’t stopped since. My parents are super supportive and also love traveling so they’ve supported my passion to see the world. Now, I want to find a way to incorporate global travel with veterinary medicine (while also making money)!

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Where have you traveled to internationally?

Shelby:
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Mexico
  • Grand Cayman Islands
  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Peru
  • Brazil
  • England
  • The Netherlands
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • Italy
  • Belgium
Kristi:
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Ireland
  • England
  • The Netherlands
  • France
  • Ukraine
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Japan
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Jamaica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Mozambique
  • Swaziland
  • South Africa

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Have you been able to travel during vet school?

Shelby:

Yes, thankfully!  I was sitting in class and received a notification on my phone that flights to Paris had gone on sale. Spontaneously, I bought a ticket. I sent a Snapchat to some of my friends, and my classmate replied: “Wait, I am going with you!” Over winter break of my first-year, we traveled together to Paris, France and Bruges, Belgium. We had the best time, and it was so amazing to be able to experience my friend’s first trip to Paris.  

Now in second-year, I am still trying to figure it out! This past summer, I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri and New Orleans, Louisiana, both for the first time. This year, I intend to travel to Park City, Utah (another first) to go skiing with my friends who live in Colorado. As for my summer plans, I have the opportunity to extern at the Veterinary School in Paris. I still have to confirm some things, but I intend on traveling around Europe a bit if I go. We will see!

Kristi:

First Year- Two of my friends and I planned a 3 week Europe backpacking trip during our first summer. We went from London→ Paris→ Barcelona→ Amsterdam→ Dublin. It was not veterinary medicine related, it was solely for pleasure! My parents also moved to Japan for work during the second semester of my first year so I was able to visit Japan after my Europe trip.

Second-year- This was the year that was pretty packed with international travel surprisingly. I visited my parents in Japan during Christmas break. During the second semester, I used part of my spring break to visit my boyfriend in Taiwan where he was studying abroad for graduate school. The summer between my second and third year was spent in South Africa for 3 weeks on the VetX Wildlife Care & Capture trip (check out my blog post if you want more information on that trip!) and then flew to Japan again to visit family.

Third Year- I will be going back to visit my family in Japan over Christmas break since this will be the last year they are in Japan (bittersweet)!

Fourth Year- I am crossing my fingers that I get my off-campus block approved to go back to South Africa and Malawi.

How do you financially support traveling on top of the mounds of vet school debt?

Shelby:

I actually wrote a blog post about this: How do you travel so much?

Basically, travel is all about sacrifice. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to afford to travel? Are you putting it on a credit card? Are you willing to work until you save enough money to pay off your bill? Or not got out to eat in order to save money to travel? I have been very fortunate in my life to have had opportunities to travel. When I commit to traveling, I work until I have enough money, or plan over a year in advance by putting money away each month. Additionally, many veterinary schools offer scholarships to travel abroad. Check out my blog post above for more on how I am able to travel during veterinary school.

Kristi:

This will definitely be a future blog post on my end because there are an array of things I do to make my trips financially possible. But in general, I save any money I get as gifts for holidays/birthdays, I pick up pet sitting jobs offered at the vet school, work side jobs/part-time jobs, and applying for scholarships when the trip is school related!

I hope you all enjoyed the post and that it has answered some of your questions about what veterinary school is like and how both Kristi and I view travel.  As always, if you have any questions please reach out.

Much love,

Shelby & Kristi

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One thought on “School and Travel: Advice from two Vet Students

  1. Stacey Thomas says:

    Loved reading about both of your experiences! Definitely inspiring as well as informative for those of us wanting to follow a similar path. Thanks so much for sharing!

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