My name is Shelby and I am a first year veterinary student at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.
I lived most of my life in Roswell, a suburb north of Atlanta, Georgia. I developed a love for animals at a very young age (as most children do) and knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. That all changed the summer before my senior year of high school when my father suddenly passed away. He was my best friend and parent – losing him will forever be one of the most tragic experiences of my life. I threw myself into my academics and it paid off because I was accepted into the Honor’s College at the University of Georgia. At the same time, the recession in the United States was in full swing (I graduated high school in 2009). Many college graduates were unable to work and everyone was scared about the future of the economy. The combination of the sudden instability in my personal life plus the instability of the country led me to enter UGA as a Biology major with Pre-Med emphasis. At 17 years old, all I wanted was for people to think I was strong and it worked for a time…
I did very well my first year of college, which was a good thing because I started to burn out almost immediately. Almost every time I shadowed a physician, I walked away feeling discouraged. It seemed like no one enjoyed their job (obviously this is not true and can be said of any profession). I battled through anxiety, periods of time when I couldn’t get out of bed, drinking and partying, the stress of performing (or not performing) in school. Eventually, I was 20 pounds overweight and sobbing to my mom about how miserable I was. That was the first time I thought about dropping out of school.
I walked around in a haze, never fully present or happy. Every night I would pray for happiness, anything to make the pain go away. One day, my best friend turned to me and said “Don’t you realize why you are so miserable? Look at the people you surround yourself with.” I took a good, hard look around me and that is when I realized that I had the power to change everything.
So I began. Baby step by baby step, I started making changes. I started going to yoga therapy where I sat on the floor of a yoga studio with a therapist, drank tea, and learned how to meditate. I eliminated negative people from my life. I made the decision to not take the MCAT. I started to write in a journal. And it kept getting better from there. I realized that changing your mindset is not in the big decisions, but in the small choices you make every single day. Eventually, it was time to graduate from college and I had no plans or career goals. I sat down at my desk and started to write a Bucket List. Number one on that list was to be fluent in French so I applied to au pair in the South of France and spent an incredible year in Europe. I continued to work on myself (there is nothing like a little culture shock to kick you into high gear!) and met the love of my life in Paris. I kept my heart open to new opportunities and one year after I had graduated from college, I found myself Skype interviewing from my boyfriend’s (now fiance’s) living room in Rio de Janeiro for a job in Santa Barbara, California. Did I mention that this was number two on my bucket list? Specifically, my number two life goal was to live in Santa Barbara. I mean, how crazy is that?
Needless to say, I was offered the job. So I packed up and moved my life across the country after only being back in the United States for 10 days. Living in California was incredible. I would wake up in the morning and run to the beach, walk down State Street and listen to all of the tourists, go hiking every weekend, and wear shorts in December. However, like everything in life, my time there was not without its challenges. My biggest takeaway from living in California was that it gave me the exposure to wildlife that I needed to push me back towards veterinary medicine. When my boyfriend finally joined me in California in April of 2015, we made the decision to move back to Georgia so I could gain animal experience and apply to veterinary school. What ended up as a “four year gap year” were some of the greatest years of my life. I learned so much about myself and built a foundation to help me cope with stress and anxiety in a healthy way. I developed a better relationship with my body and the people around me. I needed the time away to clear my head so I could be sure that I was making the right career decision for me.
After I moved home, I worked hard on gaining veterinary experience (at one point, I was working 7 days per week). In the two years before starting school, I worked full time as a Veterinary Assistant at a small animal clinic, lived in Belize for two months working in wildlife rehabilitation, volunteered and rehabilitated native Georgia wildlife, interned at Zoo Atlanta in the Program Animals Department and much more. I developed incredible mentor relationships that I carry with me today.
Through this blog, I hope to encourage each and every one of you that you have the ability to manifest your reality. Whether or not you are (or want to be) in the veterinary field, I believe that we all have the power to live our dreams. I wish for this to be a community – a place for people to come together to share experiences and guidance, challenges and triumphs.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Feel free to reach out at email@example.com