by Harris Fitzgerel
Not Just a Vet Student. When I was asked over the summer how my first year of vet school was, my first answer was always “I love it.” This was often met with blank stares expressing confusion and shock. This was not the answer that most people expected when posing this question. They expected me to say “it’s hard,” or “it’s exhausting,” or “I feel like I have no life.” Now the first two responses are nothing shy of the absolute truth, however the third statement is one with which I have issues because I never felt that was true for myself. However, many people felt otherwise during their first (and subsequent) years. Why was this?
During orientation, we were told that it’s important to try to balance work and life. This is obviously true, but even more evident is how this thought falls to the wayside once classes actually start. People begin to think that they have to study everything all of the time in order to do well, whatever well means to them; and, the Internet does not seem to help, with countless searches of ‘how to stay sane in vet school” often implying it’s difficult, hard, and even impossible. To me, it seems easy to say “I’ll wait until the weekend to relax,” and then it becomes “I’ll wait until this exam is over;” and, before you know it, you may say something along the lines of “I just have to make it until break and then I can be a real person again” (yes, that is a direct quotation I have heard before). You may read this and think it’s easy to avoid doing that or wonder how someone would get to that stage? The answer is simple: practice builds habit.
Sure, being in veterinary school we have learned this saying in an academic sense. Practicing those physics problems sure wasn’t fun, but it made for an easier time solving those problems on the tests. Or drawing all of those organic molecules on every surface possible may have driven your friends insane, but it definitely helped you out on that orgo final. However, it’s so simple to see that although vet students may be great at applying that saying to their academic life, they neglect applying it to their personal lives.
What do I mean by this? For example, I enjoy going to the gym and try to go five days a week, so I consider this one of my hobbies (another being dancing, whether that’s in a hip hop class like the one I took during first year once a week, or with friends during a night out on the town). There have been many times during the week leading up to a particularly difficult test, like anatomy, where I begin to think “this week, I’ll only go four times, it’ll be ok.” However, what happens when we start to practice this? It gets easier and easier to go “this week seems hard, I’ll push down my days at the gym this week to three…” and so on and so forth. This is because practice builds habit.
I’m lucky to have realized this so that instead of setting the practice of taking away from my hobby, I practiced maintaining my hobby. What I’m trying to say is that I still go to the gym five days a week more or less no matter what is going on academically. If practice builds habit, then this is building the habit of setting boundaries for myself so that I can be a workout guru (this sounded better than gym rat, but they’re all the same), I can be a (very) amateur dancer (shoutout to that hip-hop class again!). Simply put, I can be more than just a vet student.
So as the new academic year begins to unfold, don’t lose sight of who you are because you think you have to study more. With that mindset, you’ll always realize there’s more to study, and quickly vet school will turn from an amazing opportunity to explore your passions in the field, to just a resentful four years you can’t wait to escape; and, with the habit of constantly pushing yourself without the practice of maintaining that self love of continuing your hobbies, there’s no doubt that will carry over into your life as a practicing DVM. You may be a vet student, but remember that you are not just a vet student.
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