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Alexa Selwyn

Alexa Selwyn

Vet School student,

University of Bristol

'A passion for science' and 'thirst for continually evolving knowledge' - the cheesy cliches resonated around my personal statement. What a fantastic system to gain a place at 'Vet School': by the frantic culmination of years of your life into a couple of paragraphs. Each word slaved over in the desperate attempt to persuade the invisible reader that I, with my straight A's, months of work experience and numerous extra-curricular activities, should be chosen for an interview over someone else with identical accomplishments.

What mystical, magical power have James Herriot and Steve Leonard wielded over so many of the nation's youth, that we are willing to put our fragile yet defiant dreams through such a fairground lucky-dip?! Was it the promise of an easy, stress-free University life? The assurance of a healthy, thriving large animal industry? Perhaps it was the portrayal of short office hours, lucrative salaries and appreciative, satisfied clients? Yet I, along with so many others, voluntarily spent my holidays milking cows, scrubbing cages and visiting an abattoir. What madness drove me to this? Was it really a 'passion for science' and 'thirst for continually evolving knowledge'? Whilst these things certainly played a part, it is something deeper that has driven me with such determination to study veterinary science: an innate desire to become a vet, and the knowledge that I could never truly be satisfied in any other vocation (however tempting the green pastures of an art degree seemed when the track I trod roughened and another rejection fell through the letterbox).

Months after every other course seemed to have filled their places, two long-awaited and dreamed-of letters landed in my lap, requesting interviews at Bristol and Glasgow. On the same day. Eventually, after a begging 'phone conversation, Glasgow graciously postponed my 'moment of truth' all the way to the morning following Bristol's afternoon interview. Half a day to travel across the country - no problem!

The weeks that followed were spent ploughing through the 'Farmers' Weekly' and 'The Veterinary Times', learning vaccinations, understanding the arguments for and against hunting with hounds, with coursework and revision slotted in here and there, of course (luckily, no one had shown me the definition of 'free time' by then!).

Sitting in the canteen at Langford, awaiting my allotted interview time, (the Foot and Mouth outbreak ironically having been discovered the day before at the abattoir I had visited), a nervous buzz filled the air. Did I say nervous? I mean petrified! Laughter was permeated with hysteric undertones. Some people thumbed through pages of notes. Others discussed the three other interviews they had already had. Meanwhile, a pretty girl was explaining how she had been playing the flute whilst being in goal for a county hockey match, having written her Further Maths coursework in half-time! Everyone was generally friendly and smiling, but every few seconds a realisation infiltrated my mind: the majority of these people would not be offered a place.

My name was finally called, and I entered the room. The two interviewers sat at the table, rolling my future over the surface and spinning it like a coin. Far from being nervous however, I felt strangely happy. At last, I had a chance to persuade real people who mattered why I could become a vet, and how motivated I was towards this goal. The interview sped by, with a positive atmosphere and constant help if I was unsure of any questions. Not quite the nightmares of being given a Second Year anatomy paper, and expected to finish it in 10 minutes!

Just a couple of weeks later I received a gold-trimmed acceptance letter from Bristol. The elation of the successful culmination of so much work, stress, and dreaming could never be compressed into printed letters and words. Naturally, there were A-levels still to sit, but the summer seemed quickly over and my life packed up for the move to the West Country.

Is the work as relentless as is widely believed? Of course not. Not until after 'Freshers' Fortnight', anyway! My expectations were mainly based on the information that had flowed onto the doormat at home over summer - warnings about work, even stronger warnings about the infamous (and highly top secret) vet Fresheers' 'treasure hunt', and the repeated cliche that 'whilst vets work the hardest, they also play the hardest'. The most overwhelming initial impression, however, was the friendly atmosphere throughout all the years. Not just in the Second Year students' blatant attempts to pull various 'freshers' at the vet socials (an early introduction to the notorious 'saliva tree'), but also in everyone's enthusiasm include you and talk to you.

The amount of work has increased quite gradually, although the friendly aid of Christmas exams helped the realisation of how much we had actually covered. From there, the sheer quantity of information has scaled unforgivingly ready for summer exams, only a few weeks after an Easter 'holiday' crammed with lambing experience. Of course, moan about theamount of work we have now, and all the Second Year students start laughing somewhat hysterically. Which can be a little concerning.

So far, the year has flown by with all the speed of an escaped lamb determined not to be caught (trust me, this Easter has given me plenty of experience of that!). However, qualification still seems a distant speck on a hilly horizon. Large animal work insanely appeals to me the most - maybe I'm slightly turned away form the 'small furries' by the shorter hours and better stability and pay involved. However, with the current downward spiraling of many sectors of the livestock industry, it is hard to imagine enough farm work in this country for all of us who aspire towards it. There is the potential of work abroad, but that seems a drastic decision at this stage. Perhaps I should concentrate on my end-of-year exams first.


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