A Letter to My First-Year Self ft. Joey Chan
September 26, 2020
Dear first-year me,
You were told that “university is going to be the best years of your life,” a time for self-discovery and gaining independence, but what you weren’t told is that at some point a global pandemic would drastically change the way you do everything, including school. You’ll find yourself having to adapt to studying from home among other challenges that remote learning presents. It’ll be the most unexpected thing to happen to you during university (and probably in your lifetime), but be open to new experiences that could surely make these next few years a time to remember!
Entering a lecture with over 500 students, you might feel like a small fish in a big pond, but keep in mind that it’ll be a shared feeling. You’re not the only one navigating the waters of university, like trying to remember the name of every person you’ve met, learning to manage your course load and extracurricular activities, and figuring out how to listen in lecture without zoning out. While daunting at first, you’ll come to recognize that it’s all part of the experience and things will get easier with time. It’s completely valid to feel anxious, overwhelmed, or isolated, but do your best not to let that stop you from appreciating all that first year has to offer. You’ll discover that UofG can be pretty awesome, even in a virtual era. Take advantage of the many resources available to you to help you succeed academically like Supported Learning Groups and Writing Services, as well as connect with other peers in student clubs and associations.
At some point in your first year, you’ll decide that you want to be a vet but be discouraged by the sheer number of people who realized the same aspiration earlier on. You’ll recall the majority of hands go up during University InRoads when asked about who has plans to go to vet school, and you’ll worry about having little to no work or animal experience up until that point. In the middle of your fears and doubts, remember that everyone’s journey is different and there’s no set path to the same destination. Find the courage to pursue your dreams, focus on your own journey – not anyone else’s – and surround yourself with supportive people.
Eventually, you’ll seek valuable experience with animals and realize that there’s a multitude of opportunities to get involved. Whether it’s socializing cats and dogs at a humane society, caring for reptiles and amphibians at an exotics facility, or conducting poultry cognition research in UofG’s Department of Animal Biosciences, you’re going to come across some incredible learning opportunities. The possibilities are endless, and there’s something for everyone – you simply need to keep an eye out and seize them.
Working with animals is essential in pursuing the vet profession, but don’t overlook extracurriculars that have zero animal contact or seem unrelated to animals. These will also help you develop the interpersonal skills you need to be a successful professional in the future. To name a few, join an executive team, volunteer in the community, or become a notetaker for Student Accessibility Services. The key is to do what interests you and broaden your perspective.
When searching for vet experience, you’ll send cold emails to multiple clinics and end up with two, maybe three, replies with one of them turning you down. It’s tough to get your foot in the door, and some days you might even feel crushed. In those moments, consider that it’s not necessarily that you’re not the right fit, but rather that it’s not the right time. Regardless, persevere and you’ll see doors open where you never thought they would. Don’t underestimate the power of passion; people can sense it in the way you show your genuine eagerness to learn, desire to take initiative, and determination to succeed, and you’ll be surprised by how far it can take you.
As you work towards building your OVC app, make sure to become familiar with the process ahead of time. Start early – check prerequisite courses, log your hours, prepare for the interview – and you’ll thank yourself for it later. If you ever have questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to upper years or vet students – people are more willing to provide guidance than you’d think. They’ve been in your shoes before and understand how stressful the process can be, so trust that they’d be more than happy to show you the ropes! It would also be beneficial to connect with other current pre-vets to exchange insight and encouragement with. This is especially helpful when you’re overreacting about a test mark you got back or stressing out about a typo you made on your app. You might hit it off with them and find yourself roommates for the coming years and friends for a lifetime.
The years are going to fly by and before you know it, you’ll be at the end of your undergrad adventure, waiting to start the next chapter of your life. Enjoy the journey; don’t wait for life to happen only after you get into vet school. You don’t want your life to be on pause, because there’s already so much to be thankful for right now. Becoming a vet is one thing, but remember that you’re more than your career. You are a daughter, a sister and a friend, as well as someone who likes to explore the outdoors, watch feel-good movies, and care for way too many plants. Spend quality time with loved ones, stay in touch with your hobbies outside of vet med, and don’t lose sight of where your identity lies.
Next thing you know, you’ll be days away from starting school at OVC! Things will be different with COVID and most course delivery being online. You’ll feel similar to how you do now as an incoming frosh: nervous, but grateful and excited. You’re going to figure out how to study best given the circumstances and realize that it is and always has been a learning curve. What works for someone else may not work for you, and what works for you now may not work for you a year later. You might try out new strategies or revisit ones you’ve used before, but you’ll probably stick to general rules of thumb, like using flowcharts and diagrams, explaining the material to others, and doing practice tests. You’ll get the hang of things eventually but in the meantime, don’t stress too much. You got this!
Joey Chan, BScH., DVM Candidate
Ontario Veterinary College Class of 2024