International School Feature: A Student Veterinarian's Experience at Ross University
January 13, 2020
Note: This blog post is the first in a series of reflections by Canadian students studying at international schools. In the future, we hope to feature more individuals from international institutes and provide a platform for their ideas and thoughts to be expressed.
This piece is not in affiliation with Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and is based solely on the writer’s opinion. Individuals who wish to seek information about any school are encouraged to do their own research and contact the official representatives of the institution for further details.
For many of you reading this, I’m sure that the stress and pressure of applying to vet school is a little (or very) overwhelming. Applying to Canadian vet schools is competitive and everyone shares at least a little bit of fear of being rejected. However, know that you have more than one option for vet school and that if being a vet is really your dream, there are multiple ways to make it happen.
A Bit About Me
I received my BScH in Biological Science from the University of Guelph in 2017 and started the DVM program at Ross University in January of 2019. I was introduced to Ross through an alumnus co-worker and, ever since then, I have heard nothing but amazing things about Rossie grads.
Deciding if Ross is for you really depends on whether or not you are willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Ross is located on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and it is basically summer year-round (sunny and 25-30C +/- extra humidity in the summer). If you are someone like me who hates winter, this is definitely a plus. This makes large animal work in February much more enjoyable, and I love being able to take study breaks outdoors without freezing. The island is also small and has a small-town feel. Wherever you go you will be sure to see one of your classmates or professors. As a result, you get to know everyone and you form your own “island family”; this serves as a very important support system when being away from your family and friends from home.
While living on a Caribbean island can definitely help you to de-stress, it simultaneously brings its own challenges. There are noticeable cultural differences between St. Kitts and Canada, and it is rare for a day to go by without experiencing any “island quirks.” Some days you won’t have internet, you’ll be late to class because your island car won’t start, or you’ll get struck driving behind a monkey riding a donkey (true story). These new experiences can add to the stress of vet school, but they also force you to be flexible. Vet students are notoriously “type A” personalities (myself included). However, I feel that forcing yourself to be more adaptable and learning to accept “plan B” when the perfect scenario isn’t an option, is a very valuable skill for your future as a veterinarian.
Academically, Ross is a great school and the quality of education you receive there is comparable to other vet schools. It is AVMA accredited, which means you are able to practice in North America just as easily as you would if you had graduated from a Canadian school.
Ross has an accelerated veterinary program, which was one of the aspects that drew me towards this school. This means that in lieu of summers off, you earn your degree in just over 3 years. I liked the idea of being able to get into clinical practice earlier and begin paying off my student loans.
At Ross, you complete your first 7 semesters on the island. Your final clinical year is spent at your choice of one of about 20 affiliate schools, similar to how phase 4 would be at the OVC. The professors at Ross are excellent and come from all over the world, thus offering a variety of worldviews. Professors at Ross are not required to do research, so most professors are there because they love to teach and are invested in their students’ success. Ross offers fairly new classrooms with better technology than I had in undergrad. You also receive a personal iPad containing all of your textbooks (so you don’t need to bring heavy textbooks home).
Ross also offers an additional opportunity in your 7th semester in which you are given your own patients and obtain additional surgical experience before entering your clinical year. One common complaint I hear from newly graduated veterinarians is the lack of surgical training they receive in school, and this unique opportunity made Ross stand out to me when I was applying.
The island offers unique experiences for you that are rarely offered at other vet schools. There are beaches where you can snorkel or scuba dive, a volcano you can hike, and sugar plantations for you to explore. While there are many other experiences, here are 3 of my favourites:
I am one of the executive officers for VIDA, a club that provides pro-bono veterinary care for pets of the St. Kitts community. This offers students great hands-on experience (working directly with a veterinarian) to an extent that most Canadian organizations cannot offer. I was also a member of the Small Ruminant Club (AASRP) in first semester, which similarly offered great practical experience with sheep and goats, as well as reproductive ultrasonography experience. The practical experiences that campus clubs offer to students are helpful and complement the foundational knowledge learned in the classroom.
I am currently a research volunteer for one of the veterinarians on campus and the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network. Through this program, I have been able to go on turtle night patrols, collect data on nesting turtles laying eggs, release hatchling sea turtles back into the sea, and assist with a turtle in the Ross Vet Clinic during a debridement and bandage change procedure with one of our surgeons.
Over one of our two-week semester breaks, I was hired by the university as a part of the Animal Care Team. Through this opportunity, I got great practical experience caring for our teaching dog colony, our cattle herd, sheep herd, horses, birds, turtles, tortoises, and our many campus donkeys.