Why RVC is the Place to Be
March 20, 2023
Hi, everyone! My name is Cassidy Van Den Diepstraten, and I am a first-year student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, class of 2021. If you have ever considered applying to international veterinary schools, this post is for you!
I grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario surrounded by wildlife, where I became drawn to animals at a very young age. I gravitated towards documentaries with David Attenborough, as well as fellow Canadian David Suzuki, and wanted to be like them when I grew up and explore the world of animals. My initial passion for conservation and research led to my interest in veterinary medicine.
While at U of G, I joined the Future Vets Club, which allowed me to attend seminars from international veterinary schools and build connections with their students and staff. Listening to how eager and passionate students were about their respective schools made me want to investigate some of these programs further. While applying to veterinary school for the 2021 application cycle, I decided to apply to several international veterinary schools. I felt that I would regret not applying, and besides, what did I have to lose? Little did I know what an impact that decision would have on my life. Those long hours of reading over applications, prepping for interviews, and studying finally paid off; I was accepted! After spending several long days making pros and cons lists, and researching programs and cities, I finally decided on the best fit for me: RVC.
How did you apply?
I found that the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) was the easiest and most cost-effective way to apply to veterinary schools in the UK. During the application cycle, RVC was extremely responsive to my many, many questions regarding prerequisite courses, visa information, and animal experience (they would get back to me in 1-3 days max!). After about 1-2 months of completing my application, RVC invited me for an interview. With the interview 3 weeks away, I prepped by reading books by Bernard Rollin, online posts about vet school interviews, and current issues about animal health and welfare. The interview was conducted in an online MMI format, with 6 stations all assessing different areas. After the interview, it took about 2 months to hear back, and when I read the words “Congratulations Cassidy…;” I was thrilled! From this point forward, RVC sent emails regarding Open Houses, in person offer holder events, and online Q&A sessions, all of which helped influence my decision.
- RVC has been voted the #1 veterinary school for the past four years in the QS World University Rankings.
- It has worldwide full accreditation from RCVS, AVBC and AVMA, as well as conditional accreditation from EAEVE – meaning graduates can practice in the UK, Europe, North America, some Asian and African countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.
- The RVC offers a 4-year program for students with undergraduate degrees – known as the Graduate Accelerated Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine course (a.k.a. GAB).
- London is a diverse city to live in, and was ranked #1 by the World’s Best Cities for 2023.
- Location; you can easily travel to other countries to enhance your vet studies or for going on holidays.
Other factors: It was important to me that the veterinary school I chose had good communication with its applicants and fostered a positive learning environment. When choosing a school, I knew I was ready to start this new chapter and wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I was looking for a place that could not only support me in my studies, but where I could grow as an individual as well.
What was the first term like?
After many years of dreaming of being in vet school, the first term was riveting. In my classes, we have lectures, online content, lab work, animal handling, and dissections that we started in week one. There is plenty of time to get hands-on experience with animals and work in groups with classmates. RVC practices a “spiral curriculum,” where key concepts are presented repeatedly to you as you progress through the course, deepening levels of complexity and in different contexts.
I am lucky to have such a great support system within my campus community, and back in Canada that has allowed me to thrive thus far. Breaks between terms have been an excellent way to go home, visit with family and stock up on all the foods I’ve missed. I have also scheduled animal handling experiences and travelling abroad during some of these breaks to experience new cultures and learn different techniques in veterinary medicine. So far, I have been able to travel to Ireland, France, and Latvia, with travel plans for Scotland and Wales in the coming year.
As for campus life, one of the most difficult decisions was to decide which clubs to join. They have many academically inclined clubs to enhance your skills and understanding, as well as sports and extracurriculars. While in your first few years at RVC, we have time on Wednesday afternoons dedicated to club activities to help prioritize the health and wellbeing of students. Some of the clubs I’ve personally joined are the zoological society, women’s football, the anatomy club, and the surgical club. For more information on the clubs and resources RVC offers see this link: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/study/support-for-students/getting-support/advice-centre/health-and-wellbeing
Life in London
From a young age, I knew I loved travelling and wanted to see the world. Since I'm from a small town, making the move to a country I had never visited before was a little nerve wracking! Before I even accepted my place at RVC, they had sent me information packages about life in London. This kept me very informed on what to expect concerning rent, food, socials, and transport. Something that eased my transition was that I was able to chat with current RVC students from Canada and the US about how they found living in the UK. Once in London, I found it to be extremely easy to get around the city using the tube. My favourite method of transport, however, is walking. It’s one of the best ways to see the city and to find its hidden gems!
RVC has two campuses: one is in Camden, and the other is Hawkshead – a short train ride away. I am currently based at the Camden campus which has been a very welcoming environment with an extensive anatomy museum, a dissection room, and a first opinion animal hospital. The Camden campus is in a great location, with Camden Market, Kings Cross, the London Zoo, and Regent’s Park being a short walk away. The Hawkshead campus is in Potters Bar and is where most students spend their upper years. It has the Queen Mother Hospital for small animal referrals, Equine Hospital and Ambulatory, and Boltons Park Farm.
In the UK, veterinary students must complete extramural studies (EMS) where students can gain experience working with a variety of animals in order to feel more confident when working with them in practice. The first year of animal handling experience (AHEMS) is focused on the care and management of animals, whereas the clinical years (ClinEMS) is off-campus practical experience. ClinEMS are usually conducted at first opinion small animal, equine, farm animal, and mixed practices, but can be with other specialties. EMS can be completed in the summer, or over Christmas and Easter breaks, with students having the opportunity to complete some experiences internationally. For more information about EMS see: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/bachelor-of-veterinary-medicine/ahems-and-ems-placements
I knew I would make friends in vet school, but I can honestly say I have met some of the most amazing people and lifelong friends. RVC has a large international community, with students just in my class alone being from across Canada, the US, France, the UK, China, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and many more! We’ve been able to make London our home away from home with each other’s support. There’s something about knowing everyone else is going through the same experiences, whether it be the feeling of being homesick, getting used to a new city, or the excitement of being in veterinary school and we have been able to build our connections and community.
If you are interested in RVC, I highly recommend you consider applying! There are so many opportunities that I have had these past few months that have allowed me to grow as a future veterinarian and as an individual. The path to vet school is not linear, so be open to all opportunities, you never know where they may lead. To everyone applying to veterinary school, I wish you all the best!
To find out more about the RVC, check out their website at: http://www.rvc.ac.uk/
To learn more about specific programs to find which one might be best for you:
By Cassidy Van Den Diepstraten, Student Veterinarian, Royal Veterinary College