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It’s okay to not know what you want to do!

I’m about to take you on my journey up to and through vet school, and let me tell you, it has indeed been a journey of ups and downs. I’m not talking about learning everything you have to learn and passing exams (though obviously that is one of the hardest parts). I’m talking about figuring out your life path, because some people make it seem so easy: You get into vet school, and then you become a vet. It can be that simple for some, but in reality, with a veterinary degree, your career options are endless! As I near the end of my degree, figuring out my passion and what I want to do once I finally become a vet has been difficult and overwhelming. However, if you find yourself confused and frustrated like I have at many times, even before vet school, I’m here to tell you that it will all be okay in the end.

When I first realised I wanted to be a vet, I dreamt of being a wildlife vet, traveling the world and saving leopards and lemurs and lions. I wanted to live in the African bush and become a saviour for rhinos and warthogs, and I wanted to be the vet everyone called when they found a wounded giraffe. Or fox. Or tortoise. You get the picture.

I also had never thought I wanted to be a small animal vet. I didn’t want to spend all of my time in consults talking with owners about their itchy dogs or skin infections or their vaccination schedule. I also naively thought that if I worked with animals, I could spend less time working with humans. Please – if you get one thing out of this post, it’s that this is the opposite of true, and working successfully in veterinary medicine requires good communication and cooperation with other humans. (I have come to appreciate this in the end, but it was definitely something I had to work on!).

Then I started vet school. Most of my animal experience had come from working in small animal clinics and with lab animals, and I had never really had much experience with farm animals or farm medicine. And even though I dreamed of being a wildlife vet, the truth was that I didn’t have much real experience with wildlife either. As my time in vet school continued, I started to appreciate other types of medicine and other species I could work with, besides just wildlife.

Vet school opened my eyes to everything that I could do as a veterinarian. In the first year, I went and did three different animal husbandry placements with pigs, sheep, and horses. I realised, to my surprise, how much I enjoyed every animal that I worked with. Our lectures focused a lot on dogs and cats, but at the same time, we were taught so much about horses and farm animals too, and the more I learned about them, my interest grew and grew. We also got lectures on working in the government and in public health, to just give an example of even more career options.

Now that I only have one more year left before I graduate and qualify as a (real life!!) veterinarian, I have resigned myself to the fact that I have no idea what I want to do with my veterinary degree. Will I become a wildlife vet as I dreamed when I was younger? Will I actually become the small animal vet working with the same itchy dogs year after year? Perhaps you will find me covered in mud and cow poo as a farm vet but with a smile still on my face. Even though the thought of figuring it all out once I graduate is daunting, I’m excited for the challenge and all of the possibilities. Your dreams can change, and you don’t have to compromise them even if what you want changes. Figuring out what you want to do in life can be tough, and your path may be long and winding – but in the end, you will still end up where you will be happy, and you can become anything you want.

Written by: Nora Kuo

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