No matter how long you’ve had your sights set on becoming a veterinarian, it’s normal to have some nerves before officially enrolling in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Mounting apprehension makes sense when you’re not sure of what to expect in vet school.
The good news is that there are scores of veterinarians who were once in your shoes, and they have some tried-and-true vet school advice to share. We rounded up some of the most critical tips from graduates of the St. George’s University (SGU) School of Veterinary Medicine. Learn how they achieved vet school success at SGU.
4 Important vet school tips from SGU alumni
In preparation for vet school, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time focusing on completing the necessary veterinary education requirements, garnering some hands-on veterinary experience, and focusing on the various other elements you’ll need for your vet school applications.
But don’t forget to prepare yourself for the actual experience of attending veterinary school. DVM programs can be rigorous, and students who attend Caribbean vet schools like SGU are in store for a host of new experiences that could be overwhelming if you don’t know how to approach them. Find out how these DVM grads made it through.
1. Embrace diverse experiences
Generally speaking, veterinary school will be filled with new experiences no matter which DVM program you attend. But students who enroll at Caribbean vet schools have the unique opportunity to obtain their medical training in an environment that’s completely unlike the ones they’re accustomed to.
Dr. Autumn Unck, 2015 SGU graduate, saw distinct advantages to leaving the US for veterinary school. Chief among them was the incomparable exposure students receive to different cultural experiences than they’d encounter stateside. Despite being on the small island of Grenada, Dr. Unck had the opportunity to work closely with a variety of native animals and farmers while studying at SGU.
“Being in a different country and learning about a different culture helped me to become more compassionate to my clients and patients.”
The potential for rich cultural experiences like this is high at a Caribbean vet school, so be sure to embrace every aspect of it. “My experience at SGU was amazing,” recalls Dr. Francisco Torrado, 2012 graduate of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “Being in a different country and learning about a different culture helped me to become more compassionate to my clients and patients.”
In addition to diversifying your veterinary experience, SGU alumni also highlight the range of different opportunities students have to explore what the Caribbean has to offer. “Once I found out about SGU, it was my first choice. It was more exciting than school in Sweden or the UK,” notes Dr. Emelie Fogelberg, Gothenburg native and 2010 SGU grad.
“I take pleasure in traveling and exploring new cultures, which is the reason I went abroad for my studies,” she continues. While studying at SGU, Dr. Fogelberg got the opportunity to climb Mount St. Catherine, attempt kite surfing, and sail around the Caribbean islands.
2. Seek out hands-on opportunities
Earning your DVM degree will involve a lot of reading, studying, and note-taking—but garnering hands-on experience is also a huge part of it. Understanding this aspect of success, it’s important you choose a veterinary school that prioritizes this type of experiential learning.
Dr. Chanda Miles graduated from SGU in 2006, and she credits the School of Veterinary Medicine with helping her become comfortable performing surgical procedures. “We were able to perform a large amount and variety of general surgeries that helped me shape my love for surgery and later form my decision to pursue dentistry and oral surgery,” she says. “One of my most valuable takeaways from my training at SGU was this surgical preparation.”
“When it comes time for clinicals, participate in as many rounds as you can.”
While enrolling in a DVM program that offers these opportunities can go a long way, Dr. Miles recommends being proactive in your journey to gain more hands-on exposure. “When it comes time for clinicals, participate in as many rounds as you can,” she offers, explaining that you’ll learn more and your supervising clinicians will be happy to see you so engaged.
There may also be volunteer-based events that you can participate in as a vet student. Dr. Fogelberg, for example, fondly recounts her involvement in SGU’s One Health One Medicine Vaccination Clinic. Veterinary and medical students from the institution joined forces to provide services to the local population of Grenada and their pets.
“It was very rewarding being a part of this, as the locals were very appreciative,” she says. “Plus, it gave us students a chance to apply our knowledge to real cases at an early stage in our education.”
3. Find what you’re good at
In a competitive and rigorous training experience like what you can expect from a DVM program, it can be easy to compare yourself to the other veterinary students around you. Whether you find yourself doubting your abilities or you’re suddenly eager to compete only for the most intense specialties, seasoned veterinarians recommend taking a step back to carefully determine which path is best for you as a future practitioner.
“At one point I thought I wanted to be a surgeon,” Dr. Unck recounts. “But I eventually realized I like being around clients and building relationships with patients and pet owners—general practice allows me to do all of that.”
“It’s important to stay true to yourself,” she continues. “Not everyone is meant to be a surgeon; some of us were meant to be general practitioners, and I love what I do!”
4. Look for a supportive vet school environment
Finally, you want to be sure you’re feeling confident and supported while earning your DVM, and this can be greatly impacted by the veterinary school you choose. One of the main factors top vet schools have in common is a supportive learning environment.
Programs that grant students access to a robust range of institutional support services like tutoring and mental health resources can play a big role in helping future veterinarians be successful. Additionally, a campus-wide culture of support among students, faculty, and staff alike can go a long way.
“The moment I arrived in Grenada, I knew it was a special place,” says Dr. Lian Doble, 2008 SGU graduate. “The school and the people of Grenada were very welcoming. Maybe it’s because it’s on a small island, but you get a family-like feeling from SGU.”
Dr. Doble acknowledges that vet school can be a stressful experience at times, but the environment at SGU is very conducive to studying and learning. “You have the beach to relax, and you have a lot of support. Not once did I feel deserted or alone. If you need any help, you always have someone to go to, and you never feel as though you’re inconveniencing staff,” she explains.
Rather than experience a sense of competition among their peers, many SGU students experience a feeling of camaraderie. “The culture at SGU was very accepting, with no prejudices or preconceptions,” notes 2005 grad Dr. Lydia Doyle. “Every student shared the same goal, which helped set the stage for a successful and memorable experience.”
Start writing your vet school success story
There are many things you can do in preparation for a successful vet school experience, but one of the most impactful is choosing a DVM program that’s prepared to offer you the guidance, hands-on experience, and holistic support you need. A number of successful practitioners achieved vet school success through SGU.
Learn more about what drew them to this Caribbean DVM program in our article “10 Things You May Not Know About the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine.”