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Starting Vet School

Rosie Skidmore, BHS Veterinary Student Champion at the University of Surrey, discusses the highs and lows of becoming a veterinary student.

  • Last reviewed: 5th December 2023
Liz And Rosie 1 Cropped Liz And Rosie 1 Cropped

Throughout the upper levels of secondary school, when we began working up to exams and doing career planning, I was lucky enough to know my next steps - I knew I was going to vet school as that was the way to reach my end goal of becoming a vet.

I was also fortunate (or not, as the case may be) that in the UK, only a small number of universities offer a veterinary medicine degree, 11 in 2023, compared to 30 medical schools. When it came to applying to university in 2020 for 2021 entry, I was very unprepared, lacking work experience (partly due to COVID). I had chosen universities based on their aesthetic, not their entry requirements or actual course. I was resultantly unsuccessful in my applications and was left with no offers for my dream course. I could have gone on to study bio-veterinary science and then done the veterinary degree as a post-grad, but I knew this was not a pathway that would make me happy. Instead, I chose to take a gap year and re-apply for 2022 entry after gaining more work and life experience.

When choosing universities this time, I looked at the entry requirements and narrowed down my choices for the best fit. Surrey stood out to me, mainly because many of the vets I had contact with, in work experience and when I sought treatment for my own animals, were from Surrey! They were happy to chat about their experience and gave me a lot of good information and advice that sounded very positive. I was partly put off by the fact that Surrey didn’t have its own veterinary hospital, as I always imagined having this close by. Instead, as a very new school, Surrey offers offsite practicals, meaning we get frequent trips off campus to interact with animals in the wider environment, a method that simulates the way a vet would be working in real life, which turned out to be something I really liked, along with the excuse for a change of scenery! Also very important is the fact Surrey has the great mental health and well-being support.

To prepare for university and organise myself, I found myself making lots of lists about what I needed to take and wanted to do, which relieved a lot of stress that I had about moving away. A preparation I also needed to make, but didn’t want to, was finding a loan home for my horse. He has been my heart for so many years, and my entire life was oriented around him, so the thought of no longer having my horse close was terrifying. I’m extremely lucky to have found him a loaner who loves him as much as I do and gives him the best environment – this really helped me transition to university life, knowing he is cared for and knowing I don’t need to worry about him.

When I arrived at Surrey in September, I was lucky to find my flatmate was also a veterinary student, meaning some of the worry about feeling alone was gone. However, my first experience walking into the vet building was on my own to collect uniforms and PPE - all the clothing with the words ‘veterinary student’ embroidered made it feel so real. This was really the first point I realised I was going to be a vet. It was very exciting, seeing the building, having my name on a locker and a nametag - this is what I’d been working for!

From there, we began having lectures, practicals, and just getting stuck into the semester. Semester one flew by. Before I realised it, it was Christmas, and then I was back in January for exams. Now we’re into semester two, our learning is ramping up, and we’re doing more and more practical work. It’s hard, but all very interesting, and I have found I’m already becoming more accustomed to the course and adjusting my way of working to help me learn.

Overall I love the course and animal handling, and have grown to enjoy the anatomy practicals - they were an adjustment at first; I don’t think there are many ways to prepare yourself for the pathology lab smells…