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A vet student's journey through the preclinical years

24 Sep 2021 | Charlotte Tobin-Williams


Charlotte Tobin-Williams, a Liverpool vet student and Junior Vice President of AVS, gives a summary of how vet school is going for her, reminding us how life’s not perfect but encouraging others to turn challenges into strengths and grasp all the opportunities you can.

A vet student's journey through the preclinical years Image

An introduction…

Hi, I’m Charlotte, and I’m 20 years old. I didn’t come from a ‘typical’ background. Born in England, however, I was raised in The Netherlands, and then I went to university in Liverpool at the age of 17. Being underage at university wasn’t a good experience for me, as at the time there wasn’t much support. However, this issue is being tackled and there are now more events for underage students. Aside from the initial difficulty in socialising during Freshers as an underage student, Liverpool is a fantastic city and welcomed me as a student with open arms. 

How did I get into veterinary medicine? I grew up being told that having a pet would be unfair on the animal as my parents worked all day, and I went to school leaving little time for a family pet. However, once I reached the age of ten, we acquired an abandoned cat and from then on, I had several rabbits until I left school. I will add that all of our animals were cared for and were given plenty of love! 

I wasn’t always set on a veterinary career - Hotel Management, Chemistry and PPE were some of my other interests. Even though I had these other interests, I will never forget how happy I was during the first few weeks of vet school when I saw the career choice I was diving into. It may have been a belly-flop dive, but it was still a dive! 

Where did the first year go?

First-year at vet school was by far one of the most exciting years of my life. Meeting new people, absolutely loving the career choice pathway, going to socials, joining veterinary organisations such as the IVSA (International Veterinary Students Association) Liverpool Chapter, flying back home for a weekend, finally turning 18 at the end of November, and getting my adult life together. This all seemed perfect. However, with all these ‘ups’, comes a lot of ‘downs’. 

I was constantly away from my home, my high school friends and pets (and I’m not normally homesick), and to top the year off, I had a resit! My first ever resit. Top tip: don’t worry if you fail, you will come back twice as strong. 

I’m now sitting here writing this blog having just completed two third-year resits, and it has taken me several years at high school and three years at university to realise that I’m not particularly good at exams, and don't have the best memory! I’m a practical person, and that is totally fine. 

Continuing through vet school – recognising my strengths

Second-year also flew by - half was at university, the other half in lockdown. I only remember applying, successfully, to become an AVS rep, having some lectures, some EMS here and there, and my highlight was being told that vet students were allowed to go lambing during the lockdown of 2020. I went with my housemate, and fellow vet student, for our second time to the beautiful North Yorkshire Dales. Despite the lockdown, we had the privilege of being able to go outside every day in the sunshine, and help sheep give birth to chunky, cute lambs, as well as doing the usual farm work. 

'Mellow' is how I would describe third-year. This year (2020-2021), consisted of a total of three practicals, online lectures from 09:00-17:00 almost every day, and online exams. As I mentioned previously, I am primarily a practical person. So to me, this was my least favourite year, and I felt I needed to prepare myself that, of course, I would have a couple of resits - I’m rubbish with textbooks, let alone online theoretical teaching for an entire year!

After realising how monotonous the third-year could become, I applied to be an online (eye-roll) tutor, through which is entirely university-student-led teaching for high school students. The company works with schools that have the funding to provide extra lessons to students who need them. Especially during the initial Covid-19 restrictions, when schools were shut for a long time, the students that relied heavily on school teaching, the environment, and school equipment to advance in their subjects were badly affected. I have now been online teaching for more than a year with these students, and I've found nothing beats the smile from a student and the satisfaction when a topic has been understood! 

Taking opportunities

Vet school is challenging and takes up a lot of personal time but I was always told by my mother to take up any opportunity given to me. So, a couple of years ago after a bit of encouragement, the day before the deadline, I sent in my application to become the Junior Vice President of the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS). And I got the position! I'm so pleased I followed this advice, as it has been a whirlwind of online meetings, events, and creating fantastic connections in the veterinary world. I'd encourage anyone else to grasp any opportunities that come their way, with AVS or anywhere else!

I am so excited to begin my professional career and to embark on an exciting, challenging and ever-changing future, planning around my strengths and taking all the opportunities I can.


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