When I first heard of St. George’s University, it sounded like a dream. Veterinary school in paradise, anyone?! I envisioned working towards my degree in a relaxing, exotic location – one where I could no doubt take in beach after beautiful beach each and every day. I was told that St. George’s curriculum provides a highly hands-on education, which seemed perfect to me since I didn’t come to school with years of experience in the field. I applied blindly – I had never seen the school and, quite honestly, I’d never even heard of the island of Grenada prior to applying. The opportunity to learn amid palm trees in the tropics was really all I needed to know.
Once I was accepted, everyone had much the same reaction to the idea as I did: “Oh, what an exciting adventure! Now you’ll get to study on the beach!”
But – shock to us all – study on the beach I do not. That fact was just one of the many that I was not prepared for. The island – and vet school – had quite a few surprises in store for me…
Here are 12 Things They Don’t Tell You About Vet School On An Island:
1) Your days are long.
You tend to rise with the sun and don’t find your way back to bed until waaaayy after the sun sets. On my rock, the sun sets by 6:30 PM year round, so much of my study time is spent in the dark.
2) You’re gonna sweat. A lot.
I’m from Indiana and while we have hot, humid summers, I was in no way prepared for just how muggy the wet season is here. Scrubs are your go-to in vet school, and long pants don’t help with the heat. When you’re required to wear coveralls and boots to the farm…let’s just say it’s inevitable that you sweat from every orifice. Every. Single. One.
3) You’ll miss the weirdest things about home.
I miss the grocery store with a deep longing that I never thought I’d associate with a basic retail space. And – I’ll admit it – I even got to the point once where I missed the cold weather.
4) The curriculum is extremely challenging.
No one can really prepare you for the rigor of vet school. Since some people back home have not heard about our school and the only thing that resonates with them is the tropical locale, they often assume that it’s somehow easier to study here compared to a school in the US. But after completing a semester and a half, I definitely don’t think that that is the case. I’ve never had to push myself this hard for anything in my life. Being surrounded by the beach doesn’t equate to relaxed standards – it simply means the temptations are greater than those you’d experience at a school back home.
5) Due to its remote location, certain supplies are limited. As a result, your school has to be resourceful and plans often change.
Currently, we are eagerly awaiting donkey cadavers to use in my comparative anatomy lab. Apparently, they got lost in the mail, which begs the question: how exactly does one lose donkeys in the mail?? In the meantime, we are learning about fish and bird anatomy, which is something that many of us haven’t experienced before. No donkeys? We make do with da fishes.
6) You learn about diseases and pathogens you won’t find in the US.
Canine transmissible venereal tumors are a common disease on my rock, one that you won’t see in the US. Additionally, back home, we’re used to people treating their pets like family and often having the financial means to do so. That’s not always possible here, so we quickly get accustomed to treating animals with mange, ticks, and malnutrition. If we do see cases like that once we get back home, you better believe we’ll be the ones best equipped to deal with them.
7) You’ll cut your nails ALL the time.
Kind of a weird one but as vet students, it’s just practical to have short nails. Mine grow like CRAZY here, especially during the wet season. I find myself cutting them notably much more often than I ever do back home. (As though I have time for all these extra manis! Humph.)
8) Studying on the beach will never be a thing.
Either it’s too windy and your notebook blows away, or it’s too bright and you can’t see your laptop screen. While this sounded oh-so-good in theory, it’s simply unrealistic. Vet school keeps you VERY busy, so you definitely don’t see the beach as often as you may have thought you would.
9) Most of the things that are “recommended” for you to bring are things you’ll never use.
Like a mosquito net. Or a battery-operated alarm clock. Haven’t used ’em once. What should have been on the list? As much sunscreen and other toiletries that you can carry, cause that ain’t cheap – or even readily available – around here!
10) You may have a hard time keeping up with everything going on back home.
I try to keep up with friends and family and tune into CNN.com regularly to catch the news but naturally, you get busy and miss out on certain things.
11) Seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day makes life so much sweeter.
I can’t imagine going to school anywhere else because I think it would be much more difficult to endure all of the pressure and the work and not have the chance to be surrounded by beauty all the time. The nature here grounds me. When we have time to enjoy it, it makes this whole experience worthwhile.
12) Island life and vet school in general help you grow the thickest skin.
Again, school is stressful, and sometimes it’s not easy being so far from home and assimilating to life in a different country at the same time. But I feel like I’m so much more confident and more independent because of it.
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Being accepted to St. George’s was the happiest moment of my life, and while I’ve experienced challenges here in Grenada both in terms of academics and adjusting to island life, I’ve had so many joyful moments since being here. I’ll take the long days and excess sweating if it means I’m able to see the magnificent sunsets over the ocean – no question.
Would you ever consider studying abroad on a rock?
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