If you'd have asked me 3 years ago what I'd be doing when I was 21, there is no WAY I would have said that I'd be living in Košice and starting my first year of vet school. And if I did, it would have been a joke. I never thought I could be a doctor of any sorts, mostly because of an issue I had growing up around needles and blood. I was terrified of them! I remember I used to get so faint whenever I saw blood, and it was practically impossible for me to have needles because I would just completely panic... I had such a severe phobia. So I had always sort of... ruled out this path as I never thought I'd be able to control my fear enough to succeed. And I'm not going to lie, my phobia hasn't completely gone away: and it took a lot of work to get to where I am with it- but it disappeared enough to let me look at this career path with a more open mind.
But in any regards, during high school and right after there was no way I could have gotten into vet school, as much as I admired my friend who went to study vetmed in London right after graduating. I moved to the West Coast of Canada where I studied film for a year, and then I studied costume design and construction for an additional two years. I received 2 diplomas in these fields and gained a lot of practical work experience on a couple of projects. And I LOVED Canada, so I was actually quite happy, had a lot of wonderful friends, loved being right there by the sea, loved being so intensely creative on cool and varied projects... But about halfway through my time there I began to think about what it would be like once I finished school, and there was always this huge sadness in my stomach when I thought about that. And it didn't feel like a normal, healthy apprehension about entering the job market: I could just tell that it was more of a dread that I was going to have to do this work as a career for the rest of my life. I didn't feel as passionate about film and costumes as my peers did, and a lot of parts of the industry didn't seem worth it to me, didn't fulfil me or suit my personality/how I wanted to work and where I wanted to work... And it took me a few months to realize that I needed to switch my training and career path.
For anyone who's done this or been faced with this, you know it's a difficult thing to accept and then begin to work on fixing. I had no idea what I actually wanted to do, and I'd poured a lot of time and money into training for the film and theatre industry. I went back and forth for a while: should I just keep going with this? It's not like I don't enjoy sewing, or films, or garment pattern drafting. I LOVE all these things (and I'm still sewing as much as possible, using my creative muscles, because it's important to me). So why was I having so much trouble dealing with the reality of being in this industry? What really helped me, because I can be very indecisive, was career counselling. I recommend this so highly to anyone who is unsure of what they want to do as a career.
My counsellor did not tell me what I should be doing, she didn't tell me what I could or couldn't do... We just talked about so many things and figured out together what I needed in a career to feel happy and fulfilled. She helped me understand that even if you love something, it does not necessarily mean you should do it as a job (makes sense why I'm so happy sewing a little project as a hobby for myself, versus how upset and stressed and depressed I was sewing something for a "work project"). We looked at my abilities and how far I was willing to go in retraining, and what kind of career my personality would suit. It was basically a lot of soul searching, but it was productive and clarifying. I could go into so much detail about everything I learned in these sessions, but it's a LOT.
In short though, I realised I wanted to be in a field like healthcare, working directly to help those in need; I have always loved animals and was really struggling not being around them during my time in Canada, so I wanted to work with animals; I was willing to work really hard (and for a long time) to get to where I wanted to be, and I wanted flexible options in a large field and in regards to where I could work in the world... In the end veterinary was a pretty obvious choice. And I remember when we came to it, and said "what about veterinary medicine?" something clicked and I knew that was the right thing for me, as cheesy as that sounds. It had never happened with anything else I'd tried to pursue before, so it was sort of magical for me.
I then got incredibly lucky and managed to gain a few days of experience shadowing veterinarians during the summer, which was absolutely fascinating and so wonderful. Those days absolutely flew by; I'll write more on them at some point; and even though I did pass out at one point, it was magical to see the workings of a small animal practise, watch some surgery, and gain an idea of what daily veterinarian life is (incredibly busy!! but, it seems, very rewarding). And all the lovely dogs and cats and bunnies! You can't help but love them all. So that really solidified my new goal in my mind.
Unfortunately though, I didn't have the necessary subjects in high school to get into most veterinary medicine courses. For most schools, you need at least Biology and Chemistry, at the highest possible leavers level. It ruled out a LOT of options with regards to where I could study: practically impossible in the US and Canada, difficult in the UK... Not to mention exorbitantly expensive. However, after some research I learned that a lot of vet schools in the EU run programs in English, and for many of them it doesn't matter what you took in high school: as long as you can pass the entrance exam and in some cases, an interview, you can go there to study. In addition, university is far cheaper in Europe than in North America (in some cases, a difference of $50,000 a year..... D:)
Not to mention, my family is originally from Slovakia. I have aunts and uncles and cousins here. My grandparents have an apartment here. When I found out there was an accredited vet school in Košice, it almost seemed too good to be true, like fate was aligning or something. And so around a year and a half ago now, I started the process of teaching myself A level Biology and Chemistry in order to pass the entrance exam, using a whole lot of Khan Academy, Crash course Biology and Chemistry, the rest of the glorious internet and some books I got from friends, and Craigslist. And somehow I managed to get accepted, and here I am, my first week at vet school! Feeling very content and like I'm finally in the right place, on the right path.
For anyone who is unhappy with their career or university study... I know that sometimes it's impossible to change or incredibly difficult. Whether that be emotionally, physically or financially. But, in another sense, no one is ever "too far along" or "too old" or "doesn't have the right qualifications" to make a change in their lives. It has been a really difficult year of intense study, a lot of frustration and stress, and I do want to write more about it at some point... But it is achievable and there is always a way forward if you feel unfulfilled or are unhappy with where you are in life. I never thought I could be studying to become a vet. I never even considered it. We shouldn't close doors in life like that, and I think it's one of the most important things I've learnt to date. Take the time to figure out what you need from a career, and what you want, so that even when things are hard, you'll find overall it is all falling into place.
Now, I am going to head to class (Latin today, am actually quite excited for this one..!) but thanks for reading if you got all the way down here :) It feels nice to be writing about all of this! Can't wait for more.