Hello and welcome to your future – by Katie Turney

“Ladies and Gentleman, today is the day you set upon your dreams and give up your heart and soul to what will be your career. And here, at the University of Surrey, you will graduate with all the skills, competencies and knowledge you will need on your first day as a vet.”

Okay, so I didn’t really get that speech, but even without the clichéd, motivational speech I might have been expecting, my welcome here was nonetheless grand, and I have felt no finer sense of achievement than walking through those shiny new doors, putting on my bright blue uniform, and winding a stethoscope around my neck, intent on applying every facet of my being to doing good.

My first weeks here were a whirlwind tour of rum, fancy dress, and the most welcoming of Students’ Unions. I danced the ‘Whip and Nae Nae’ in front of my entire cohort and won Surrey’s mini mascot for my trouble, joined multiple societies and never attended one, and promised myself I’d take up a sport, which I did not do. Then the work started coming, and I kept up. The assignments started coming, and I kept up. The early mornings, and extra curriculars (I did, eventually, join Vet Choir), and icy weather all started coming, and still I kept up. So, overall, this might actually be going well.

A healthy amount of self-discovery has been involved, for sure. For example, when it comes to academic stress, I can approach it logically and objectively, and achieve everything I need to. But when it comes to personal stress, that’s a downhill spiral I never want to go down again; I’m just not so sure the universe will comply with a stress-free existence for me. Having said that, I learned to cope in different ways – writing songs and reading good fiction, eating a little too much chocolate and becoming wholly addicted to cranberry juice, and my new favourite discovery, writing poetry, which it turns out I’m not all that bad at. I guess we all learn our own methods of tackling the troubles that face us.

While I do get to spend some of my time playing with dogs and restraining horses, and even milking cows, most of it is hard graft – lots of science, lots of anatomy, lots of terminology. It’s like a whole new language, which we have to apply to concepts we didn’t even have words for in basic English. In this blog, I get the advantage of blabbering on about whatever is in my head, but when you are writing coursework, it doesn’t matter if you know something anyway – you have to research, and, most importantly, REFERENCE it. That is quite tough. Luckily, I am badass at referencing.

The fun and the personal challenges are still there, though. As above, I joined vet choir, and even auditioned for a solo, which I got. I helped a really good friend of mine brave the academic offices and collect charity money from staff – her Islamic Society raised the most money in our region. And I even signed up to the most amazing work experience placement next July, looking after llamas peacocks and pigs and every species in-between for two weeks in the Pyrenees. I came to university with a personal promise to say yes to every amazing opportunity that presented itself to me, and I have, thus far. The rewards are beyond explanation – look at just these three things I listed. Personal achievement, contributing to a community, and life experience, in one paragraph. This really is everything it cracked up to be.

Of course, there are some worries that will stay with me. For one, I am a low-grade entry here, accepted based on my interview, which I suppose means I’m here for my experience and my personality – my passion. This is neither a good nor a bad thing; I will have strengths and weaknesses just the same as all of my peers. However, there is always that niggling voice in the back of my mind telling me that I’m not quite as smart as them, and sometimes I overcompensate with my studying. This is at a manageable level, though, and it is a simple, adaptive way to chase away those worries.

Secondly, I am always a little nervous about being an outsider. Most of my course mates have found their friendship groups now, and I am something of a drifter. In part because I like to talk to everyone, and in part because I am a little difficult to really gel with properly. But that’s okay. I have very good faith that I’ll find my people, and even if it takes a while, I’ll be keeping up with the coursework in the meantime!

And lastly, there’s the personal side. There’s missing my family a little more than I expected, and facing these odd relationship queries in my first few weeks – going from friends you’ve had since you started school, who know absolutely everything about you (some of which even you don’t know), to starting completely fresh. That’s a hard thing to do. But it’s worth it, and these are truly great people. My flat mates, too, are fun to be around; we’re all on different courses and all have varying perspectives on washing up, but we get along just fine.

So, all in all, I am having the most fantastic experience I could ever have imagined. I feel more at home than I ever have, and feel more successful than I ever have. I feel the potential just ringing in the air, all the possibilities, all these students from all different backgrounds, and none of it matters, because we’re free to be who we choose. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Oh, and FYI, I go to the University of the Year, the Queen opened my vet school, and I got a selfie with Supervet. BAM said the lady!