It can be hard not knowing what to expect when you leave behind the security of school and head off into the unknown. So to help shed a little light on the mystery of ‘uni’, Hannah has posted for us on her new life in Liverpool where she is studying to become a vet.
From all the fun of Freshers and making new friends, to the reality of doing your own washing, 9-to-5 lectures and animal dissections after very little sleep – find out what life at university is all about!
WEEK ONE: Arriving at university & famous Freshers’ Week
On the drive down here I was ridiculously scared. However, when I arrived and saw everybody looking just as lost and overwhelmed as me I felt much better! Luckily my next-door neighbour and the first person I met was Kate. She’s training to become a vet too, so it’s lovely always having someone to go to lectures and socials with.
During the first week here there are Fresher nightlife events on every night, from a UV party to a pub quiz; from what I can remember, they were all amazing! Despite feeling rather delicate during the daylight hours days, I still made it along to the welcome information lectures and Fresher fairs.
These give you a chance to sign up to a load of ridiculous clubs and get lots of great freebies! It’s a great opportunity to try new activities and there’s definitely something for everyone, from rowing and football to the salsa or bell-ringing society!There are 2 other girls on my floor, Verity (doing medicine) and Honey (doing Egyptology). We are on the top floor; I’m hoping the 4 flights of stairs become easier! I’m catered, so meal times were a perfect way to get to know the rest of the guys on my block.
Week TWO: Vet Freshers
Now I was expecting veterinary to be hard work, but 9-5 lectures everyday this week means we’ve really been thrown in at the deep end! On top of this, vet students have an extra week of vet socials – from a Ceilidh to a city treasure hunt. I don’t really feel like I’ve had sufficient sleep for far too long!
Vet 1st years are also paired with a ‘buddy’ from an older year as a mentor; tonight we’re all off for a meal together followed by a house party. After this week I am expecting the social life to calm down a little as I already have assignments, and staying awake in lectures is becoming an issue! Luckily though the lectures are very interesting and I’m really enjoying actually doing some learning after what feels like one big party!
Liverpool has seemed like an enormous city at times, but I’m pleased to say that after some trial and error I now feel like I know what I’m doing!
My FIRST Term: RECAP
I don’t think 12 weeks could have gone by any quicker! I now feel like a proper uni student: working, drinking and laundry – but not necessarily all at the same time!
I have a lovely group of friends from Halls and my course, 6 of whom I’m living with next year. House hunting, viewing and contract signing have made me feel very grown up! In my house there is Kate (another vet), Verity (a medic), Howard and Greg (2 lawyers), Meg (a geologist) and Harry (the engineer) meaning we can all work hard and play hard together.
The uni social life has of course lived up to its reputation… with lots of nights out, fancy dress parties, pub-crawls, halls formal and Vets parties keeping me very busy. I’m also improving at vet football – playing matches and everything now!
Of course that’s not forgetting the work… I’m pleased to say I absolutely love my course.
I’ve enjoyed HACS (hands on animal work) where we visit the uni farms; learning and practising basic husbandry and management of the regular farm species, from flipping sheep to the nutrition of dairy cows.
My favourite topic has to be anatomy, although it’s been a very steep learning curve. I don’t think I ever appreciated just how complicated animal bodies are, with so many bones, muscles, tendons and nerves to learn all about in the forelimb alone! Then there’s the practical side of anatomy: dissections, a shock to the system at first and certainly not for the fainthearted, but a fascinating way to learn. I’ve also enjoyed my other modules such as cell biology, embryology and epidemiology.
However, as in anything, there are parts I’m not so keen on, like histology (lots of staring down microscopes at pink and green splodges!), statistics (too much maths!) and of course the dreaded biochemistry, which is quite tricky! (Miss Mann I need you here to appreciate my moaning!).
Unfortunately, I was ill during the term, spending one week festering in my bed at uni and then another week at home. Blood tests showed Glandular fever… not fun! During this time I missed a LOT of lectures and work, which I’m still catching up on. The Glandular fever has also meant no drinking is allowed for 4 weeks – so no hangovers for Hannah!
Now, after a very busy first term, I’ve come home for Christmas where I’m certainly appreciating my family and all that home cooking. On the downside I’m also having to cram for my January exams at the same time.
I’m looking forward to meeting up with my HOHS girls for a much-needed catch up, and of course having more time to FaceTime Kelsey in Oz!
SEMESTER 2: Back to work
Semester 2 is now well under way – and after just about surviving my first set of uni exams (thank goodness they were only mocks!) – it is back to a jam-packed syllabus.
Already we have covered the anatomy and histology of the central nervous system, head and gastro-intestinal tract, as well as everything you could possibly need to know about the husbandry of sheep and pigs, plus modules on infectious diseases and epidemiology. All of this means that I am always busy!
Outside of uni work I have been really enjoying football – with matches at weekends against the medic and dentist teams and in a few weeks we’re going to Sheffield for a tour. The socials are also great fun – last night we had a Mexican ‘fajitas and tequila’ party – and there have also been quite a few birthdays to celebrate, meaning a trip to crazy golf!
Visits from family and friends
I’ve also been trying to explore Liverpool a bit more as it’s a big city and I still don’t really know my way around it all. When Holly (another HOHS old girl) came to stay a few weeks ago I took her to the Liverpool Tate Gallery – oh so cultured! – and to Liverpool One, our massive shopping centre. We also discovered a very cute, unique little cinema with sofas where we watched ’12 Years a Slave’.
My family also visited me for a weekend and I took them down to the very pretty Albert Docks. We went on the Liverpool Eye to get a bird’s eye view of the city and tried out some of the local restaurants – proper food is always a welcome change from student meals!
My sister Letitia stayed over with me in the halls, giving her a taste of what uni life is like. She also bought some of her baking successes for me to enjoy.
SEMESTER 3: Exams fast approaching
I have now started Semester 3, meaning, unbelievably I only have a few weeks left of my 1st year at university? It has gone incredibly fast! I had a lovely 3-week Easter break and started my 8-weeks of required EMS (extra-mural studies) – which is basically advanced work-experience!
I spent a week lambing in Waxham. The days were long and absolutely exhausting, but there’s nothing quite like delivering babies! I had to set a specific set of learning objectives and write a reflective journal too – so it wasn’t all just cuddling cute lambs unfortunately!
I quickly learned to identify breeds and their purposes, estimate their age and body condition and score the sheep. I also evaluated their diet, housing, hygiene and management.
And of course I actually assisted with births and cared for both mother and neonate afterwards. This involved an iodine spray on the navel, vaccination, numbering, castration and tail docking for the lambs (plus tube/bottle feeding any weaklings/orphans) and worming, a foot trim, teeth check and numbering for the ewes.
I also helped herd and sort the sheep and their lambs out onto the fields, leading to many a bump and bruise!
The rest of Easter I spent with my family, catching up with friends and revising for my up coming end of year exams starting on 20th May.
The next few weeks are just going to be spent going to my final lectures and cramming – fun, fun, fun!
From First to Second Year…
The end of my first year was filled with some of the most frantic revision and stressful exams I’ve ever done. With three theory and two practicals to complete there was a preposterous amount to learn and remember. When the post exam celebrations and vet ball were over it was back to Norwich for me, to a summer filled with 7 weeks of different placements.
My first was an equine placement with an Olympic dressage trainer where I learnt vital husbandry skills and witnessed some amazing riding and training. This was followed by time working with alpacas, and then a week at a kennel and cattery.
Next I spent a week at a dairy farm. Despite the long, hard hours I really enjoyed the variety of work, including milking, moving, calving, de-horning, vaccinating, worming, foot-trimming and so much more. It made me realise how exceptionally hard dairy farmers work – those cows need to be milked twice a day, 360 days a year.
A 12,000 bird, free-range laying chicken unit was my next port of call; having never worked with poultry before this was definitely a totally new experience. I am using this placement to write my ‘Animal Enterprise Report’, in which I go into great depths about every aspect of the unit, from its economics and egg productivity to nutrition and bird welfare.
Next up was my pig placement. This was also a new experience and I loved every aspect of it, except for the smell! I looked after sows at every stage of their gestation, from learning how to artificially inseminate them to assisting in farrowing (delivering piglets), plus piglet care and then weaning.
Lastly I had one week of clinical placement at Westover Large Animal Vets where I spent an amazing week with Graham, an incredibly experienced vet, seeing great standard cases with horses and farm animals to the more bizarre cases, including a catfish postmortem!
In the midst of these placement I found out that despite my doubts I had managed to pass all my exams and was into second year without the dreaded prospect of re-sits!
A few weeks later and I returned to Liverpool for my second year. I’m now settled into a new house with 6 of my friends and am back to the studies and looking forward to another year of madness!
My Second Year..
The second year is now well under way and it’s going far too quickly!
This year we are building on the ‘foundation’ of knowledge we supposedly acquired in first year – which has been quite challenging. There have been lots of new topics including some complex pharmacology, parasitology, infectious diseases and pathology.
Out of uni I’m still enjoying ladies vet football and some great nights out. I’ve also had to adjust to life in a house (shared with 6 friends from a variety of courses) rather than halls. It’s great fun, but living with so many people under one roof has been a bit tricky at times; who knew things like washing up and toilet roll could cause so much friction! I’m now looking forward to house hunting for next year, when I’ll be downsizing to a house for just 4.
Other highlights this year have been visits from Kelsey, my parents and my housemates’ parents. This always means lots of lovely food and treats! I have especially loved dog sitting my friends very cuddly black lab, whose bones and muscles I could palpate to my hearts content!
Looking ahead to my third year
As mine will be aimed at large animals – specifically bovine fertility – I was very excited to be allocated a supervisor whose speciality is exactly this. My next task is to meet my supervisor, find out her current area of research and then write a literature review on the areas surrounding this, so that I’m more prepared for the year ahead.
My time at uni is consistently busy, so I’m really looking forward to a relaxing Easter at home, even if it will be filled with lots of lambing and plenty of revision!