Part II: Extracurriculars and School

The most important part of undergraduate preparation for vet school, in my opinion, is making sure your classes and social life are in the right balance. Too much or too little of one can dramatically decrease the quality of the other and the “perfect” balance is so individualized it’s probably stupid of me to even attempt to advise anyone on the matter.

dear heart, don't stop beating during this exam...

dear heart, don’t stop beating during this exam…

However, for someone who has really, really struggled to keep up a healthy balance of work and play I will definitely recommend taking advantage of groups on campus. Pre-vet club, triathlon team, and my sorority have all helped me to stay mentally active despite the rigor of classes here.

spring break in vegas.... of course I find the monitor lizards

spring break in Vegas…. of course I find the monitor lizards

Also, know that even though you may bust your butt to get straight A’s, is it really worth it if you never get to go have fun on the weekends? Message from senioritis-land: NO.

I used to stay in every night and study for hours for science midterms up to 3 weeks in advance. There I’d be, night after night, writing flashcards and drawing colorful diagrams every weekend of spring semester 2012. One night my roommates hijacked my flashcards (the stack was 5 inches thick) for bio and made me go out with them that night. I still did well! It’s all about quality study time and not always quantity. Nowadays I find the key to studying is going to a fun cafe with one or two friends where you can take study break to chat or snack or caffeinate. Iced almond milk lattes <– running through my veins.

procrastination has become my new best friend

procrastination has become my new best friend

Tricks to “study:”

  • I admit to attending the local run club with organic chemistry reactions drawn on my fingers to “study” the night before a midterm… who was I kidding, they sweat off after 5 minutes.
  • Reward yourself. Getting to watch a 20-minute episode online or having a handful of your favorite cereal is great motivation to finish up that paper. It’s also helpful to get your roommate to keep you on track (changing Facebook passwords or keeping your phone).

SPARK NOTES: All work and no play= sadness, stress, burn-out. All play and no work= seriously you’re in undergrad, work please. Work + play = golden ratio.

Good luck in your studies!!

Check out my previous posts about the Pre-Vet Checklist:

I: Experience

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My life measured in bird stories

The Parrot

unrelated but colorful

Some context: As a boarding kennel assistant I was responsible for cleaning the dog, cat, and medical boarding areas a few times a day. Occasionally, owners brought their birds, bearded dragons, and random other exotic animals in. An example of this is a gorgeous male parrot who enjoyed chatting with customers and showing off his head bobbing skills. One day I noticed that mr. parrot had moved into the back cat boarding area instead of his usual place up at the front desk. Ignoring him I continued to sweep cat boarding, deep in my own thoughts.

Mid-sweep I heard a pitchy voice. “Please hold…” I paused. Silence.

“Bitch…” I looked around, embarrassed that I was probably overhearing some employee conversation at the front desk. After determining I was alone I continued to sweep, this time under mr parrots cage. He sauntered up against the bars as if to greet me, looked me straight in the eyes, and shrieked “FUCK YOU, MA’AM.” Apparently he wound up in isolation after picking up some juicy retorts from angry receptionists.

The Red Tail

I dare you…

I often wander around the hospital treatment room hoping something cool ( hit-by-car jackaloupe?) will bust through the door and I will perform fantastical tasks and save the day. This doesn’t ever happen, however occasionally I get to help the vet and it is awesome.

One day my supervisor told me to “go grab the red-tail from the large aviary” so she could force feed and examine him. Without prior experience capturing a three-foot adult raptor, I felt a bit uneasy. Upon entering his enclosure, I noted the scary animal handling steps…

  1. Observe the area, and then the animal you are about to capture to determine how it reacts to you and how to best proceed without causing stress.
  2. Don’t freak out
  3. Repeat number 2 as needed.

He rocketed himself back and forth across the aviary a handful of times before landing on the edge of his crate on the floor. I took a deep breath, approached, reached forward, and scooped him up by his legs (Kevlar gloves make this challenging, they had to order extra small ones for me), cradling his body against my chest. Task completed! 🙂

The Attack Junco

Seriously every time I went to feed this little bugger it would attempt to woodpecker my hand… If someone was hand-feeding you delicious, homemade meals would you bite them? obviously yes says dark-eyed junco.

Limp Chickens

for handling eagles, herons, dinosaurs… oh, and chickens

In order to handle eagles, hawks, and the like I attended a scary animal handling class at the museum. Basically we fondled drugged chickens and pretended they were malicious herons waiting to peck out our eyes. I honestly felt kind of bad… but we rescued them from getting turned into McNuggets so the least they could do as a thank you was roll around and cooperate.

PS. sorry about the language, mr parrot just cannot be tamed.

Question of the day:

Do you have a favorite bird? Does it like to peck you?

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Oh, so you’re going to vet school?

Whenever anyone finds out you’re going to vet school their first response is usually one of the following:

“oh wow, so you like animals??” (I was actually asked this yesterday… and then it digressed to “You know, I just got this baby turtle. Let me get your number cause you should definitely come over some time and check it out.” Refraining from all snide comments here…)

“why aren’t you going to med school?” (see below image)

according to Tufts, thank you very much 😉

“I’ve heard that it’s, like, much harder to get into vet school than med school.” (yes, thank you and now I’m very much done with that application process. May I please change the subject before I begin to suffer from VMCAS PTSD?)

and my all time favorite…

“OMG really?! Soooo I have this cat…. (insert melodramatic reenactment of the sounds said cat makes at 4 a.m.)

Casual dogs walking by me are like neon post-it notes reading “hip dysplasia,” “stress hot spots,” etc… you get the picture, I’m a huge nerd and drive my friends crazy.


If I had a dollar for every time I received one of these responses I could probably pay for vet school… haha yeah right, maybe indulge in a Trader Joe’s shopping spree. Basically, if you really want to ask me questions about vet school I appreciate creativity. Ask “what is your favorite animal? “what is the funniest thing you’ve seen in an x-ray/poop/vomit?” “You are stuck on a deserted island; would you prefer a sea turtle to deliver bottled messages, a loyal tiger companion, or maybe a lookout eagle?” and the list continues, you get the idea.

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The Pre-Vet Checklist: Part I: Experience

As a student who established goals of attending vet school early, I quickly became aware of the seemingly endless number of requirements to gain admission. These include the need for hundreds to thousands of intern/volunteer/work hours, research experience, flawless grades in science and non-science courses, a rainbow of extracurriculars to make it seem like you have a life outside your O Chem textbook… OH, and a kick-ass personal statement. No big deal.

seems oh so doable… not

Now, to those reading this who are wondering how in hell to complete this list without going gray at age 20, I assure you that if I can do it so can you. Haven’t counted the gray hairs yet, though.

Lets start with Animal Experience!

I made sure to involve myself in both of my interests, small animal and zoo/wildlife medicine

Wildlife: I began working at the gift store and front desk of a wildlife rehabilitation museum at the age of 16 (I was too young to work in the hospital but dammit that wouldn’t stop me). I basically answered questions, got loving glances from the bald eagle who lived across the room from my post, and restocked the store. In order to restock I needed to go to the stock room and forage for GIANTmicrobe toys and the like. And the four-foot taxidermy beaver was always waiting in a new place as I turned on the light in the stock room. It always scared the crap out of me: I hated the damn beaver.



After a matter of time I graduated into the hospital where I worked as a member of the baby bird feed team, the bird move team as fledglings grew out of incubators, and migrated in and out of the treatment room as I grew comfortable perch-grabbing raptors and the like.

This is about when I fell in love with red-tailed hawks.

Back from my tangent…Definitely find some volunteer position you love. There was nothing more rewarding than watching an injured hawk progress from intake to release and knowing that I helped along the way. Very, very cool. This feeling fuels my passion for vet med. 🙂

Small Animal: I also worked at various veterinary hospitals as a boarding kennel assistant, hospital assistant, grooming assistant, surgery cheerleader, and personal pastry chef for vets (more on this to come ;)). Although I performed many chores that seem unhelpful to my goal of becoming a fledgling vet, I learned a lot about patience and responsibility in a hospital setting.

One time at the groomers this little gem came in… Over the course of two hours she lost 15 pounds of pure matted fur after we had to sedate her with a double dose. This was after she tried to maul her owners, the groomer, and the veterinarian. I’d be bitchy too with all that extra hair… ouch.

“99% sedated but I can still growl… and I hate you all”

Overall, I think I learned a lot by taking part in a variety of experiences and I definitely recommend that you start early (be it with public health, equine, wildlife, small animal, therapy dogs, etc…). As long as your plate is not too overloaded (which mine definitely was on occasion) the opportunities that await an eager pre-vet student are endless! Most of them will involve folding a lot of laundry and cleaning up poop, but I can proudly say I have mastered both of these titillating jobs.

Best of luck! 🙂

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Please DO talk to me about diarrhea and anal glands while I eat my lunch

To date I have been targeted as a fire hydrant about five times. Although this may not seem like a lot given the numerous times I handle nervous, wriggling animals with full bladders, I am only counting the occasions involving the appearance of significant malicious intent. For a little context, I used to work at a boarding kennel where I walked all the dogs multiple times a day.

In short:  Meatball Beefcake sighted me (no, I am not changing names for the anonymity of those involved because this name is just too much) →Meatball Beefcake approached →Meatball Beefcake sniffed → he lifts his stubby little bulldog leg → time for new scrub pants. Other occasions include over-excited Dachshunds with impeccable aim, nervous rats, and multiple patients receiving abdomen palpitation during ultrasounds. Honestly this no longer bothers me since urine is sterile. It was entirely different, however, when a drunk frat boy peed in the corner of my room several years ago (any threats to “neuter” him were entirely justified).

raspberry grooming spray is a godsend

On the same topic of animal encounters; urine is not the only excitement I face. I will always remember the time the veterinarian I shadow reached out during an exam to bare hand a terrier’s poop to prevent it from hitting the table.

“It’s Veterinarian candy,” he stated with far too much zest.  I still complimented him on his reflexes.

The veterinary profession is one riddled with repulsing situations, however, I find that it’s merely a chance to filter your friends. Can you handle me discussing tapeworms segments as I prepare French toast? Your rebuttal is one involving that one time when you saw whole lucky charms marshmallows in your dog’s poop? Okay, let’s be friends.

I’m simple. The way to my heart is daring scientific banter. Oh and animal puns, bear with me but sometimes I cannot resist 😉

don’t lie, you totally laughed and then googled more of them…

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Counting Down the Days

pushing the big red button?

Just a few months ago I was pushing the big button?!

For the past eight years I have worked towards a goal, and it’s amazing to finally have reached it.

Numerous floors scrubbed, mastiffs bathed, Pomeranians blow-dried, poop cleaned, nails clipped, x-rays stared at, scrubs bleached, terriers wrestled and red tail hawks rehabilitated (I got to don a glamorous full-body, camouflage poncho in this particular situation) to get into vet school.

I do not regret any of the long hours I have spent working towards an acceptance letter. I am proud of the scars on my arms and sewn talon holes in my scrubs and will likely continue to collect these in the future (just hopefully with a white coat).

To me, being a veterinarian is acting as a liaison for animals that cannot communicate clearly enough to get their basic needs met. Animals are critical to the mental and physical health of human society and they deserve the same, if not better treatment, than the humans with which they coexist. I believe I am a better person due to my animal-infused childhood, and I hope to instill the same passion for animal welfare in my colleagues and friends as I continue through vet school and beyond.

At this point all I can recognize is a poopy colon... I guess the rest comes with time?

At this point all I can recognize is a poopy colon… I guess the rest comes with time?

I am extremely proud to continue my dream for studying and attending to both small and zoo animals at UC Davis Vet School. Just have to get a couple of UC Berkeley classes out of the way! (Like the genetics class I have a midterm in today… apparently I have already begun to set up healthy study habits… now how about that double shot latte??)

Animals are a constant puzzle; whether viewed through an ultrasound, x-ray, glasses, or the naked eye. Here’s to a lifetime of solving puzzles!

School starts August 11th… Counting down the days till I get to start a new and exciting journey 🙂

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