The reality of moving long distances for veterinary school

Article

One student reflects on what it is like starting over in a brand-new place for veterinary school

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com

Most aspiring veterinarians end up moving long distances away from their families to attend veterinary school due to the sporadic nature of universities in America that award DVM/VMD degrees, with some students even moving to a foreign country to receive their training. With only 32 veterinary schools in the United States, when you are accepted into any veterinary school, you accept the offer and then you figure out moving to an entirely new location, regardless of how far it may be.

If you ask my parents, they knew I would never move back home after graduating high school, and they were right. I was always an independent child and as I got older, I loved living on my own and being in complete control of my environment. While it can get lonely, it has provided me the freedom to do whatever is necessary to reach my goals.

I received my undergraduate degree at a university an hour and a half from my hometown in upstate New York, which was a perfect distance away. I could easily go back to my parents’ house at any time but was far enough away to create a new life for myself. Does this mean that when I got into veterinary school at Midwestern University in Arizona, that I would be 100% ready to move? Absolutely not.

I was far from prepared for the distance that I would be putting between myself and the entire community I grew up in. I had to immerse myself in a new city within a new state with an entirely new group of people around me while beginning a rigorous 4-year doctorate degree that would take hours per day of my free time to get through successfully. My parents were nervous, but I was filled with excitement for my new adventure, finally reaching my lifelong goal of getting into veterinary school.

My mother and I drove my VW Jetta out to Arizona on a 3-day road trip with my cat in the back seat. It was 3 straight days of driving across the middle of the United States, staying at random hotels along the way while also trying to keep my cat relaxed and comfortable in a small car. It was a long and exciting adventure but by the last day, I was extremely eager to get to my new home. It is difficult furnishing an apartment on a “broke college student” income. It was further complicated by the fact that in 4 years, I would either have to pack it all up or sell it all to start over in a new place for an internship or a veterinarian position.

The class of 2023 at Midwestern University formed group chats before any of us had even moved to Arizona and immediately began planning to hang out once everyone arrived. Immediately upon arrival, there were pool parties, restaurant trips, and traveling around the area to explore with my new future veterinarian friends. Lifelong friendships were made prior to us even beginning the veterinary school adventure together. One of the very first people that I met once I arrived in Arizona is now one of my closet friends. I know that wherever life takes us, I can always count on her for advice or just a quick “How are you doing?” phone call. We are now only weeks from saying, “goodbye for now,” but I know that we will stay in touch regularly and visit each other often.

Going to veterinary school almost 2,500 miles from home means lots of holidays spent alone and missed family milestones. As a result, my veterinary school colleagues have become a second family to me. I have spent a large portion of the holidays over the last 4 years with my peers, creating lifelong bonds. Graduating veterinary school and saying goodbye to the 126 other soon-to-be veterinarians that I have spent countless hours studying, crying, laughing, and persevering with will be heartbreaking. However, this experience created a web of resources and connections, both in and out of the United States, for me to use in the future.

I am set to graduate veterinary school shortly and will once again be moving across the country to start all over again in a small animal rotating internship at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in Rhode Island. The reality of moving back to the North East is bringing its own added challenges like obtaining my veterinary license, signing contracts and paperwork to begin my internship, traveling with my cat and the 2 large dogs that I adopted during school, and selling almost every item that I own except some clothing to minimize moving costs.

Luckily, this destination is only 3 hours from my hometown in New York where my parents live, but the increased demands of an internship are sure to bring similar missed life events and a feeling of isolation from the outside world. I am excited to create new lifelong friendships and connections in Rhode Island to help me succeed in my internship. Even though this is my reality, that I keep starting over in new places, I am so happy to have finally reached my goals and be doing the job that I love so soon.

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