Hitting the third-year wall

 Jordan and her peers, not even halfway through their course, feel they are fighting to keep their heads above water – Image: ©iStockphoto/Anton_Sokolov
Jordan and her peers, not even halfway through their course, feel they are fighting to keep their heads above water – Image: ©iStockphoto/Anton_Sokolov

Everyone had heard rumours third year at veterinary school was the worst. On coming back to university after a long summer of extra-mural studies and relaxation, we were nervous. Two weeks in, things didn’t seem too bad and we were sceptical.

We were indifferently meandering through the bewildering world of Latin names and impossible-to-spell drugs, resigned to a fate of an increased workload and new subjects, but not overwhelmed just yet. It happened to different people at different times, but, seemingly out of nowhere, the third-year wall hit. And it hit hard.

Whether it was the hours of straining to make sense of indiscernible pinky-purple mess under the microscope, or trying to differentiate one parasite from the next by the subtlest of morphological changes, or even just trying to fathom the hideous amount of Latin that had forced itself into our lives, veterinary school suddenly got the better of most of us.

While drowning under the sheer amount of information to take in, the realisation we’re not even halfway there really seemed to set in this term, making it almost impossible for us to keep our heads above water.

A week of very little sleep, long hours studying and eight exams will mark the halfway point for my year group. The most disturbing part of this revelation is the feeling we’ve been at vet school for a long time (can anyone even remember freshers’ week?), and yet we still have that same length of time left to go.

Several of us have been questioning our aspirations of late – why did I want to be a vet? Why am I putting myself through this? Is it worth it? Is this as hard as it gets? These are just some of the whispers heard around vet school.

 Image ©iStockphoto/pick-uppath
Image ©iStockphoto/pick-uppath

It’s often comforting in itself your classmates are feeling as fed up as you are, but you also need to find a way to combat your doubts and climb the wall, or punch right through it. Veterinary students are particularly susceptible to stress and mental health issues – we’ve all heard the statistics, which is why it’s vital to know how and where to access support should you need it.

The student-run welfare system at Glasgow’s veterinary school has boomed this year, with multiple welfare talks and the start up of many new clubs and societies aimed at stress relief, including relaxing yoga classes to help you reboot or a high-energy Muay Thai sessions to help you release all that pent-up stress. Following in the footsteps of Liverpool, Glasgow vet school is also currently developing a peer-support network to provide an ear for those students who need someone to turn to in times of need.

Of course, your own interests can distract you from the stress of vet school, and while it’s tempting to entirely prioritise your studies, it’s really important to ensure they don’t consume your entire life. For me personally, writing, editing and riding keep me afloat.

One lesson I’ve learned this term is you also need to keep on top of your own health. You may have a persisting issue that you keep putting off because you haven’t got time to see a doctor and have too much work to do. But it doesn’t pay off in the end. I allowed back muscle pain to get to the point of me being barely able to walk before shaking some sense into myself and seeing a physio. After a couple of sessions, I felt a million times better and regretted putting it off for so long. Just remember you need to look after your body to keep your mind on top form.

On the upside, by the time our “halfway ball” comes around in February, we’ll be over the hump, and just a little bit closer to graduation. Or in other words – a little bit closer to fulfilling our ambitions or dreams that many of us have had from a very young age. We just need to find a way to hold on to the light at the end of the tunnel, so we don’t run out of steam.