A how to guide. Veterinary placements abroad.

“IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU, THEY AREN’T BIG ENOUGH.”

After asking for blog post inspiration on my instagram account , here is a
HOW TO GUIDE: Getting work experience placements abroad.

(With the help of some incredible instagrammers in the online veterinary community.)

Securing placements at our local small animal practices can feel hard enough. Conducting a google survey of the local area to ensure that your email proposals have the highest chance of success, the worry of lacking previous experience to outcompete other aspiring vets, refreshing your email inbox in the hope that a response will magically appear.

So how on earth do you begin searching for placements abroad?

STEPHANIE’S STORY:

THE BEGINNING:

When I initially looked into overseas placements, I did not look for the location. Instead, I looked for placements with the animals I wanted to work with

I remember googling ‘elephant volunteering’, or ‘working with seals’.

It is good to note that there is a whole bunch of programs and websites that run specific programs for vets and vet students. This is so that you get all the information you want about your placement and the animals in regards to the veterinary industry surrounding them. Rather than solely gaining the understanding given to the general public volunteering.

GOOD CONTACTS:

To name a few locations that I know running these would be:
Elephant Nature Park
Wild Inside Vet Volunteers
Worldwide Veterinary Service
Globe Trotting Veterinary
and many more!

Doing this meant that I could do what I wanted to do with animals and worry about the location and getting there later

THE OBSTACLE:

The main issue with overseas placements is money.

So unless you are flushed with cash, I am not, it takes a lot of planning and saving.

I booked my placement in Thailand a year and a half in advance, and I was looking into it two years before the placement. All so that I had enough money for a deposit.

Having a budget and saving for your overseas placement will be worth it!

FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS:

If you are lucky enough to live in Australia (or other locations), the government will actually loan you money to go on 2 overseas placement trips through university. This loan is then added to your HCES university debt and is paid back through tax when you reach the income threshold to pay back your normal university debt.
Here in Australia this is called OS-help –  I wish I knew about it before my trip to Thailand!

DO YOU RESEARCH:

The most important thing is to look into all options when wanting to do an overseas placement.

You could believe that you have an amazing placement lined up in Africa to take care of the animals, only to find out that it is only so other customers can poach them.

Do your research!

Talk to fellow students and see where they have gone. Seek out recommendations. Remember to check to see if the university can help with funding or scholarships for this.

HAVE FUN!:

But most of all have fun and enjoy it while it lasts.

Don’t let anyone put you off by saying “are you really going to go by yourself” because f*** yeah it is amazing!

 

HEIDI’S STORY:

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Another question was about money. 
With travel expenses, increased living costs, loss of working days (not an exhaustive list!). How can you afford to go on a placement abroad? 

FINLAND

I couldn’t in 2017, when I worked on a husky farm in Finland.

Although my journey to that placement is unique, it is proof that life can may just throw one at you. My first “proper” work experience placement opened the door to work in Finland. After a summer of volunteering in 2016, I was gifted a token to flights for 2017 in order to take on the challenge of husky farm life.

SWITZERLAND

Getting to Switzerland was a different story – Cheap flights.

I am currently packing for my next journey to Switzerland this February, £50 return with easyJet. Animals need care 365 days a year, but every place has its “off peak” month/s. A bonus is taking holiday pay off work for said placement. 

The answer to your flight problems:
sky scanner

“ALL THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE.”

Living away for veterinary work experience

LIVING AWAY FOR VETERINARY WORK EXPERIENCE 

From medical procedures and kidding events during my stays in Wales, to slaughter house legislation- I have shared plenty of educational content on my work experience blogs.

What about the times watching horror documentaries with hot chocolates during kidding? Headstand competitions in the lambing field? Getting tipsy in Finland after work around the campfire?

The idea of staying away from home for a period of time for work experience can seem daunting. 

But DO NOT FEAR.

Your “hosts” may become second families, you can integrate into the household life and share wonderful memories whilst your sides hurt from laughing so much at inside jokes. 

By running through the placements I stayed away from home, I am going to share some non-vet highlights and funny stories.

1. LARGE ANIMAL VET

Panic! I was locked in the hotel at 4 a.m. by bolted doors when I needed to be out of the door for a routine TB test.
The vet was waiting outside, we could not be late to an appointment. Being 5ft 3 (1.6 m) I had to put my backpack on the floor to use it to jump from, to tap the bolt across with my fingertips. I persisted.
Heidi 1 Bolt door 0.

As the vet was located in a remote area of the Lake District, I had to walk for hours to buy Pepsi Max. Making friends with the sheep along the way, a morning without call outs was spent well.

2. LAMBING

Hopping off the quad for headstand competitions in one of the lambing fields. My childhood gymnastics years are long gone, but my competitive streak is not. I was determined to win.
Headstands soon became bursts of laughter lying on the grass. Just avoid the sheep poop.

I can’t forget about the unique lambing experience. Placenta thrown in the face whilst assisting births, the extra challenge.  I wonder what they must have taught the culprit vet students at vet school? Were they preparing me for weird situations? I will have to wait and see!

3. KIDDING

Who would have thought that the phrase “Clinging like a limpet” would result in a goat-fam walk to the beach to find my first limpets? Now a running joke, kidding placements are not 24/7 goats when you stay with such an awesome family. 

Cuddling up in a blanket watching murder mysteries with hot chocolates is how we liked to spend a night after a busy day on the farm. 

I am grateful for my goat family in Wales! Always looking forward to my next stay there. 

4. FINLAND

Where do I start? 

My first days were spent being trained by a fellow French guide who described the training documents as “sh*ts of paper”. Those sheets made me cry laughing. 

After eating plain pasta when I arrived, I was made aware that I will learn to love pesto and become pesto pasta obsessed. That is true. We must have eaten our body weight x10 in pesto pasta. In a physically demanding job, coming home to bowls full of carbs was awesome. Apart from the time I fell over with 4 plates of pesto pasta, and cried because it was the icing on the cake of stress. 

Supporting immigrants’ integration into the local community in Finland consisted of farm activities such as berry picking, but my favourite has to be quad driving. Driving the quad around the track with a few children clinging on to me for their lives, fun until the quad starts to smoke!

I will never forget my leaving meal in the traditional kota on farm. I brought two of my favourite dogs, Tähti and Tog, to celebrate with! We ate food cooked on the fireplace and I drank until I was tipsy… so no one believed when I shouted, “THE NORTHERN LIGHTS”. As I exited the kota to begin walking to the guide house, I saw the blue bands of colour. 
The response was something along the lines of me drinking too much. 
Imagine the others’ faces when they saw the Northern Lights on our arrival at the guide house! I was no imagining it. 

5. SWITZERLAND

Getting lost on a hike up to Harder Kulm was great. Why? Because I met 2 cool travellers, we finished the hike together and I celebrated with coke zero as they enjoyed a beer as we sat with a bird’s-eye view of Interlaken.  

So, when I arrived at Lauterbrunnen for the Mürren hike, and saw a fellow solo hiker, I asked for a photo taken in order to begin a conversation. I was eager to make friends with more travellers. We decided to hike together, by the end we had already organised a meet up in Interlaken which led to eating out together! 

My host, Vera, and I walked the goats around the town, creating small crowds of people playing with Florian the goat and taking photos. Celebrities of Interlaken. There are too many hilarious moments to share with Vera, but she has become my “Swiss mum”. I already have my third trip to Switzerland coming up in 2 weeks, in the span of 7 months. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Veterinary work experience: Past, Present, Future

Past -> Present -> Future

Shock horror- attempting to take a more “go with the flow” approach to life in 2019 means I have no work experience booked.

Fortunately, the past few years of hard work have set a solid foundation for another exciting year of placements, to continue to immerse myself into the vet life.

Before committing to posting a monthly overview of my work experience placements in 2019, I thought that it would be helpful to share my past experience.

PAST

DOG DOYCARE CENTRE

(No photos, so here’s a cute photo with Stanley!)

BLACKPOOL ZOO KEEPER: ACADEMY STUDENT 

(Every Sunday for 3 months)

Just giving a tortoise a bath… as you do

KNOWSLEY SAFARI PARK: ACADEMY STUDENT

(1 week)

Feeling tall

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1)

(1 week)

Small animal surgery confidentiality = cute Maisie to fill the gap

DAIRY FARM / PETTING FARM

(1 week)

Moooove along

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(1 week)

Here’s another space-filler! I have cared for 3 litters of pups at home.

EQUINE STUD FARM

(Every Sunday for 2 months)

Poop husbandry… how to handle + accurately do F.E.Cs

GENETICS DAIRY FARM

(Accumulated 5 random days)

Being 5ft 3 puts you right in the firing line.

HILL FARM

(1 day)

EQUINE VETERINARY PRACTICE

(10 days)

(Photo is actually from stud farm placement, vet confidentiality!)

BEEF FARM

(1 day)

A work of art – my first calf eartag

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1) – GOAT SPECIALIST 

(1 week, staying away from home)





A random goat photo – I have lots of those! Vet confidentiality.

WILD BIRD HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

A very countryside photo

HEDGEHOG HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

Always making friends on placement

ABATTOIR (SLAUGHTER HOUSE)

(1 day) 

Exposure and education

LAMBING (2500 EWES)

(10 days, living on farm)

Yes, I pulled these guys out

LARGE SCALE GOAT MEAT FARM (Wales)

Living on farm. Total: 5 weeks in vet work exp. 5 day week maths!

(10 days during kidding
1 week in summer
1 week in winter)

Dream kidding team

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(2 x 1 week placements = 2 week total)

An important aspiring goat vet milestone.
TAKING BLOOD.

HUSKY FARM IN FINLAND

(7 weeks)

Monitoring anaesthesia and stitching. When there is no vet nurses in the remote practice.

SWITZERLAND WORK AWAY WITH GOATS

(6 weeks)

Goats love me too

GOAT DAIRY FARM

A goat rotary parlour… AMAZING.

ULTRASOUND SCANNING LIVESTOCK

Early days for understanding the images, it is a learning process. Practice makes perfect.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION COURSE 

Waiting for the POP, if you know you know.

EDUCATIONAL FARM

(2 years)

Every child should learn about goats

PRESENT

Placement hosts have become second families, work experience has truly changed my life and shaped who I am today.

As 2018 drew to a close, I was over the moon to secure a full time position working in a kennels/cattery/stables. Full time work experience!

Outside of kennel assistant work:

GCSE tutoring
Learning to drive
Goat keeping

Work experience
Studying
ENJOYING LIFE
Travelling

I have a week in Switzerland booked, and hopefully a 2 day course at a local commercial goat farm soon. 

FUTURE

I would like to post a monthly work experience summary on my blog

Gain experience in a laboratory

Attend more courses

Spread the “Animals are my therapy” word

Here is to a wonderful 2019, with its ups and downs.

Heidi.

Lessons from goats

Welcome to the wonderful world of goat keeping. 

Members of “goaty friends” have shared their main lessons from their caprine companions.

Step 1 to goat keeping? Before searching for the ideal goat?

1. THINK FORT KNOX

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“How to build secure fencing.”
“Fencing is never high enough or strong enough.”
“Fence well before the goats arrive so when they check out the fence they feel trapped right from the start.”
“Can’t go over it, go under, can’t go under, go through… teleport.”
“I’m pretty sure we somehow managed to buy flying goats.”
“If the boundary is safe you can relax.”
“No gate is low enough to the ground.”
“My goats have taught me how to slide through a gate without barely opening it at all.”
“No fence is high enough.”

What about the “goats eat everything” statement?

2. GOATS LOVE FOOD

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“Everything is edible.”
“Food is temporary.”
“A goat can spot a food bucket at about half a mile.”
“That they can love each other so very much, or hate each other with a passion, especially around food.”

They certainly keep you occupied

3. ATTENTION

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“What you think is sufficient pats/cuddles is never enough & that it’s fun for them to jump on your back”

4. BRAINY GOATS

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“That they are very intelligent especially for their own ends.”
“They watch humans and mimic them to learn how to use stiles.”

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

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“Learn to think 5 steps ahead of them!”
“Don’t plan anything!”
“To have eyes in the back of my head.”

BUT it isn’t all fun and games…

6. GOATS KNOW HOW TO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS

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“Patience!”
“Never underestimate their ability to come up with a new way to cause you agro all with an innocent look on their faces.”
“Never trust them when they look innocent, the amount of tops I have with holes in as the goats had a nibble before I realised!”
“Trust your instincts!”
“They’ve taught me Swear words!! I didn’t know I knew so many till i started milking goats.”
“How extremely intelligent and utterly stupid they can be at the same time.”

7. PREPARE FOR MESS… they are kids after all

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“Always have a spare set of overalls. And wellies. And socks.”

…Especially when it comes to kidding time

8. YOU HAVE GOAT TO BE KIDDING

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“Kidding will occur at the least appropriate or convenient moment. You’re screwed.”
“Queens of the herd are forever (or at least until kidding season).”
“You can wait and watch a goat kidding for hours and nothing but the two seconds you nip for a wee it’s all over!”
“The “Go and make us a coffee, she will be ages yet!”” 
“Deep snow on the ground? No water? Power out? Congratulations! You have a 100% guarantee at least one goat will have quads today.”

They teach us some serious stuff too.

9. LIVE IN THE NOW

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“They have taught me you are never prepared for the worst.”
“…whenever I get caught up in the past I go to the goat shed and remind myself to live in the now and take care of what I can take care of now and let the rest go.”

The finale…

10. MAN’S BEST FRIEND? GOATS.

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“That life was incomplete without them.”
“That you can never have too many goats.” 
“They are very understanding and patient with people who have disabilities.”
“I have had mine since May and am totally in love.I didn’t know they play as much as they do.So beautiful.I am in love with them both.”
“My love for them & what they give back! can’t imagine my life without them! I have a 6 year old gg I’m her fifth owner what I was told about her I thought what have I done purchasing her but they tell you the truth! I wouldn’t be without her!”
“No two goats are same, all have their own quirks and traits. Can be testing at times but 100% worth it.”
“How loving and funny and clever goats are.”
“They have taught me how much an animal can love both each other and the humans around them”
“They’ve taught me how to be a crazy goat lady.”

Megan’s story: Put your best foot first and keep on mooving

MEGAN

PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FIRST AND KEEP ON MOOVING

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

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My passion for animals has always been deep-rooted, with spending most of my ‘grown up’ time working at a rescue centre for horses and spending my childhood growing up on a smallholding. I have volunteered at animal sanctuaries – I have scooped poo, cleaned cages, walked dogs and dealt with the death of (unfortunately) many animals. I have been lucky enough to have worked with animals from hissing cockroaches to emus to now cows. Animals have quite literally saved my life. If I think back to every point where I wanted to give up, or where I was lost or where I had to make a big life decision it was animals that pulled me from the depths of coldness that surrounded me.
I have cried into horses manes, I have whispered secrets into their ears, I have shared my deepest secrets with a wet nose, four paws and a wagging tail. I have shared kisses, hugs, and most of all happiness with all types of animals. I was never judged, I was never turned away and I was never told they didn’t want to listen or that I should just do better. 

IF YOU FIND A PATH WITH NO OBSTACLES, IT PROBABLY DOESN’T LEAD ANYWHERE.”

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The path to where I am now has been a long one. At 23 years of age with a 2:1 equine science degree, a house, a car and good money – I am still finding out who I want to be and what I want to do.

So if you’re reading this, if you’re starting/finishing college or university with no idea where to go next, do not panic – life has its way of carving out a path you don’t even know you’re on… just enjoy the journey, take opportunities, step out of that comfort zone, embrace life. 

Which is exactly what I am doing now…

I embarked on my journey into the dairy industry full time in March 2018, where I became a calf rearer on a large dairy farm with over 700 acres, milking 550 cows twice a day. Couple that with a house move away from my family, a short two weeks before Christmas and literally very little knowledge of cows and farming – I was really quite literally thrown in at the deep end. 

CREATE THE LIFE YOU CAN’T WAIT TO WAKE UP TO 

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It has been full of laughs, tears, frustration, sweat, hard work and determination. It has unequivocally been the best leap of faith I have ever taken. When I started, I knew a little, just about enough to be able to feed a calf, and that is where my knowledge stopped. HOWEVER now I can ; feed, treat, inject, spot illnesses, calve cows, care for a head of over 50 calves at a time, milk, and most importantly – look forward to waking up every single day.
There is no denying that where there is live stock, there is dead stock and each death is a massive blow to my heart. I work hard, I love, I care and I give my everything to each and every animal but sometimes that is not enough. As farmers, we are so good at looking after our animals that we forget to look after ourselves. 

I AM A FARMER, I AM A WOMAN, I AM A PERSON AND I AM *NOT* ALONE

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I could write pages and pages of stories of the early morning and late nights with complicated calvings and premature calves. I could write about the time a calf I was moving fell onto the acceleration pedal of the gator and took itself for a joy ride. I could tell you about the hours I have spent cuddling sick and injured calves and nursed them back to health but what I really want to tell you is this:
Mental health awareness is on the rise and its increasingly important that we continue to raise awareness and continue to talk to each other. It has been shown that more than one farmer a week dies from suicide. The levels of depression within the agricultural industry are thought to be increasing and suicide rates in farmers are among the highest in any occupational group (ONS). Those who are working in a specific agricultural role such as harvesting crops and rearing animals has a higher risk of suicide (this is almost twice the national average) (ONS)
Farming is tough, it can be lonely, stressful and heart breaking. Issues such as TB and the lack of forage has a HUGE effect on farmers all over the world – except that’s not what people want to talk about. I am called a murderer and I am called a monster and I am not alone. Dairy farmers have such a bad reputation which is snowballed by false online propaganda.
When farming is already tough – it can become unbearable. 
I am a farmer, I am strong, I am tough and I am so full of love. 
I am a farmer, I am weak, I am scared and I am so full of darkness
I am a farmer, I am a woman, I am a PERSON and I am NOT alone.

MEGAN

Instagram: www.instagram.com/megrosemary_