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.”

Put your wellies on

I often recognise that animals provide us with the key to unlock our front door on the days the all-consuming demoralising cloud of depression would leave us feeling trapped. Our four-legged companions can remove the barrier of fog in our minds, and lead us to the great outdoors.
Animals are my therapy.

Many of the benefits of animal therapy stem from the healing powers of being outside.

The outdoors are also my therapy.

So, what do I gain from the outdoors?

1. GRATITUDE

I cannot measure the profound feeling I experience when hiking in the Swiss mountains. Instead of attempting to quantify my success and productivity, I wholeheartedly appreciate the little things in life when enchanted by nature. The things that are free of charge from sunrise to sunrise. 

We are surrounded by it, and is not a fleeting time period of our life. It’s an escape, a refuge, a safe haven. Imagine nature as the secure foundation of our lives, strip back everything else, and you can continue to experience gratitude for being alive.

2. MINDFULNESS

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When the extra things in life can feel overwhelming, the basic foundations of nature ground us. You can simply “be”, surrounded by sights that make you grateful for the life you live. Stop and be captivated, there is no experience likewise. 

Mindfulness involves the other 4 senses too. Allow yourself to touch, taste, hear, smell, and see the natural environments without judgement.

Slow down. Switch off of your inner critic. Sense the wonders of life.

3. STRESS RELIEF

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Nature provides an easy escape from the academic rat race. The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever.

The outdoors offer a chance to gain practical skills, to add another string to your bow whilst learning outdoors. Sequentially, this reduces the stake and mental intensity of textbook learning. 

4. EXPLORATION

Whilst others are being sheep, be the goat that takes the mountain sides.

Whether the outdoor offers you increased spontaneity is in the form of taking your muddy dog on a new route, or hiking in the sweltering heat abroad, always be a goat.

It is easy to be tempted to go off track, to explore new areas, to meet new people. 

Why is the outdoors therapy to you?

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