Isobel Arthur

Lockdown reflections from a 5th year

I think everyone can agree that lockdown has been a massive shock to the system. But it has also been a steep learning curve. During these rollercoaster times, I have not only learnt more about society and how we can work together to support each other, but also about myself and how to be kind to myself as well as others.

When lockdown was first announced, I (like many of my fellow students) returned home, assuming it would only be for a few weeks. However, what was presumed to be a relatively brief few weeks, was now likely to be closer to months.

Whilst adapting to this new normal brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, many students were still trying to revise for upcoming exams, myself included. This period, saw many exams across universities postponed, while others were moved online. How different would this prove sat at home, perhaps in front of open books? Initially, like many others, I struggled to work out how to revise and adapt my learning in order to best to tackle these changes. Although, I soon realised that these exams, while still stressful and difficult, were no different to the exams I had sat many times before, just under different circumstances and that it was my attitude toward them that needed to change above anything else. It was from this epiphany that I realised I needed to be kinder to myself and give myself a break. Exams, while still important, are not worth disregarding your own mental health and wellbeing. The premise of striving towards the tough task of passing any vet school exam is difficult at the best of times while juggling life. Given we are not in wholly conducive circumstances, amidst uncertain times, the usual standards and benchmarks we set may not be attainable or realistic in our new ‘normal’.

Moreover, we must not disregard the mammoth achievement of the 2020 graduating class for successfully completing vet school, during a pandemic, to become what is likely to be the first in a long line of the most adaptable vets to date. The end of vet school is usually heralded by a day of graduation gowns, champagne and dad’s trying to hide their tears. However, this has had to adapt and change, as with most events this year. Across the UK and Ireland, graduation ceremonies have been held in gardens, on beaches and in forests, with home-made caps and gowns and a virtual ceremony. While many will be disappointed that they were not able to attend the traditional graduation, I see this as a feat of ingenuity of the 2020 graduating class. Not only have they conquered one of the toughest and most demanding university courses, but they have also made a graduation day for themselves that they will never forget, with their
friends and family able to sit through the whole thing with them. It is unlikely that any other graduating class will have an experience quite as individual as they have, and that is something that should be cherished, not begrudged.

In these ever-changing times, we must look to the future and think what we can take to improve ourselves from this experience. If nothing else, the past few months have taught me just how resourceful and adaptable we can all be as a profession. It would have been all too easy to stick to the old ways and struggle to stay afloat, but we have adapted and taken this as an opportunity to improve. Realising that it is OK to have a break, to be kind to yourself, to talk to others is as much a survival skill as any. Learning to change our ways of learning and living only proves to hone our problem solving skills as vets. Every situation, even a pandemic, has its positives if you dare to look close enough, and changing to a more positive outlook is the first step to finding these opportunities.

Isobel Arthur, AVS president 2020-21

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