Studying at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Nowadays, the veterinary profession has a far more international character. Colleagues and clients have various backgrounds. Globalisation has led to complex global problems in the area of animal health and welfare in relation to the living environment. Attracting international students contributes to an ambitious international educational climate and prepares students for the future.
What makes our programme attractive to international students? What is it like to come to the Netherlands and to study at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine? We interviewed four veterinary medicine students.
Dutch people are pretty direct. In Suriname, we try to broach a subject more gently.
I grew up on a large plot. We had a lot of animals at home. Lots of animals are “dumped” in Suriname, and we took these animals in. At school, I was interested in studying medicine. Via an international study grant, I found out about studying veterinary medicine in the Netherlands. You cannot study veterinary medicine in Suriname. I considered going to Trinidad or Brazil. Unfortunately, it was not easy communicating with the institutions there. After an online orientation, I contacted Utrecht University, and suddenly things fell in place. Everything is so well arranged here. I really enjoy the programme and the education provided is very good. It is easy to make contact with the lecturers, they explain things well and they’re willing to help you. My first year in the Netherlands was hard. There were moments I burst into tears. You don’t have friends and family close by anymore. The switch from high school to university is pretty difficult because everything is so different. For example, I had never worked in an electronic learning environment. Plus I also had to get used to the food, the temperature and the culture. Dutch people are pretty direct. In Suriname, we try to broach a subject more gently. However, now I’ve found my feet. I hope that other international students also have the opportunity to study here.
Lecturers know exactly which level you are at and what you still need to learn
I originally come from Italy, and I’ve lived in Germany since the age of 19. There I trained to be a professional rider because there no places were available on the veterinary medicine course. I chose Utrecht because I had a good feeling about the personal contact. Subsequently, a private tutor taught me Dutch in a few months. The switch to the Netherlands was not easy. I had to get used to the Dutch mentality, speaking Dutch every day and, because the textbooks are in English, the constant switching between languages. However, now I feel completely at home at the university and the horse clinic. I now really belong here, and I am active in the student council, the master’s representative group and in the student society Hygiea. It’s amazing what we can learn here. From an early stage in the course, you learn to look at the animal, to handle it, and you can do clinical research on patients. The theory is linked to the practice, which I find very important for the learning process. Lecturers know exactly which level you are at and what you still need to learn. They support you until you can do that. I do not want to be an all-round vet. I want to know a lot about a specific area and become a specialist, for example in surgery orthopaedics. So once I’ve graduated, I will first of all apply for an internship.
During my first lecture, I thought: am I ever going to make it?
I was born in Germany grew up in Greece. There is an enormous gap between how animals are treated in Greece and how they are treated in the Netherlands. Take for example the monitoring of animals in livestock farming and the use of antibiotics. In high school, I realised that I wanted to become a vet, but at that time, Greece was experiencing an enormous economic crisis. As Utrecht University had a good reputation, I eventually chose the Netherlands. During my first lecture, I thought: am I ever going to make it? In retrospect, however, that thought was what motivated me. I wanted to prove that I could do it. I spent a lot of time studying in the first year, and I passed all my exams. During the master’s programme, I also completed the Honours programme. The many facilities, such as the clinic, De Tolakker farm and the collaboration with the University Farm Animal Practice are definitely a plus point. You gain a considerable amount of practical experience. I also see the short lines of communication with the lecturers as something positive. In about a year, I will complete the master’s degree in farm animals. At some point, I want to return to Greece, but first I want to work in the poultry sector, either in research or in the field.
Alongside my study, I now work in abattoirs together with veterinarians from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority
My mother is Dutch and my father is Italian. In the Netherlands, I attended the European school. After that, I did a bachelor in biology at the University of Florida, but actually, I wanted to become a vet. Studying to be a vet is very expensive in the US, and you have to be the best student to gain entry to the course. Due to my Dutch background, I decided to return to the Netherlands to study veterinary medicine. I improved my Dutch through self-study. The start of the course was pretty tough. Requesting exemptions was not wise due to the binding study advice and much of the study material, for example about epidemiology, was new for me anyway. Furthermore, I did not know the Dutch university education system, and I had a lot of questions. My mentor group was particularly valuable during that period. Besides the considerable amount of practical experience you gain during your study, I was particularly pleased with the e-learning modules. Alongside my study, I now work in abattoirs together with veterinarians from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. I still need to think about what I want to do once I've graduated.