21-year-old Luke Mitchell is one of many students who has moved overseas to chase his veterinary medicine dream, writes Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.
He was disappointed when he failed to secure sufficient CAO points to enrol at Ireland’s only veterinary medicine school, but all was not lost, as he opted for his plan B.
Following in his cousin’s footsteps, Luke began his studies at Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Warsaw, Poland in 2017. “I always had an interest in veterinary and working with animals since I was 11/12-years-old,” he explained.
“When I was in Transition Year, I completed work experience with David, my cousin, and from that point, I was dead set on doing veterinary medicine.”
A new chapter
The 21-year-old said he did not know what to expect when he first embarked on his journey across the waters. “Moving away from home for the first time at eighteen to a different country was extremely daunting.”
“At that stage, I didn’t even know how to use a washing machine, but I wasn’t long getting the hang of it. I suppose the biggest eye-opener was actually being thrown into reality with no parents to wash, cook and clean.”
The Louth native said he is enjoying the course so far, but admitted that the first two years were challenging. “This is because they are very much theory-based which is understandable because you must build your veterinary knowledge before doing the practical side.”
“It was hard to see light at the end of the tunnel at times, but I got through it. This year is much more practical and enjoyable,” he added.
Luke returns to Ireland at Christmas for a fortnight and can be home for more than three weeks in February after he completes his exams. “This time is used to go on placement – whether it be with a farmer or a vet to gain knowledge and experience.”
“I also get three months off during the summer and any other breaks home really depend on the Polish holidays and prices of flights.”
“As well as being a student, you have to be an adult. Unlike a student in Ireland that can go home for the weekend, we have to do the shopping, the washing and try and maintain a balanced lifestyle on top of studying what is already a challenging course.”
“I play rugby, football, and go to the gym daily. Warsaw is a great city to go out in as there is something for everyone.”
Luke advises second-level students to consider alternative options if they do not receive their first CAO offer. “If you really want to do veterinary medicine and option one doesn’t work, look further, seek advice and go for what you really want to do.”
“Be prepared for a lot of late nights of studying and constant exams as it’s not really assignment-based.”
“All things considered though, you will have a lot of fun and enjoy life as a vet student. I think studying abroad is especially rewarding with all the life experience you gather as well.”
Luke has no post-graduation plans set in stone as of yet, although he is considering working aboard for a short period before he returns to his home soil.
“When I start working, I’d like to get into a mixed practice, and I might expand and specialise in something in the future.”
The 21-year-old revealed that his ultimate goal would be to partner up with his cousin who recently opened his own practice; Lower Ormond Veterinary Clinic.
“He has put in endless hours of hardship and slogging to get where he is and he’s an inspirational figure to me. One day I’ll get there and if he’d take me on, I’d only be happy to work with him.”
“I thoroughly enjoy where I am and what I’m doing. I learn something new and complete a new task or challenge every day.”
“It can be tough at times, but if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing or learning anything, so just get stuck in,” he concluded.
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