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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘My aim is to be the best vet my clients could ever wish for’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with 26-year-old vet student, Tina Madeleine Hansen, Hamar, Norway, in a two-part interview in this week’s Student Focus interview.

Best known as ‘The Traveling Vet Student’, she discussed her time in the military, following her dream of becoming a vet, travel stints and student life at Wroclaw, University Of Environmental And Life Sciences, Poland.

This article follows on from part one of the segment, which can read via this link.

“Veterinary medicine is a broad profession with loads of different directions regardless of interests and lifestyle preferences.

The world lacks at veterinarians, and I encourage anyone that has an interest to at least try it out; shadow a vet, do an externship, or do a farm placement.

There is only one way to find out – and keep in mind that even if one clinic did not hold what you were hoping for, the next one might.

And if you want it enough, I am sure you will find a way to get that degree, even if it is taking up classes or studying abroad while working part-time.

There are lots of schools around Europe that offer vet studies in English; Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuanian and Slovakia, for example.

The criteria for each school may vary, but generally, they look less at the number on the paper for English division students than most other schools.

There are so many reasons why I will always root to study abroad, and they are all listed in one of my blogs.

Plan Bs

There are many ways around this if your grades are not sufficient; you can also redo classes, or as some people do, they do their vet nurse degree first and then apply for vet school later.

I choose to believe that everything happens for a reason and that every decision I took led me to where I am today. Other than wishing for a non-pandemic impacted degree, there is not much I would change.

Vet school is definitely a time for big ups and downs. There will be a lot of tough times with tests, pressure, grades, and retakes.

There will probably be some crying and some mental breakdowns after working your hardest but still not succeeding on the first try.

On the other side, the feeling of accomplishing and getting through it all overcomes any downside. When there are low lows, there will be high highs.

You will meet like-minded people who will become your family, and maybe you will get to travel and even learn a new culture/language.

Being a student is a magical time, and one should make the best out of one’s youth and free time.

Family, finance and friends 

One of the disadvantages of studying abroad is being far away from your family.

Although you will make a new one there, and you will learn to love FaceTiming, I know for some; this can be very tough.

There might also be higher costs or loans around studying abroad, depending on the country and comparison. But the list of advantages of studying abroad is a lot longer.

You will deepen your language knowledge; even if it is in English or a complementary language, you will learn.

You will see a different culture and try a variety of new foods, and you will make friends on all continents, and you will get closer to your classmates, as you will be each other’s support system while you are so far from home.

Studying abroad truly opens your mind and makes you see more perspectives of the world and the opportunities that are out there.

I love animals, and I always have. I hate to see an animal suffer, and so I like to have the gift of improving their lives as much as it will for their loving owners.

Animals cannot talk for themselves, and I am hoping to be a voice, also within conservation.

For some people, their fury friends are all they have got, and I am here for it: To understand and support but also to help.

Variety is the spice

I must also say that I love medicine, and I have created a love for continuous learning. What we can do with different compounds and the knowledge of biochemistry is incredible, and I took the oath to continue to learn and broaden my knowledge for the rest of my life, which I will happily do.

Moreover, I have a variety of externships lined up (all from small animals, horses, zoos and acupuncture), and then I am planning to get a job in England.

I am a complex person, and with the variety of options we have in this profession, it is hard to make a choice.

My heart burns for integrative medicine, especially around small animals, but I also know that I cannot live a life without horses.

Otherwise, I have an ongoing fascination for wildlife and exotics and would love to work with them professionally one day. So, I might start out with small animals and then see where the future will take me.

I am doing my degree in acupuncture parallel with my veterinary degree.

Otherwise, I am hoping to get my degree in veterinary chiropractics also soon. I would love to do additional classes in animal nutrition and learn more about exotic and wildlife species and management.

Also, I enjoy surgery and would love to advance my surgical skills, even within specific procedures or prosthetics.


One day, I would love to own properties, companies, and/or vet projects and to have my own clinic(s).

I would love to travel the world to educate and teach the heroes of tomorrow and to take health to the next level for my clients, big or small.

My only remark is that I wish women would support women more. In workplaces, especially where you end up with the majority of women of the older generation, I have seen some nasty clinic work environments out there where women treat each other and the new grads terribly.

I may have been unlucky with some of my work placements, but I hear this a lot in this profession.

My aim is to be the teacher/mentor I never got and be the best vet my clients could ever wish for.

Two types of vet students

Life as a vet student is stressful, challenging, and at times, exhausting. But it can also be beautiful, memorable, and the best years of your life!

As a student that studies abroad, I see mainly two types of students here. The ones that thrive and the ones that do not. The ones that do not hold these typical features: They travel home as soon as an opportunity opens.

They do not go out or join most social events and do not involve in any clubs or social things at school.

Their most common phrase is “I cannot wait to be done”. They do not make many friends in school, and most of their life is centred in their hometown.

They do not necessarily do well in school, and they do not seem to enjoy their time in vet school at all.

The second type, the ones that thrive, typically made an effort to create a life in their new student town.

They have many good friends even across different study directions, joins social events and clubs at school, go out and travel together over the long weekends, and do extra-curriculum activities.

They typically study with friends or in groups and can often be found in public in parks, cafes etc. These are the people I see thriving in school, and they seem to be enjoying vet school the most.

I know some of this is circumstantial, but I also think it comes down to mindset and effort. Which student are you going to be?

Also, I have a lot of blog posts about studying abroad, info about my uni, travelling, and much more – Check it out via this link.

To share your story, email – [email protected]

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