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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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3 Irish veterinary medicine students in Poland

As discussions heighten around the need for a second veterinary medicine school in Ireland, That’s Farming’s editor, Catherina Cunnane, speaks to three Irish natives who are training overseas in Poland to become vets.

Vincent Sweeney

22-year-old Sweeney has “never really thought of any other job I wanted to do since seeing my local vet perform a C-section on one of our cows when I was around 7 or 8”.

He hails from a small suckler farm in Kiltyclogher, which his father runs alongside a plant hire business.

He began his studies at University of Life Sciences in Warsaw in 2019 and is set to graduate in 2025.

Sweeney told us: “During my Leaving Cert, I heard of another previous student in my school who had started first year of veterinary in Warsaw, so I looked into it as it seemed like a good choice.”

“I applied for the entrance exam for Warsaw in April 2019 during my Leaving Cert and received a place in the course before I even sat my Leaving Cert, depending on the grades I received.”

“This took a lot of pressure off during the Leaving Cert, knowing I had a place already secured.”

“The Leaving Cert is not the end of the world. Travelling abroad to study is getting even more popular with Irish students, and it is like a home away from home,” he added.

Read more on this profile.

Zara Doyle Mathews

“Since I could talk, veterinary had always been the answer for me. It was not even a question or a choice,” claims 21-year-old Zara, who began studying veterinary medicine at UPWR in Wroclaw, Poland, in 2020 and is set to graduate in January 2026.

She did not have the opportunity to sit her Leaving Cert in 2020 due to Covid-19, and, therefore, predicted grades which “did not work in my favour, receiving fewer points than my mocks”, as she told our editor.

“My results were appealed and brought by our local councillor to the Dáil. By the time it took to appeal, I was already studying in Poland,” she explained to Catherina Cunnane.

“I was actually set to repeat my Leaving Cert and had begun restudying and went back to secondary school.”

“Veterinary was always the only choice for me – regardless of which way I got there.”

“A week after the school year started, I got a phone call at 4 pm on a Thursday evening from my mam saying that a vet school in Poland had one spot left for this year and that I had to submit a personal essay by 5 pm and my interview would be at 9 am Friday morning.”

She sat her interview the day after and was accepted on the spot – but to begin classes 4 days later, on Tuesday.

So, she booked a last-minute flight and flew to Poland, relocating her life for the next five-and-a-half years.

Read more about her journey.

Laura Courtney

Laura completed a year of general science at NUIG, studying maths, physics, biology, and chemistry before venturing across the waters to Poland, where she is in her third year of a veterinary medicine degree at Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences.

Her goal is to become a vet, gain experience in Ireland before travelling to New Zealand or the US and eventually own her own practice.

“If you want to become a vet, do not give up. The points system in Ireland, in my opinion, is quite narrow-sighted.”

“If you are willing to work hard and love the idea of working in a ‘hands-on’ environment, then go for it.”

“There are many people in my university that have completed degrees in Ireland, such as equine science, veterinary nursing and biomedical sciences, before deciding to enrol, while others took a gap year after the Leaving Cert to work,” she explained.

Read her full profile.

See more Student Focus profiles.

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