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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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‘I do not ever regret not getting into vet school the first time around’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Megan Berger (26) from Johannesburg, South Africa, who is currently residing outside of Brisbane, Australia, where she is studying veterinary medicine at University of Queensland, in the second part of her interview in week’s Student Focus segment. You can read the first part of her interview via this link.

“Firstly, it is important to know that pursuing veterinary medicine is not an easy path.

The field has very low acceptance rates and requires a significant amount of dedication due to it being very content-heavy and having intense coursework and practical work.

It is so important if considering to study vet med to be certain that this is the career path you want to follow, as it may be a challenging five years otherwise.

To succeed, I recommend studying throughout the semester and avoiding last-minute cramming. Unlike high school, there is an enormous amount of content to cover, and you do not want to fall behind.

So before taking on vet school, work on your study methods and find what suits you.

However, it is also essential to find a balance between studying and having fun. University is an excellent place to meet new people, experience new things and make lifelong memories.

So when you do get into vet school, get involved in extracurricular activities, attend social events and take care of yourself. Remember, these years will fly by, so enjoy every moment!

Veterinary medicine at University of Queensland

Not getting accepted into vet school can be extremely disheartening and discouraging.

I understand, as I did not get accepted into vet school the first time around, and it was a horrible feeling. But it is important to remember that it is not the end of the world.

I would suggest taking some time to reflect – it is natural to feel disappointed, and trust me, I have been there and felt it; it honestly sucks.

But take some time to reflect on why this might have happened. Were there areas of weakness in your application or academic records you could improve on?

Were there factors out of your control that may have impacted the application?

Use this time to evaluate on your strengths and weaknesses and consider ways to improve your application.

This could be, for example, by taking the year to work in a job focused on veterinary and animals. This will allow you to get more experience and exposure to the veterinary world.

Maybe consider alternative career pathways. There are many careers that allow one to work with animals:  behaviourist, zoo keepers, wildlife rehabilitators, animal researchers etc. But definitely reapply!

Do not give up

If becoming a veterinarian is your dream, then do not give up after one rejection.

Many successful veterinarians have been rejected from vet school multiple times before being accepted. So, keep working on strengthening your application and try again.

Remember to seek support and talk to family and friends, and mentors for emotional support and guidance.

You can make it happen if you want it to happen. Just because one door has closed does not mean that others will not open in the future.

Catherina Cunnane - That's Farming

My pathway

Sometimes, I think about my past and regret not studying enough for some of my important courses during my undergraduate degree.

This ultimately caused me to fail one of them, and I kick myself now for not putting in more effort.

I wonder, if I had worked harder in my first year and not spent as much time partying and enjoying life, would I have gotten into vet school on my first try and been a qualified vet a few years earlier?

However, I try to stop myself from dwelling on these thoughts because I would not change a thing or take a different path to get to where I am now.

If I had not failed my one course, I would not know what failure felt like, and I think it has made me more aware of how to handle failure.

I learned how to pick myself up and move on and figure out how to overcome the problem.

A blessing in disguise

I also do not ever regret not getting into vet school the first time around. It was a blessing in disguise because I got to pursue my master’s degree, which was incredible for my communication skills, particularly writing and for my professional communication skills.

I also got to live in a new country and meet people who have become some of my best friends. Also, due to Covid, I could not get into Australia for my first year of vet school, so I had to do it online from my home in South Africa.

This allowed me to spend a year at home with my parents, which I would not have been able to do otherwise if, for instance, I had been accepted a year earlier.

These memories are extremely special to me now, and I try not to regret them or wish I could turn back the clock.

Everything happens for a reason, and I believe all my experiences, failures and life lessons have got me to where I am today and have made me the person I am today.

Why I want to be a vet

I absolutely love animals, and I also want to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, to educate others and learn from others.

I aspire to make a difference in this world through the veterinary industry. This industry used to be heavily male-dominated, but now it is dominated by females.

It is amazing to be a woman and part of an industry where I can use my voice and education to make change.

I love seeing all the women entering the veterinary field! It is incredible to see how today, it is dominated by women, given that it used to be a male-dominated industry. I will always advocate for women in STEM!

The veterinary industry is in desperate need of veterinarians, and I want to be one of those vets who can help, inspire, and make a change in the industry.

I really like small animal medicine and African wildlife medicine. Emergency medicine is also something I am super interested in, and mixed practice as well, so right now, I would consider a career in pretty much everything in veterinary. I will have to see where the wind and my passion take me.

This will be my third degree now, so with that being said, it is time to get a job after this degree and work for a little, but hey, I will never say never because maybe PhD someday? Who knows!

I desire to make a difference, save lives, be a voice for those who do not have one, and educate and change lives.

I am doing what I love, and it has been and continues to be some of the best times of my life.”

To share your story, email – [email protected]

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