The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Marie Gallagher

University College Dublin – Ireland

Marie Gallagher

What made you decide to study in the UK after your first degree?

I chose to study in the UK instead of Ireland as I believed it would offer me a better opportunity to broaden my horizons and enhance my experience in both academic and social life. I studied Agriculture at UCD, Dublin and I wanted to explore a different style of teaching and I thought the UK was the best place for me to do that.


What made you decide to apply to The University of Edinburgh and The R(D)SVS?

I decided to apply to the Edinburgh vet school because I loved the curriculum and its accreditation was very appealing too. I instantly liked the large practical aspect the course offered because I feel that the best way to learn is in a classroom with practicals and tutorials afterwards to solidify what you've actually learned. The Vet School is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and The European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE), which gives me the opportunity to go abroad to work if that’s what I decide I want in the future. It's nice to know that you have options.


What was the application process like?

Pretty easy actually! I was a bit nervous applying because of the different application system for colleges in the UK and Ireland but it was actually really straightforward. I selected the 4 UK vet colleges that I was most interested in and submitted my personal statement and UCAS did the rest. After the closing dates for applying, UCAS informed me if I was successful in getting an interview for the colleges and well, the rest you can probably figure out!


What stands out in your mind from your experience at Edinburgh and studying Veterinary Medicine so far?

Funnily enough, the first thing that pops out at me is going to my first Burns Night Supper in the vet school. It’s a night of Scottish tradition where they eat haggis, play the bagpipes and recite Robert Burns poetry (very stereotypical, I know!). The whole vet school gets involved and it was an absolutely brilliant night. I think it was on that night that I first felt like I totally belonged to the vet school. It was so completely obvious that the vet school community was like a giant family with staff and students alike celebrating. It just confirmed to me that I wasn't alone in this. There was a huge network of support behind me.


Has Edinburgh become your home away from home?

Essentially yes, the vet school is a really close community. I've met so many absolutely fantastic friends and even though I've only known them for a few months, I really do feel like I've known them for years. When you meet such great friends, it distracts you from the home-sickness. Plus all the practicals, classes and study keep you busy too!


Was it difficult to transition into life in Edinburgh and studying abroad?

For me personally, no. I find the Irish and Scottish to have a very similar sense of humour and are very like-minded and on top of that, the Scots are a really friendly bunch of people. I found I settled into a routine pretty quickly. The support system at the vet school is absolutely out of this world too. If I did have any problem transitioning or settling in, there are tons of people that are willing to give a helping hand.


What aspect of the BVM&S degree do you enjoy the most and why?

Definitely the practicals. I didn't realise how much hands-on experience we would get so quickly. I think the variety of handling experience we get is absolutely fantastic. It ranges from large animals and horses to dogs and cats and exotics (rabbits, birds and reptiles). It helps students get a taster for what they may want to do in the future. The layout of the course is brilliant- it's structured so that we get the handling in theory, then we get to practice on the teaching animals. There are even opportunities for some extra practice for students who want to improve their handling skills one-on-one.


Have your EMS placements helped to shape your studies so far?

Oh absolutely! There is no doubt that EMS is a fantastic idea. There is a big difference between reading about something and actually experiencing it yourself in real life. My undergrad degree was in Agriculture so I had a pretty sound knowledge of farm animals and their husbandry before I did the vet course, but going out again to do more farm EMS only strengthened my confidence in myself. I think it's important to go to as many different placements as possible, because on every different placement that you go on, you only learn new ways to do the same thing. It's fantastic! In saying that, while my farm animal knowledge was sound, my small animal experience was minimal. I think going out, challenging yourself and doing EMS in areas you haven't exposed yourself to, is the best way to learn. It is so much easier to remember something by doing it compared to reading it in a book.


How is your programme equipping you for your future career?

The Edinburgh vet programme is really well structured. In your first 2 years or first year for GEPs, you are given a solid foundation of how a healthy animal should function, before entering the clinical years. Alongside this, they teach you husbandry and how to care for an animal, giving practicals showing how to properly handle the animals safely, maximising the importance of animal welfare. They begin introducing clinical skills such as stethoscope use and basic consultation. While all this is clearly very important in being a success vet when a qualified, the Edinburgh vet school goes beyond this and incorporates training of  professional skills like communication, how to talk to clients and dealing with different issues into their programme. Personally (and I may be biased), I think the Royal Dick is a world class vet school. It prides itself in producing top class vets.


If you could give one piece of advice to any prospective students thinking of applying to the R(D)SVS, what would it be?

My advice? My advice is to make sure you have a good work/life balance. There’s no doubt that the course is challenging and you're placed in high pressure situations, having to deal with stress. So having a way to just switch off is an absolute must. Be that joining a club, or going on outings with mates, it is an absolute necessity so that you don't get completely overwhelmed in the vet workload.

Also, a small sneaky piece of advice is to definitely have some type of work experience under your belt when applying. I felt mine made studying the material when I got here that bit easier because I could actually relate it back to what I had experienced.