Work Experience Abroad – Un Stage à l’Étranger


Firstly, please accept my apologies for not blogging consistently recently. The main reason for this was that I was abroad for two weeks in France doing work experience with a veterinarian.

It will be so difficult to condense such a fabulous experience into one blog post, but I will attempt to do so this week.

It all started on the 25th of June when I left Southampton for Rennes in what I found to be a rattly and noisy plane. Whilst waiting for a train from Rennes to Guingamp (where I was staying) I met some nice people and had a delicious crêpe (big thank you to Angus!). Following a relaxing train journey (where a French boy gave me some sweets) I finally arrived in Guingamp and was met by the family I would be staying with, who were so kind and welcoming.

An eight o’clock start the next day showed me how the rest of the days would start. Farm number one was dairy (as were all of the farms I visited) where I was so surprised at the sheer size of the cow that the vet was called out to treat, being told that the cow had gut problems. After 15 minutes trying to restrain the cow, I heard the vet say something about the cow’s back. As my French is not perfect, that was all I understood. After the farm visit, he explained to me that when the bull was mating with the cow, he was so heavy that he had damaged her back, resulting in her being unable to defecate and having gut problems. I believe that the vet recommended a chiropractor! I saw another case like this later on in the experience.

Further into the work experience, we visited a farm with a cow that had milk fever. We had already come across this several times but this experience was particularly special to me as I was allowed to inject antibiotics into the cows. J’ai piqué la vache pour administrer les antibiotiques. The sheer force required to insert the needle surprised me. In addition to antibiotics, the vet also performed a perfusion, allowing me to hold the bottle that contained the perfusion solution.

Another interesting farm visit was to take a blood sample from a cow who had aborted her calf. In France if a cow aborts her calf, the farmer is obliged to contact a vet to take a blood sample for analysis. If a certain number of abortions occur in a small area within a certain length of time, the farmers get together and the authorities are alerted. In this way, diseases are managed.

During my time in Guingamp (and the surrounding areas) I was lucky enough to watch several surgeries, the most spectacular of which was a cesarean-section on a cow. It was a very long operation with a lot of blood and gore. Surprisingly, two calves came out of the cow, however they were both dead unfortunately.

Most of the placement was shadowing and carrying things, which suited me down to the ground as it was tough to concentrate on a lot of things whilst surrounded by another language.

Another quite interesting operation was a tail amputation on a cat. It was unknown as to how exactly the cat managed to injure its tail, but the vet suspected that it had caught its rail in a door, pulled it and pulled apart the vertebrae. Unfortunately the sole solution was to amputate.

On one sunny day, the family I was staying with were kind enough to show me La Côte de Granit Rose – The Pink Granite Coast. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, even though the next day I was a tad sunburnt.

This utterly fabulous experience went very quickly and the days were so packed full of exciting and interesting things that it was difficult for me to contain my excitement. Apparently it was just all in a day’s work for these talented veterinarians.

Microscopes, chemicals, mathematics, bacteria and everything else imaginable was featured.

When visiting farms, procedures were performed with whatever was there, quite different to the sterile environment I had learned to expect.

All in all, this has only strengthened my determination to become a veterinarian and I have truly realised that the vocation is my calling.

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