On 31st March – 1st April, I went to Cambridge University to attend Vetcam. I took the train there then walked from the train station to Queen’s College, where the course was based. I was quite nervous because I did not know anyone else on the course but I am lucky because my sister is studying music at Selwyn College, Cambridge, so I have been to Cambridge several times and know my way around. After being giving my key, on staircase M, I went back into the dining hall and talked to some of the other keen students, all with a desire to study veterinary medicine, possibly at Cambridge. It was amazing to look around the hall, filled with 150 people and it dawned on me how challenging the application process was going to be with so much competition. We talked about work experience, and everyone seemed to have a lot. One girl in particular told me about the lambing that she had done, so I am now really looking forward to the lambing I am going to be doing in a few weeks time.
I was very impressed that the whole course was arranged almost entirely by students, showing me that studying veterinary medicine isn’t just about learning the course but also about reaching out to others, highlighting the importance of veterinary medicine in our society as well as inspiring and encouraging prospective students. A third year vet told us to make our way to the Fitzwilliam Hall where we were given a talk by David Bainbridge about the first two years of the vet course. He ran through the course structure, explaining that this would be very similar in all vet schools. He then ppointed out that Cambridge was different because it is primarily science based and emphisizes working with non-standard species including fish, birds and rabbits. This really interested me as I love science and have scientific frame of mind. Furthermore, there are generally only 70 vets per year, meaning that the supervisors and lecturers know students as individuals, helping to ensure that everyone is supported. Dr Matthew Mason then talked to us about the third year. This is the main area in which Cambridge differs as it is the only vet school which offers an intercolated third year where you can choose a topic then subspecialise within this. It gives the opportunity to do unique research onto an area of your choice, working alongside some of the best vets in the UK. I find this really exciting and would love to spend a year doing independent, self-motivated learning into recent science, having the chance to really make a difference. Finally, Penny Watson talked to us about the final three clinical years. During this time lectures move to the vet school and you begin doing more practical work including rotations in the Cambridge RSPCA clinic, which is almost entirely run by Cambridge vet students. This gives the opportunity for client contact, developing communication skills, preparing you for the world of work.
In the afternoon, we got went to the Downing Site, which is where the science courses at Cambridge are based. We took part in a number of sessions including pathology, neurology, anatomy and pharmacology. I really enjoyed these and learnt loads of new things. I am beginning to realise that there is so much involved in veterinary medicine from the chemistry behind drug action to the mechanics of movement and the biological skills required to identify pathogens under the microscope. I think that this is one of the main reasons which I would love to study veterinary medicine because I would not be satisfied with an individual component of science but want to bring it all together and use it in way which will impact individuals.
After this we had some free time before dinner which I spent walking around the beautiful Queen’s College and watching punters on the river Cam. We were treated to formal hall which was fantastic, as we truly experienced the traditions of Cambridge and the food was delicious. There were also several vet students at the dinner so we got to talk to them and they told us about their experiences at Cambridge vet school. In the evening we had a quiz then watched a film before going to bed at about 1.00 a.m.
In the morning we got a coach up to Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital where we got the chance to look around. The facilities looked brilliant and the people who talked to us were all really nice and very knowledgable. In the afternoon, we divided into groups and went to different colleges. There are 29 undergraduate colleges in Cambridge, all with a unique touch which every student learns to love, claiming that there college is best. My group went to Downing College which is very open with lots of ground. It is very beautiful with large pillars around all its buildings. I especially enjoyed looking around the library where we climbed a spiral staircase and were blown away by the number of books. There is also a great student atmosphere and the room we were shown was impressive with a double bed and en-suite bathroom, although we were told that a room like this would be quite expensive.
Finally, we returned to the Fitzwilliam Hall in Queen’s College and were given three final lectures. The first was titled ‘Getting In’ by David Bainbridge. He talked about the application process which starts with sending in a UCAS form, then completing an online form specific to Cambridge, then entering the BMAT. Cambridge try to offer almost all applicants interviews which are given in early December and finally the decision letters are sent in early January. He also explained about the pooling system and how admission tutors select students. We were then given a lecture about interviews by Alun Williams. He talked about how well you need to know your personal statement and how you need to come across as a rounded person with a ‘spark’ of enthusiasm. The last lecture of the day was by Carys Redman-White who explained the application process from a student’s prospective. This was really encouraging and although I am scared about applying and feel intimidated by the process, part of me is looking forward to pushing myself and finding out what I am capable of.
I have really enjoyed the past couple of days and am now certain that veterinary medicine is truly what I want to do. I love the aspects of science which surrounds and the university experience is something I would never want to miss. The time I have spent in Cambridge has been incredible, I think that it is a stunning city and I definetely am going to apply. It will be extremely challenging but I feel ready to give myself this challenge.