Exams, Catamarans, and Other Life Updates

Work hard, play hard, drink lots of water, and take probiotics.

I’m sure it surprises no one who knows me as a person that I have not written anything for more than a month. I had a bunch of cool ideas about what I wanted this blog to be (I will be restarting “Wild Weekend”, that I am sure of). But life, as it tends to do, got in the way of things. In part it is because I’m still figuring out what I want to share with the world, and what the world may find interesting. In part it’s because sometimes, after staring at screens in lectures all day, then well into the evening and night to study, I don’t want to stare at screens anymore. In part, it’s because even though living on this island is pretty cool, being a veterinary student on this island means that excitement/blog-worthy events can be few and far between. If I’m not in class, my view is most often something like this:

 

The past 10 and a half weeks have been a very interesting mix of ups and downs. Mostly ups, I’m happy to report. The first few weeks involved getting settled on-island, meeting new people, and (most importantly) adjusting to the style of classes and figuring out a study pattern. Though I did well on all of my first exams (2 A’s, 2 B’s), I didn’t really hit my stride until about a week after the first block. It may sound odd, but for the first time in my life, I kind of feel smart. I feel like I’m actually holding onto the information and not just grasping at it. I love that aspects from every single one of my classes intertwines with the others. I haven’t felt this excited about learning since Comparative Vertebrate Morphology in my senior year in undergrad.

In addition to the four tested classes, we also have Case Based Learning and Clinical Applications, which are classes that focus on building “soft skills” and introducing students to handling small and large animals as a veterinarian. Many of my peers were were veterinary assistants before vet school, but now it’s time to learn what it’s like on the other side of the table. Or the barn. Since the beginning of classes, we have had canine lab, sheep lab, bovine lab, and our first (out of two) equine labs. They’re completely baseline and introductory, but it has been mildly exhilarating to go head-to-tail on dogs, flip (restrain) sheep while you simultaneously look over them, get to know cows, and learn the veterinary perspective of equine medicine (I’ve only ever previously known it as a client).

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[My group in Clinical Applications after our first sheep lab.]

I am extremely lucky to be part of the class that I am. It is a class of smart, strong, ambitious people that are unwaveringly supportive of each other. A class of people who look to help, not compete with, one another. They make going to class and living on this island in general so much better. I am excited to one day call them all colleagues.

As far as the island of St. Kitts and the school, I am adjusting. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s downright scary. I’ve already had to put up a fight against Imposter Syndrome. A tiny part of me still thinks that I’m going to get an e-mail or a letter saying that the school has made a mistake and, despite everything, they’re sending me home. There have been nights when I lay awake, staring at the ceiling wondering to myself:  What the hell have I done? Why the hell did I move to this rock in the middle of the ocean 1,736 miles away from home? What am I doing here?

Then I get up the next morning to head to the gym or to class. On my way, every day, I come face-to-face with my (so far) favorite view on campus.

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I don’t know what it is about this view. The picture certainly doesn’t do it justice. But it gets me every time. Every time I turn around the corner of the dorm building and look up at the mountain, my breath is taken away. It’s never the same view, but it is always beautiful, and it always makes me take pause. I turn the corner, I take a breath, and no matter the time, I really start my day. Odd, I know, but I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a little odd.

There’s also a cove on campus that I’ve taken to going to when I’m feeling particularly stressed, or just need some “me time” that doesn’t involve me staring at a screen. It’s completely covered on one side, so you can’t even see the school. Just the ocean in front of you and a patch of forested area behind you. And land hermit crabs everywhere. You really have to mind your step on the path to-and-fro.

 

And of course, one of my favorite parts about living on campus is the troop of Vervet Monkeys that calls RUSVM a part of their territory. Troops consist of one large, dominant male, several females, a few younger, smaller, males, and babies. There are quite a few “toddler-aged” monkeys in the RUSVM troop, and it’s always a treat to see them around.

 

Admittedly, the past few weeks have been a little rough. Somehow I managed to contract a suspected virus that, to put it gently, made my GI tract forget how to do its job. I had a few friends in a similar situation, and the suspected culprit was Giardia (an intestinal parasite that is transmitted through water contaminated with human feces…yum). Until, one of the Nurse Practitioners on campus told me, all of the tests were coming back negative. So they assumed that instead it was a virus, and I was prescribed a bland, salty diet and to drink lots of water and gatorade. For two weeks my diet consisted of rice, boiled chicken, blue or purple gatorade, saltines, and pretzels. It hit its peak around day seven, which coincided with our second block exam. And the start of our three day, mid-semester break weekend. Instead of going out to the beach and the pool with friends, I spent nearly 72 hours in bed watching Netflix and nibbling on crackers. Luckily, the virus didn’t affect my ability to study or take exams. Who has two thumbs and got straight As? This gal!

That following Tuesday I went to the store and picked up a box of probiotics. Since then, everything’s been going a lot better (pun fully intended). I’m heeding my Mom’s advice from here on out and just continue to take probiotics as long as I am down here. And, to be safe, always have some gatorade and bottled water in the cupboard.

Thankfully, the diet and the probiotics had me cleared up by this past Saturday. A bunch of people from my class decided to celebrate the 4th of July a few days early with a catamaran trip around the island and to our sister island, Nevis. Dubbed the ‘Mericat trip, we set sail on Saturday around 9:30AM, and didn’t get back until around 5:30PM. It was an extraordinarily fun trip. An open bar, good food, good friends, snorkeling, and hanging out on the beach in Nevis were all included. While snorkeling, I got the chance to see three of my absolute favorite fish:  puffer fish. They’re just so cute and small, and they let you get up pretty close when you free dive down to them. The beach on Nevis was calm and quiet. Some of the group went over to the beach bars, some went to local hot springs, and others (myself included) hung back and hung out in the water. The day wasn’t even over before we were already talking about organizing future trips for future semesters.

 

It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through with Week 9. Harder to believe that there are only five and a half weeks left until I get on a plane that’s U.S. bound. Five and a half weeks, a handful of assignments, a case presentation, an abstract, and two block exams stand between me and the end of my first semester of veterinary school. Between me and my family and friends on the mainland. Between me and my dog. Some days it feels like I just got here, other days it feels like years since I walked through the doors of the American Airlines terminal at JFK. Some days it feels like I am filled with butterflies at the thought of my future on this island and beyond. Some days I envy the planes that fly past my window and head north.

Most days are good, though. And I’m absolutely sure that they’ll only get better.

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