Veterinary Medicine was always in the back of Siobhán Regan’s mind from a young age.
The Castlebar, Co. Mayo native grew up on a farm spanning four-generations and spent her summers in equestrian centres, competing in shows.
“My father won the All-Ireland Farmer of the Year in 1969, so I was educated about farming from a very young age,” she told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
The 28-year-old adopted the scenic route to her desired career path; she completed her Leaving Certificate in 2007 and studied Science at Trinity College Dublin where she specialised in Zoology.
She then undertook a Masters degree in Wildlife Management and Conservation at UCD. The research she performed on Leptospirosis was later published in a scientific journal entitled PLOS One.
“Then I came to a crossroads. I loved research and was considering further work in that area, but I still wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a vet.”
“I had a friend from Zoology who had just started studying Veterinary Medicine in Budapest. I had never heard about this possibility before and I was torn.”
Siobhán took some time out before submitting her transcripts to University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest.
“Even though it meant another five-and-a-half-years in college, I knew deep down this is what I wanted to do with my life.”
She was successful in her attempt and moved to Budapest in 2014 to begin her studies. “I do not regret the decisions I have made. I have made some friends for life through this course.”
“There is a very strong Irish community, the courses are taught very well, and the lecturers make you feel prepared for the job ahead of you.”
“It isn’t an easy course; you are not spoon-fed and it’s up to you if you want to learn and succeed,” she added.
Siobhán admitted that there are aspects of the course that are difficult, revealing that “the volume of material you have to learn is immense and can get very overwhelming”.
“The hardest part about the course is the intensity. Sometimes it feels like there is no escaping and this course just takes over your life. You sometimes forget about all other aspects of your life.”
“You don’t have family over there, so your friends become your family and you form strong bonds.”
Classes usually begin at 8.15 am and can continue until 6pm/7pm - depending on what year you are in and how many classes you are taking.
“The practical days and shift weeks were always my favourites. Practical days/shift week can either be in the small animal hospital or an hour away from college in the equine clinic or mobile farm clinic.”
“If there are exams during the college week, they usually, start at 7 am so you won’t miss any hours of your classes.”
Siobhán admits that leaving home was difficult for her but, she believes, when possible, everyone should live away from home for a period. “You learn a lot more by being thrown into the deep end.”
“The most difficult thing for me was being away from my family and my friends.”
“Missing certain family events because of exams etc. was the one of hardest things for me but it’s part of the sacrifice,” she explained.
Horses and cattle
The vet student aimed to return home at least every three months; the 28-year-old and her father farm beef cattle and sports horses on a 30-acre holding.
“Farming for me is a way to switch off. Living away in a foreign city for most of the year, I was always itching to come home to the clean air and to walk the land.”
“Although farming can be stressful sometimes, it’s a different type of stress. I find it hugely enjoyable and a welcome release,” she added.
The Mayo native advises those who are considering moving overseas to study, to forge a connection with someone who is currently studying/has previously studied in the institution.
“Vet Med is needed all over the world, therefore, it is taught all over the world.”
“There are universities that teach it in nearly every country in the world, so don’t worry if you don’t get into the first one you apply to.”
“The Leaving Cert is an important exam in your life, but it is not life-defining. There are ways around everything, back doors, side gates, and windows.”
Set to complete the practical block of her course in Ireland, Siobhán intends to gain as much practical experience as possible before she graduates next February.
Long-term, she plans to go into mixed practice in Ireland, while dedicating some time to running her own farm.
“Veterinary Medicine isn’t just about the love of animals for me, I enjoy meeting people too, and the collegiality of the profession is something I cherish.”
“My ultimate goal would be to one day own my own mixed practice in the West of Ireland.”
“I feel like now I have both the knowledge and the experience behind me to be a great vet and there is nothing I would have changed along the way,” she concluded.
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