“I have always prided myself on accepting a challenge, pushing myself beyond what I thought or other people thought possible.”
Beth Cole, Senior Student Representative AVA
When Beth is asked why she wanted to become a veterinarian, she says there is a lot more to her passion for veterinary science than her dedication to all animals big and small.
“I have always prided myself on accepting a challenge, pushing myself beyond what I thought or other people thought possible,” she said.
Speaking candidly about her student journey and personal life, AVA Senior Student Representative at Charles Sturt University (CSU), Beth Cole had always thought about studying veterinary science but initially pursued other studies.
Beth was studying a double degree in paramedics and nursing at the Australian Catholic University in Ballarat but continued to ponder about pursuing a path in veterinary science.
It was not until what Beth described as a ‘freak accident’ when her horse was bitten by stray dogs, that the prospect of becoming a veterinarian became the forefront of her career aspirations.
During her visit, Beth was offered a part-time position in the practice. Having finally found her passion, Beth discontinued her degree and started working full-time at the veterinary practice.
A chance phone call
With the backing of colleagues, family, and friends who had all provided references to support her application, Beth applied to study veterinary science at CSU.
After her interview with CSU, Beth didn’t hear back from the university about the outcome of her application and began thinking that her dream of becoming a veterinarian was slipping away.
It all changed with a phone call. “One day I was sitting at work and a New South Wales number called my phone. It was CSU asking if I was going to respond to my offer for veterinary science.”
What happened next? “I obviously accepted the position and here we are 5 years later!” said Beth.
A challenging journey ahead
Initially for Beth, being away in a different state away from her loved ones was emotionally challenging – a reality shared by countless veterinary students every year.
“I guess a lot of people who come to Wagga Wagga for the university are taken away from family and friends, and it can be a really lonely and isolating experience being 5, 6, 7 hours away from your loved ones; whoever they are,” she said.
However, in her third year, Beth was halfway through her studies, had friends and a life in Wagga Wagga.
In the following year, Beth successfully ran for AVA Junior Representative at CSU. The opportunity gave her something else outside of her degree to focus on, while still allowing her to remain involved in the veterinary world that she loved dearly.
“I wanted to become more involved in the industry that I am devoting my life to and I feel that this position is a fantastic way to do so,” she said.
However, Beth and her partner were recently blind-sided when her partner’s father became unwell and sadly passed away.
Confronted with this tragic event weeks before her exam period, Beth said that the university was as helpful as they could be, but watching someone pass away was one of the most confronting things she has ever had to deal with.
Coupled with this loss, Beth and her partner unexpectedly found themselves caring for her partner’s two younger siblings, aged 15 and 19.
The difference that a support network can make
Speaking about the support she received, Beth said: “The past twelve months have been an emotional rollercoaster, with some fantastic highs. Being through all of this, I have realised how much of an amazing group of people my year is...”
The support provided by those around her is something which Beth explained she will never feel thankful enough for.
“Veterinary school will affect everyone in their own way, each student and veterinarian out there has a different story, a different hurdle which they have had to climb, and no matter how big or little it may seem to others, it’s what you make of a bad situation and how you learn from that experience that makes you who you are.”
And what advice does Beth have for new veterinary students? “Enjoy the time you have at the university, take every opportunity that is presented to you, whether that be veterinary related or not... work-life balance we are all told is impossible, but we should try to achieve it – this should be true for the university as well.”
Throughout her story, Beth highlights that having a meaningful support network is crucial for anyone studying veterinary science, and indeed any discipline.
“I think one thing I am also very passionate about is my family and friends, so keeping in contact with them and staying in touch is really important to me,” she said.
What’s next on the horizon
Now approaching the end of her degree, Beth said that a large portion of her cohort is looking to locum and travel overseas.
For Beth, one of the most rewarding experiences has been to volunteer in Fiji. This is where she watched herself become more confident in surgeries and was able to make decisions about the patients in her care.
Hoping to graduate in less than a year, Beth said “One thing is for sure – the journey of veterinary school will change you, it will challenge you and it will make you who you are today.
“Hopefully if all goes to plan, I’ll end up in equine practice somewhere. I would love an internship when I finish; if I find the right place that fits. This has always been my end dream, so hopefully, I can make it happen!”
This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal