My first few weeks back basically consisted of me locked away in a room studying for the GRE and then...well I gave myself a few days for my personal statement and I had to get my vet school applications in!! This is what I came up with for my personal statement:
I recently returned from an eight month stay in South Africa. It was not only a journey in the physical sense but one of great personal growth and enlightenment. This experience, combined with my love for the sciences and my fascination with the animal kingdom, has clarified and strengthened my lifelong aspiration: to be a veterinarian. A Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine preliminary to a Masters in Preventative Veterinary Medicine will facilitate many opportunities. I will apply my skills in research related international medicine, foreign animal disease and the development of vaccines and control measures to help developing countries counter starvation and increase the quality and quantity of their food supply. Through my travels, I have seen how ecology plays a major role in disease and production problems in the world. With my ecological background and my DVM/MPVM, I will be equipped to integrate human health, animal health, welfare and productivity in a global setting.
In the formative years of my childhood I had an affinity for animals and wildlife. At the age of eleven this fascination inspired me to write letters to local stables seeking a job as a stable girl. Once hired, I convinced both my parents and my employer that I was up for the challenge. I took the initiative to learn everything I could about riding, maintaining and caring for horses on my own. Nearly every day for the next five years I shoveled manure, cleaned tack, and groomed horses. My parents were amused to find that I thought my allowance was best spent on a bag of carrots and a box of sugar cubes. Eventually, I earned the privilege of owning my own horse, Mariah. When my beloved Mariah became critically ill and was transferred to an equestrian hospital, I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could about the routines and environment of the hospital setting. I persistently asked for details regarding the procedures taking place before me. Captivated by the great spectrum of knowledge I had never experienced before, my interest flourished. This was the commencement of my journey.
My unrelenting curiosity about the veterinary profession made me well known to the local vet. I distinctly remember asking him, whom I considered to be my mentor, what he thought of my becoming a veterinarian. My heart sank when he told me it would be a waste of my time. He said it was too much work. He said I would make too little money. He said, "Don't do it." My profound respect for him lead me to focus on human development rather than pre-veterinary medicine upon my entrance to UC Davis. I genuinely enjoy learning, but at that time I was not convinced that I had made the right decision. Often, when looking through the course catalogue, I would stop on the wildlife biology, ecology, and animal science classes and wonder what it would be like to be enrolled in them. But my veterinarian's words still echoed in my mind and I continued with my studies of human development.
My college years were nonetheless inspiring for me. I learned that I had inner strengths and could meet the demands of deadlines, papers and exams. When it came to academics, I never experienced a challenge that was not charged with opportunity. After two years of questioning my future, I decided to put my uncertainties aside and pursue an education in the sciences. Like most pivotal life decisions, it was a difficult one to make. After nearly three years of taking virtually no science courses I had to dive in and let my determination guide me. Time management and sacrifice enabled me to accomplish my goals. I began volunteering at a mixed animal practice which confirmed my desire to become a veterinarian. I became a sponge when assisting Dr. Timm at his veterinary clinic. My two years of experience in a clinical setting has taught me many invaluable skills. I experienced the full cycle of life, and was involved every step of the way, from holding a newborn goat in my hands as she took her first breath, to comforting and old dog as he took his last. At the California National Primate Research Center I learned the rigors of working with animals in a research setting. I learned to balance compassion with responsibility. In Dr. Meyers research lab I was able to apply the skills acquired in my classes in a bustling research laboratory. My time spent at UC Davis has nurtured me and taught me how capable I am. It has also taught me that there is so much more I can do.
South Africa was the final ingredient in my quest of 'What shall I do now?'. My determination to reach my goal, and test my courage, landed me in the middle of a country that changed my life completely. It has cemented together my past experiences, an excellent education and a desire to work for the greater good in a global setting. It took me from the comfort zone of the young educated student from a middle class background and thrust me into the world outside which is not so comfortable. I studied ecology at the University of Cape Town while living in what is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, I was also faced with extreme poverty on a daily basis. I clearly remember my first glimpse of Cape Town while driving away from the airport and was completely overwhelmed by the miles and miles of shacks around me. During my stay in South Africa I found myself compelled to do something to help. I had never been so completely fascinated by my surroundings as while I was living there. I learned so much about the wildlife, ecology, people and culture. I had taken several courses at UC Davis in ecology and was captivated by them. But the ecology courses at UCT were altogether different. We were not just talking about the effects that humans have on the animals, nor were we just looking at case studies in a textbook. Our "case studies" were right outside our door, looking us in the face. We were talking about peoples' livelihoods and survivorship in the true sense of the word. We did several research projects in the field and could see the effects of disease and deterioration of the environment and how it affects the people and the wildlife. I had personal relationships with people whose livelihoods depended on the survival of their herd. I knew then what I had been trying to find all along. I want to apply my skills and knowledge in ecology to veterinary medicine.
I know that my safari has merely just begun, but I look forward to utilizing the knowledge I will gain through the DVM program and applying it in the future in order to make a difference. Along the way I've learned many lessons that might have otherwise been missed. I realize the importance of following my dreams, and the rewards of working hard to achieve them. I took many detours along the road to reaching my goals and I am a stronger person for them. A wide range of experiences have made my goals come into focus. It seems that my veterinarian's words have stayed with me and helped guide me in the right direction after all. He said it was too much work, but it has always seemed harder for me to stay away. He said I would make too little money, but even on an eleven-year-old's allowance it was a bag of carrots and a box of sugar cubes that made me happy. He said, "Don't do it" , but I know now that that is simply not an option.