Isolated thoughts

Category: Studies

10.


Week 1 has passed and I find myself grasping at straws, desperately trying not to get burnt out. After my first day of uni I came home and studied quite seriously. It was not me being a perfectionist or an overachiever, but because I literally cannot afford to fall behind. Some of my classmates are insanely experienced (with previous degrees and years of practical working experience) and motivated and I just don’t take myself quite that seriously most of the time. Which isn’t a bad thing, really, because passes get you degrees but I just want a break from the whole vet school shebang every now and then. 

In betweens

The humdrum of farm pracs has ended and I have been feeling very lost as of late. Despite keeping myself busy with submissions, organising, cleaning, experimenting with cooking and preparing for the next 4 months of university I feel very bereft of any purpose. Perhaps it is burn out from the three weeks of pracs and running around doing hard work, all just to leave a good impression on others’ minds.

As with anything else, these past few weeks have been constantly changing faces and involved the drawing of more boundaries than ever. I don’t think that I was severely out of my comfort zone, but it was still a very valuable learning journey, as everything is. 

I have gone from being deathly afraid of touching lizards and maggots to playing with them and handling them with no issues. I am also much more confident of working around cows and moving them around yards, and have stuck my hand into their uterus for the very first time. Horses have been a constant so it goes without saying that I was already quite confident with them. I was happy to work with them as well though. More importantly, I now feel more confident and comfortable about going to new places and meeting new people. 
Despite this, I still feel very apprehensive about the start of uni. It honestly feels like high school again with the small cohort and having classes from 9.30-4.30 almost every day. I also don’t feel very prepared for the amount of material that will be taught, and I fear failure which I simply cannot afford. It is not very reassuring to have breezed through the year as with everyone else but be told that this year will be a very big leap from the previous. I really just want to pass. 

2 down, 10 to go

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The past semester was a huge struggle for me – I was extremely affected by certain circumstances, the loss of some people, and basically trying to move on and acclimatise to a new reality. At the beginning of the semester, I felt like I was doomed, for I could barely function, focus in lessons or even care about it. I felt panicky, worried that I wouldn’t do well and live up to my own expectations, but was so lost and struggling with so many emotions that I couldn’t get my shit together.

This is a defining semester – with me stepping out of my comfort zone several times, going for interviews, volunteering, socialising, healing and above all, having made it through far better than I’ve expected.

I am satisfied.

Aries my foe

Today, I had my animal handling practical examination. And let’s just say, well, I’m really bad with sheep. 

I started with cattle and got a cute Murray Grey. Got thrown off when I saw that it had no teeth (like wtf how is it alive then) and so my guessing of its age was totally gone. Supposed that it had to have loose teeth and said that it was 7+, randomly guessed a weight and BCS whilst I was at it. Tied its head up with nose grips as well, did a lactation test and tied the cow’s hind leg to the far post. Then, I made a temporary halter and tied a flank rope. And that was it. I felt like I did alright, I was confident when I answered the questions and am quite sure that I was right. I’m guessing that I passed it. 

Then, it was pigs. Pigs were alright. I moved them but held the pole whilst using the stockboard, which I have no idea what I was supposed to do about. The pigs moved quickly and then I did snaring and answered questions quite confidently. Picked a piglet up for a wellness exam and also for blood collection, and I suppose that I did alright. Answered a lot of questions confidently again and I think I did well. Pass. 

The third station was sheep followed by sheep (it was broken up). For the first, got through sheep tools, breed and definitions alright. Then came tipping. And I managed to do shearer’s method, but failed to do farmer-shearer’s which made me feel quite screwed. Like, big problem. Then had to tip a sheep, age it via teeth, condition score and guess its weight. Also had to find a specific sheep in a pen. Got it quick. Then went out and felt like crap for a good while coughing puking and shit. 

Second portion of sheep I had to age and condition score a sheep and I think I was slightly off with the BCS because it was a fat sheep. Couldn’t tip it, got another small one and couldn’t do farmer-shearer’s again. Then tipped it via folding leg method and tied it up alright. Got blood. I don’t know, I just feel bad about the whole damn thing with sheep like god. If anything, theory can possibly pull me up but I don’t know how much. I really do not want to go through that ordeal again. I think I might have to though. 

Last station: horses. I’m confident because hey, been riding them since I was what, 8? But I got a difficult horse (my friend caught her prior to me and couldn’t put on the bull bit or use the twitch with her). Managed to get the bull bit in after quite a bit of effort (invigilator commended my persistence hooray!), twitched another horse with no problems, and successfully read the brand, identified the breed, colour and markings. Also aged correctly I think. Had difficulty picking up its feet but it did eventually, and I think I did well for identification of body parts and tools. Definite pass. 

I hate feeling incompetent, which comes with not being able to do something that I have definitely done before. I don’t know, its not like I’ve never done farmer-shearer’s before but I just feel so weak and incredibly pathetic wrestling an animal that probably weighs less than I do. I don’t know if I will pass either for sheep but that’s okay, I have another shot if I fail, and I will know it by tomorrow. I will be pretty stumped if I did fail cattle though, I know it. I’ll be surprised if I do fail pigs and horses. 

At least if I failed I have taken down what was tested and know how to work to get enough marks to pass. Such is life. 

Finals Season

And now, the countdown really begins. I have exactly 16 days till home. Literally, just two weeks and two days. And that’s fantastic, for I want to finish up this semester and just go back for a while and relieve myself of all these burdens at least for a slight period of time. 

It’s funny, for every since I was young I have dreamt of studying abroad. I imagined a pretty dorm room and a picturesque campus, as well as wonderful activities and hall life. In a sense, I am living the dream right now (albeit not as picturesque at the moment) but people forget that living abroad encompasses doing one’s own dishes, cooking for oneself and taking care of someone (yourself) who has never been truly independent before. As I was brought up with two working parents and a helper that took care of us kids, I had rarely lifted a finger to do anything, especially laundry. Oh, don’t get me started. If your course requires you to do things out in the field, say, collect samples or pick piglets up and tip sheep your clothes get dirty. Fast. And it really kinda sucks, because every single wash costs $3, which isn’t cheap. It can buy me a nice plate of chicken rice back at home for goodness sake. 

Living abroad also makes me think of how different it might’ve been if I had remained in Singapore. Whilst incredibly liberating, it also makes me think about how isolated I am from others my age. I don’t have the opportunity to mingle as much with young people at home. To be honest, I suppose we only need a handful of good friends, and that is enough. Just musing about how, when I return eventually, socialising would be rather difficult with work and family being the priority. No hall life, no university experience with my peers, and again, rather isolated. This is not to say that I’m lonely, but it would have been nice to have had the experience; I have chosen a very different path. 

I have two papers this coming week, which I feel rather confident for if I would put in the time to memorise things. I also have my animal handling examination, which I am clearly nervous for. I just want (need) to pass, please. Animals please be good. I’m not too worried about pigs and horses (pray that 10 years of being bullied by horses and ponies alike has given me the confidence to handle them with firmness and grace) but sheep and cows aye, I’m nervous. They didn’t bring the sheep born in 2016 out previously, which means that we had to tip the 2015 ones and those born before. And it wasn’t working for me because certain tips require you to literally lift a 30kg sheep up and frankly speaking when you are 42kg that doesn’t happen easily. I know that I am able to and that I can but it gets exhausting working with animals so fearful of humans and flighty. 

I went for a nice run around the lake today. It felt wonderful. Whilst most of the time finals and important exams leave me extremely stressed out, I feel quite relaxed this time round. It feels like my hard work for my mid semesters and lab reports has paid off. Sure, one lab report might only be worth 4.17%. But when you have 6 added up, I feel like all my hours spent doing each individual report up to an acceptable standard has paid off. The same goes for studying for the mid semester tests and all. 41.5/42, can you imagine! But at the same time I have slacked off as well – this isn’t my best. I figured if I just did what was required in a short time and got the marks it would suffice as well. Not the greatest attitude, but I’ll work on it next year. 

Retaining GPA 4.0, here I come!

Maybe we’re meant to be alone

It is so exciting to have your favourite bands come out with new albums almost simultaneously. The similar yet changed sound makes me so happy just listening and soaking it in. I found these bands a year ago, and oh, how much has changed since then! We evolve, and we change, sometimes so quickly that it is hard to imagine being the person you were just a few months ago!

The days fly by too quickly, for living in the present does that to you. You, reader, I wonder what your present is, and I really hope that it is going well for you. I’ve slowly learnt to let go of the relentless chase for success and money and just take the time to savour being alive. My prayers have come true – what is more wonderful than this? I’m going home in 32 days, and I cannot wait to see my family and friends again. 

I want to save up for my very first car, and go for hikes every Saturday morning. I want to spend time working with the animals that I love, and spend time with my friends. I want to go running, try out the (not so) new prata place near home and bring my beloved dog on long walks where we used to go. 

The strong me emerges occasionally, and she revels in the fresh air and freedom. But the weak me creeps in silently, and plagues me with doubts and horrible thoughts. I am strong when I am 100% focused in my work, when I occlude the jugular vein of a 600kg cow and relentlessly work on becoming a better veterinary student during animal handling practicals. She appears when I go for bootcamp and lives in the present of burning lungs and aching legs. She is present all the time, really, as long as I choose to be. 

I dissected a sheep’s brain and eye this week, boy, was it fun. I love dissection labs and practicals the most because lectures get rather boring after a while. The next week will be a busy one but let’s go!

9/15

Oh my goodness. The past three days or so have passed by in such a flash. Life is just going by so quickly that I haven’t really been stopping to catch a breather, which I am finally doing tonight. I need to reorganise my life. Its a complete mess (in a good way). The next week will be pretty fun with volunteering, classes and interviews, all of which I’m looking forward to immensely. 

I’ve learnt so much this week and have had quite a good time despite the crazy schedule. Mid-terms and presentations went rather well given that I reached the stage of not giving a shit anymore. Also, I’ve had really good company these days in uni. I just found that my statistics tutor was from Singapore and a RV alumni! I’ve attended talks on feline behaviour, a career as an equine vet and just yesterday had a workshop on horse hoof care! It feels really good to be learning more in my spare time off classes that are relevant to my future, and even better to be getting hands on opportunities on cadavers. 

Now I have a (hopefully lucky) horseshoe on my topmost shelf. I used to have one from pony club camp back when I was little, but it has since been thrown away. 

I have found the teaching style here to be so supportive and encouraging. Everything is complimented. “Oh, you’re doing great! That’s really good!” “You should consider a career as a farrier and forget about being a vet!” “You guys are really talented!” “You’re really good at bevelling!” It’s very different from what I’m used to, where your best is never really enough and compliments are hard to come by. I clearly remember the day my aunt shot me down for my A levels, stating that her friend’s son had 8 As. It made me so mad. 

I don’t believe what they say – I’m so awkward with the tools, and the cadavers that I trimmed never looked as good as those that others did. But I’m so grateful for having had such great teachers, resources and experiences, and am even more thankful that my parents love me so much to let me pursue these dreams of mine. 

I found that I’m pretty happy to get down and dirty if I have access to a washing machine and a hot shower afterwards. What normal Singaporean young adult would be able to say that they know how to (amateur-ly) file a horse’s hoof, or remove a metal shoe from it? To be honest I’m a complete loser and actually hammered my left thumb the first time I tried to remove a nail from a hoof, but that’s just the horrendous hand-eye coordination and clumsiness that I have to bear with. I am basically a self-mutilating future vet. I made my right thumb bleed and bruise the other week from attempting the bucking bull machine and now this. Can someone please save me from myself? Note to self: it might be a good idea to get a doctor as a future boyfriend. Mhm, best idea I’ve had in a good while. Except that we’ll both be crazies working in the medical field, and we’ll be the epitome of biological hazards and dysfunction since we’ll probably be unable to function after shifts and have silent supper dates after work. 

I think it’ll be really funny to come up with a list of qualities my future husband should have, just to look back on and compare when or if it happens in the future. Let’s limit it to 10:

  1. Be completely accepting of and enjoy my weirdness – I’m not that strange, I just have a morbid fascination with biology and have a huge heart for animals (and probably him). 
  2. Support me in my dreams, ambitions and endeavours, as I will support his. I appreciate being cautioned or advised at times though cause I’m not the most thoughtful when it comes to certain decisions. 
  3. Learn how to deal with an upset me – which basically means a bawling mess or an angry little thing. 
  4. Love Honey to bits and pieces. She’s a spoilt little thing, but if someone dates me they date her too, because Honey is my baby and she will be at the wedding (I swear unless I don’t get married in say 9 years’ time)!!
  5. Accept that I can be insecure, vain and very flawed. So never ever call me ugly even though I’m a lazy ass and often look pretty horribly tired on most days. I give my all for my work, and if that’s how I’ll look like giving my best then please love me for it. 
  6. Be optimistic and humorous. I try to be, but it gets difficult sometimes. And I absolutely adore a good laugh as long as its not at anyone’s expense. 
  7. Make the effort to communicate with me. 
  8. Commit to and prioritise us, and be able to work with me to make the best decisions for our collective future together. 
  9. Never say hurtful things to me. I don’t think I would be able to handle a significant other using a harsh tone on me. 
  10. Accept that I will probably collect a harem of animals and will expect him to treat them like our kids. 

I have been talking to my classmate about the future a lot. The topics of what kind of veterinarian we want to become has popped up so often, and I am so confused. I know that, realistically, I will become a small animal veterinarian. But I have always loved the idea of practising on all animals – cows, sheep, horses, pigs, you name it. I’m not so much interested in exotics, but I do want to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way in the coming years. We also talked about practising when we settle down and (maybe) have children. 

I’m not sure if it is because we are slightly older, 20 and turning 21 soon, that we ponder over these things. I’m so skeptical as well – I have a lot of ambition, and how is settling down possible when you have so much that you’ve yet to do?!

I have one week of study break before the last 5 weeks of school. Time to get things done and end this year with a bang, I’d say.

70

I woke up in the middle of the night needing the toilet. The street lamps outside cast a glow in the dark, dark night. And I ended up tearing for a good while before sleeping till the alarm. 

It is exhausting living up to your personal expectations – to obtain high distinctions for all units yet again and to maintain a 4.0 GPA all whilst struggling to do so much more. I want to find a live-in position to further my skills and knowledge whilst studying, as well as to lessen the financial burden of living expenses on top of already exorbitant tuition fees. I want to attend all the career, behavioural and animal care talks that I can to take advantage of what there is to offer. On top of all that, I am volunteering here and there for events, hoping to be more involved instead of merely studying, and trying to assimilate myself in a completely new society. I also desire the companionship and love of those around me, for I do not want my journey to be a lonely one, and it is such company, I believe, that will bring me to greater heights. 

I want to do and achieve so much, and I don’t know if I can, but the least I can do is try. 

In the meantime, I will work on myself. I will become a respectable practitioner of veterinary medicine in 4 years’ time. And I will push myself tirelessly through this period of study and beyond graduation to be the best that I can possibly be. 

My examination timetable has been finalised. I find it amazing that in 10 weeks’ time I would have completed my first year (out of five) of veterinary school. Granted, it is a year of general tertiary-level science preparing us for later years, but how time flies! I have 6 exams, 4 theory papers, 1 practical paper, and 1 hands-on practical exam. Apparently, the animal handling exam would take 6 hours. I sincerely hope not, but bring it on! On the bright side, my papers are all really spread out from the first to the very last day of examinations, so for 16 whole days I’ll be working tirelessly towards the end. And after I finish, I would have 4 days to pack up and say goodbye to the village. 

It is 70 days to home, and I can’t wait to see what I can do in those 70 days. 

I am angry because my lower incisors have shifted out of alignment after having done 4 years of braces!

I cannot wait to graduate and come home from work to a comforting home made meal made with my mother’s love.

I tend to get extremely antisocial during periods of stress. I have literally been cooped up in my room, going out for lessons in the morning and then retreating to study here and there. It genuinely sucks.

Drop dead

I’m sitting here in my bedroom eating rainbow cake and basically wasting away because I’m too exhausted to do anything. 

Today, I had my first test of the semester, which was basically 40 minutes of easy statistical questions. I saw the privilege walk being conducted on the way to school. I fell asleep in lecture where we were supposed to learn about pastures, and thought of him less. I had lunch and drove a mate’s manual car after about a year of not touching one. 

I also had a pig handling practical, which was really quite interesting to say the least. Pigs happen to be the species that I’ve the absolute least amount of interaction with in my life, but geez, are they more than what meets the eye. Reading Hannibal has planted the idea that pigs are crazy beasts that can be trained to eat humans. It is crazy, but I digress. It feels so strange to see these animals that people usually associate with mud and dirt in a clean and sterile environment. Even stranger with regards to the biosecurity requirements before we can even handle them!

I think that one of the saddest moments in life went down today. With my ears plugged and a strong determination to restrain a pig, I couldn’t even lift it up with my right hand (it was 15kg) and I have never felt so pathetically weak in my life. Catching an animal that I have never caught before comes with a lot of bravado and the desperation of needing to do it in order to pass the unit. Its a mixture of “oh, what if I mess up” and “why can’t I do this?!” with “you need to do this to pass and go on for 4 years of vet school” racing through my brain. It really doesn’t help that I’m very scrawny and tire easily. But it makes sense to actually work out a little now. For the sake of passing this unit!

Okay so I came home smelling of pigs, and after a nice warm shower and some food I’m sitting in my room and I’m just so exhausted beyond belief that I wanted to sleep from 6pm to the next day. Life is good when you celebrate birthdays, make impromptu plans and work with animals. It is really really good and I’m glad that I’ll be doing this for the next couple of years. 

109 days

It seems like it has been forever since I have posted. It is two weeks into this semester, a month since the break, and it will be 15.5 weeks to home.

I worry terribly about my future. Call me crazy but I am already planning on what to do when I get back in December. I want to save up enough to buy myself my very first car next year. I want to do something that I would never be able to do in the future. I want to work towards my ultimate goals which include graduation in a far away 4.5 years’ time and returning home (I think).

But I am not sure. Doubts are wrecking my confidence. I do hope that I would be able to pass every unit in the following years. Even now, I struggle to focus in lectures where the lecturer reads off the disjointed slides. I have been enjoying one of my units tremendously though – it is like a dream come true. For a child whose days were spent poring through encyclopaedias of horses and stories of farms, it is the ultimate fantasy come to life.

I walked into class unsure and literally not knowing what to do with the sheep. But at the end of the day, it makes me immensely satisfied to be able to age, sex, tip and condition score them. It is something fundamental I suppose but still, for a weak city girl like me it means a lot to be able to hold onto a sheep and do that. I find so much joy in clambering over gates, practising knots, picking up adorable kids and just being around animals. Given the choice, I will definitely choose to spend most of my days on the farm. Sadly, it is limited to only weekly lessons but I am very fortunate to have it almost every week!

Just this week I experienced my first national day away from home. It is funny how we seek the comforts of home in the loneliest times. For those who only have a year or two at home it might not be as apparent. But it makes me count down the years till I am back. I have only 4 more national days away from home! What awaits me at the end of these years, I honestly don’t know. Who will be there other than my family? Would I have a future in my very own country? Would I ever be able to build a future there? I cannot know. All I can do is to study, aim for the stars, and pray that there will be a better way.

I have been reflecting on studying in general. Certain units frustrate me because I have learnt the material before in high school. It makes me upset because I am literally paying a few grand to do these units when I believe that I know the content already. On the other hand, it makes me seething mad to have disjointed and seemingly pointless units. It makes me unmotivated. Yet there are those gems that remind me why I am here and why I am doing what I am. I cannot wait to finally get through these foundational cum general science units and get to the real thing next year. I really cannot wait to finally take a big step towards becoming what I want to be.

I will try my best to do well again. I will get through these tumultuous times filled with trepidation and a worried heart.