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  • Writer's pictureBella Rawson

Vet School Diaries - Year 1, Week 1

Hello everyone, welcome back to the blog!

This week was my first official week as a Cambridge University student, and it was also fresher's week! Unfortunately, a lot of the events the college would normally put on got cancelled because of Covid, but there was still plenty to do!


As today was my first full day in college, I didn't really want to go to crazy with tonnes of activities, because I figured I could take my time and go for a wander to get my bearings. I ended up booking a tour of the college by someone in the year above, and it helped me figure out the layout of the college pretty well. It's big, I'm pretty sure it's grounds make it one of the largest colleges by area in Cambridge, so it was nice to finally see everything.

There was also the gown sale as well, so I got to pick up my Cambridge gown! I'll be honest it does feel like something out of Hogwarts, and the fact that I finally have it does feel a bit surreal, but I'm so excited to finally wear it and feel like I'm actually at uni!


As it was quite drizzly yesterday, I didn't get to fully appreciate the view from my window until this morning. It feels crazy that this is where I get to live now (at least for the next 8 weeks!). I don't think there are many other students that get to say their view was as nice as this every morning. Also, check out the artwork in the middle - there's a lot of...odd pieces around college, and this is the one that's outside my window. If you want to see the rest there's a plan here, and if you're ever in Cambridge then you can come into college and see it all for free!

I had my first DoS meeting today which is yet another of Cambridge's weird things that I'm learning. DoS means 'Director of Studies' and they're kind of like a tutor in that they over see how your learning is going through the term, and you can tell them any difficulties you're having and apply for bursaries and grants. He's also conveniently one of my supervisors for my biochemistry module, so bit of a double whammy of intros.

I also got my full timetable today, which means I know what I'm doing now (yay!). First year and second year are very hectic, and then it calms down a little from 3rd year onwards. This year we've got five (well, four and a half) modules, which I figured I'd explain here so that the acronyms aren't confusing:

- MIMS: molecules in medical science, biochemistry

- HOM/Histology: Homeostasis and Histoloy, tissue structures and systems

- VAP: Veterinary anatomy and physiology, self explanatory

- PAM: principles of animal management, animal handling and farm systems

- FEBP: foundation of evidence based practice, statistics and pseudoscience

This pretty much means I'm busy nine till five every day, given that I've got supervisions to fit in as well, and next year when we get Saturday lectures that's gonna get even worse! For now though, I'm trying to concentrate on the first year that I haven't even started - it can only get better from there!


So, if you didn't already know, Cambridge are pretty weird about their traditions. As in, there are a lot of weird and whacky ones that I keep hearing about and wondering what kind of LSD someone was taking when they came up with them.

However, something that most people have heard of, even if they're not from Oxbridge, is the idea of matriculation. 'Matriculation' is the process by which you formally enter your college at either Oxford or Cambridge (I think Durham may do this too because they have fancy gowns as well!) and you normally have a big, fancy dinner and dress up really nicely to celebrate officially becoming a part of the University. This year, given Covid, the college have had to do things differently, and so the formal process (signing a document) was done online.

Fortunately for us, they still wanted our photos taken for the archives, and so you can see us below in all our glory. We're all in the same household (don't panic!) and for our big, formal matriculation year group photo, the college are planning on photoshopping us together. How they'll manage this I have no idea - the only photoshop software I can use is Microsoft Paint!


Half 10 start because we were up till one last night. I feel like I'm sixty years older than I should be because it was waaaaaayyy too late for me! We discovered there's a no noise after midnight rule after getting Portered (oops) but we've managed to somehow get on the Porter's good side by none of us being over on Jesus Green (I like to think it was my excellent influence, but I think it was just cold).

I got to try the infamous Jesus College brunch today (apparently Pembroke's is better but I can't pester Rosie to let me come in the college and try it till Covid's over) and it lived up to expectations. £1.77 for a full veggie English Breakfast, and £2.70 for the normal meat meal with coffee!

We also got the chance to have a look at some of the societies that are based within college, so I put my name down for FemSoc (feminism and films!), Ambassadors (outreach, and you get paid!) and Indoor Climbing. Why I chose that, I'm not entirely sure, but I'll learn my lesson once I've given myself my first concussion.

Finally, I got to meet my college family in person for the first time which was great because it meant we could chat about the course before it had officially started. One of the nice things about the college is the family system, meaning that you always have at least two 'parents' in the year above who did your course or modules within your course. It's nice knowing there's someone close by to ask advice from when the exam panic settles in!


Oh boy it rained today. Literally chucked it down.

Ended up in a mental health mindness workshop in the morning because I forgot I'd signed up for it weeks ago, so that was a fun start. In all fairness it meant that I got to find out my milk had gone off (made a cup of tea, milk curdled when I poured it in. Had also given it to Oscar so nearly poisoned someone I've known five days). Decided a trip to the shops was probably necessary, and given that the college had cancelled the plant sale I was really looking forward to, I had time to figure out where to go.

Most people tend to go to 'Mainsbury's', the Sainsbury's in the middle of town -am quite pleased I'm learning the lingo already I must say- but the Lidl bakery has always been way too tempting for me so I ended up going in search of it. The walk was pretty nice, it took me out of the centre where I hadn't yet been, and it was only about fifteen minutes. It was good to find it because turns out there's a huge Dunelm, Homebase, and various other large shops within close range which can only be positive! Managed to get my whole weeks shop for £7.48, and was particularly impressed with the deal of 27p for 6 crumpets (though I did forget to look at the expiry date for the sausages so now I've gotta have 3 days in a row of them!)

Other than that, nothing much else happened, other than finding out that I've got to have a Covid test tomorrow as part of the university's new policy to give everyone a free test. Yay.


Covid test sucked. As does my gag reflex - I'm learning so much.

The first thing I ended up having to do was pay my college bill, since my loan had dropped the night before. Given I'd never actually spent that much on my card before I was a bit worried the bank would stop the payment and call me to check it was ok, but luckily they didn't question my spending habits. One of the best things about Cambridge is that the accomodation is so heavily subsidised by the colleges that the rent is one of the lowest in the UK. It does mean that we have to move all our stuff out at the ends of terms and bring it back for the start, but I sat and figured out it saves us just over two and a half thousand pounds. Considering students are notoriously broke, I'm not complaining about that!

We had a morning meeting with our EMS supervisor (EMS stands for 'extra mural studies' and is basically work experience vet students have to do during the holidays. During our first 2 years we have to do 12 weeks, although we got notification from the uni today that because of Covid they're only expecting us to do 8. Silver linings, I guess.) She was telling us about her expectations and how she'll help us, and we get to meet with her once a term to discuss what we're planning on doing for EMS. There's a bazillion rules for what counts as EMS and what doesn't, so there's a lot to figure out.)

There were also sexual consent and implicit bias workshops organised by the college that we had to attend today; for the most part, interesting and necessary, but I'm not sure anyone actively wants to spend 2 hours doing it! The fresher's fair was also running online at the same time, so I'm now signed up to a million societies I'll probably never go to. At least I get their newsletter.


I discovered yesterday that the University has a botanical gardens a twenty minute walk my college and students can get in free. I had nothing to do with my morning and if I'd have stayed at home I would've just been waiting around for my lecture in the afternoon, so I took myself off for a wander round the gardens.

I'm so glad that I did, because they're beautiful! I spent the morning wandering round, ate my lunch and read my book, and took photos of the pheasants and plants that they have nearby. If you're visiting Cambridge, tickets are cheap (£6) or free if you're a university student or under sixteen, and it's such a peaceful place to spend the day.

I had a lecture at two so ended up leaving the gardens early to find my way back. Google maps has been my best friend this past week and my phone battery has taken a beating! The River Cam runs its way through the city and past the gardens, so I found a footpath that took my back towards where my lecture was and took a slow walk there. Turns out, there are cows on the way, which was a lovely, if jarring, sight - there aren't many places in the world where cows run freely amongst 18th century buildings!

We then had a lovely introduction to the vet school in the town, and got given our groups and timetables for the coming days. Everything's going online this year because of Covid, but it was nice to hear that we'll still be able to attend some practicals, even if they're not quite the same. It does mean that I have to be super organised though, because the way they've split us means the usually 'definitive' timetable that they have online isn't accurate anymore - I have to check manually whether I need to go or not!

Oh well, c'est la vie! The rest of the day was fairly uneventful - washing, both of clothes and hair, then dinner (which, I'm actually doing quite well at cooking?!?). Washing was interesting, there's only 6 washers and 6 dryers for all the students at the main college site (I think there's around 800 actually enrolled at the college) so I didn't actually manage to get a slot until I waited for someone to finish there's! Other than that, we have a mandatory veterinary kit collection day tomorrow, and they're taking our picture for the 'register', meaning if I didn't wash my hair I'd be regretting that photo for the next six years!

I also get to pick up my bone box and other equipments tomorrow which is *so* exciting, and I'm hoping I can actually build the dog in question and it's not just loose bones! (I'll keep you updated!)

Anyway, that's this week's blog done! I can't believe I've been in college a week already - it feels like it's gone both really slowly and really quickly at the same time (is this even possible? I live with maths students so this feels like a question I could probably get an answer to...) I hope you've enjoyed reading this post - see you next week!


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