What can I learn from a Veterinary work placement?
Edsel Wun Quan Yong from Malaysia is a second year A level student at CATS Cambridge. He has a passion for animal welfare and has ambitions to pursue a career as a Veterinary Medic.
In today’s highly competitive environment universities are seeking academically successful, passionate and well-rounded Veterinary candidates. Work placements can make you stand out from other candidates, give you valuable experience and extend your interest in your chosen career.
Edsel is applying to study Veterinary Medicine at the prestigious University of Cambridge, and has undertaken work experience placements at Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital, Queen Mother Hospital for Small Animals, the Royal Veterinary College of London (RVC) and most recently Shepreth Wildlife Park, to enhance his university application. We asked him a few questions about his time on these placements find out what he learnt.
What did you most enjoy about your Veterinary placements?
I most enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the animals I have long read about in books and seen in documentaries. As I have originated from an environment where animal welfare is not a priority, I was only able to nurture my passion for animals through constant research from resources available to me. Therefore being in direct contact with animals has been a wonderful experience and is a vital stepping stone for me as I want to work with wildlife in the future.
I have gained a basic understanding of wild animal behaviour throughout my time at Shepreth Wildlife Park. For instance, I began working with friendlier animals first such as donkeys, wallabies and skunks, before working with more aggressive ones such as Scottish wildcats and macaws, all under the watchful eye of the park staff.
What have you learnt from your time at the Wildlife Park?
Most of my time at the park was spent learning about some foundational aspects of wildlife behaviour. In particular, I learnt about a fact that seems to be fading away from our awareness today: animals can be dangerous. Just because an animal seems adorable or has been around people for a long time, does not mean that its claws, fangs or talons are rendered useless. I had several close calls at the park when I let my guard down, for example, I was charged by a territorial macaw, nearly attacked by a wildcat and most surprising of all, given a stern warning by a skunk!
I also worked in the neighbouring hedgehog hospital where I learnt the basics of working in a veterinary firm – for example, monitoring the weight of hedgehogs and disinfecting their cages. I have also visited two hospitals, namely Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital and Queen Mother Hospital for Small Animals, during my summer camp organised by the Royal Veterinary College of London (RVC).
How did the Wildlife Park placement help you prepare for university?
Together with my placements at the RVC summer course and the hedgehog hospital, the placement at Shepreth Wildlife Park served as a tremendous aid to my aspiration of become a Vet.
The placement taught me the basics and etiquette of not only being a Vet, but also being around animals: vital traits which many find hard to believe that an animal lover lacks. I was able to apply knowledge previously gained from my previous research, and built upon my immense curiosity in the animal kingdom and the Veterinary field. My time at the Park built up my confidence in being fully-equipped to study a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
Why do you want to study veterinary medicine?
Despite conservation efforts, many animals are on the brink of extinction because they are vulnerable to untreatable diseases or require very specific conditions for them to mate. A UK documentary from Chester Zoo, “The Secret Life of the Zoo” emphasised the point using the examples of Asian elephants that are being eradicated by the elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV) faster than they can breed and Mountain Chicken frogs that refuse to mate in captivity. Through studying Veterinary Medicine, I want to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to be a successful wildlife veterinarian and help prevent diseases from causing the extinction of wildlife.
What are you looking forward to about going to university?
Gaining further knowledge on what I am passionate about as well as pursuing a career I have long aspired for. I am keen to find out what university life will be like. I am also elated about being able to have more frequent interactions with animals.
What advice would you give other students that are considering doing work experience?
My advice would be to start as soon as possible. Work experience not only helps with gaining as much knowledge, understanding and of course, experience, on the subject of interest as possible, but improves your time management skills.
What help did you get from CATS to help you organise the placement?
Earlier in the year I had desperately searched for work experience and voluntary work online, but had not been successful. Most placements would only accept volunteers aged 18 and above (which I was not), and/or those who have had worked with animals beforehand.
My Biology Tutor at CATS helped me to search for work experience and helped me to find things like the RVC summer course. This has made me realise the importance of having a wide range contacts and connections.
CATS OFFERS ADDITIONAL SUPPORT IF YOU ARE SEEKING A CAREER IN THE HIGHLY COMPETITIVE INDUSTRIES OF MEDICINE, DENTISTRY, VETERINARY MEDICINE OR PHARMACY. WE GIVE YOU THE RIGHT PREPARATION FOR THE DEMANDING UNIVERSITY APPLICATION PROCESS AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO ENGAGE IN EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES TO HELP YOU STAND OUT FROM OTHER APPLICANTS.
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