An unwelcome surprise

After belly laughing until midnight with my new girlfriends, followed by precisely zero hours of sleep thanks to the steady trickle of rowdy drunks returning to my halls, my first day began at 06:15 am.

A huge cloud cloaked the peak of Arthur’s Seat, and breakfast was an extremely quiet event. Fifty minutes later, and our bus unloaded us into the cathedral-like Veterinary Teaching Building at the Easter Bush campus. We were led straight from the bus into the lecture theatre in complete silence.Filing into our seats, we were met by a stern-faced woman who barked, “You’re late. Was your bus late? Hurry up, sit down, all of you.”

One hundred students shuffled quickly into our seats. All were seated, except one lad who entered hurriedly after us all. She stopped him in his tracks, “Do you think your time is more important than mine?”

He stuttered as we all stared.

She cut him off, “Well, you’re too late. Go away and try again at the beginning of your next lecture. Go.”

She turned to the rest of us, and launched into a rapid lecture about the conduct and strict dress code expected of all vet students, and how noise, tardiness and disrespect would not be tolerated. This was not a place of frivolity, but a professional place of learning.

Next, she outlined a series of incidents in recent years which had undermined those principles, and caused the public to question the integrity of the profession and the security of animal welfare.

As such, she said, the principle has put in place an exam, which we will all sit on Friday 25th September (yes, I had to count that twice – she really does mean next week), consisting of 10 multiple choice questions and 20 long answer questions. It will be sat under exam conditions and we should bring our student ID accordingly. The purpose of this exam is to determine whether each student has the correct moral principles to begin veterinary studies. Anyone who fails to achieve 50% or more will automatically be intercalated onto the BSc Animal Welfare to ensure their moral integrity and welfare awareness. Each candidate must achieve a 1st or 2nd in this BSc to be re-enrolled on the BVM&S the following year.

She did not say what would happen to those who failed to do so. Okay, sounds scary, but reasonable I guess.

With that said, she proceeded to give us a series of practice questions to demonstrate the content for our preparation, which she said we should have no problem with given the experience we claimed to have had at interview. They consisted of questions such as:

  1. A farmer on your placement has a sick ewe he wishes you to euthanise. He does not have a gun and refuses to call the vet out. Do you:

A. Perform a lateral incison across the ventral surface of the neck with a sharp knife, ensuring both jugular vessels are cleanly severed

B. Allow the ewe to die of natural causes

C. Deliver a blow to the forehead, on the medial line, caudal to the orbits to ensure a swift death

D. Refuse to euthanise the ewe, and leave to report animal cruelty and neglect to the RSPCA


2. Castration is commonly performed on male food animals. Describe the procedure, conditions, nerve blocking agent and site of the nerve block in cows, sheep and pigs. Are there any differences for the procedure on a goat?


3. The owner of a deceased cat has asked for the paw of her animal to be cut off so she may keep it as a memento. State how you would personally approach this situation and give two points to justify your actions. Secondly, give five items you would deem appropriate for owners to keep as mementos.


As the ten questions flicked by, I panicked – I had no response to half of them, and could only guess the other half. How should I know these things? How will I pass? I daren’t look to my peers in case she catches me. As she sped through the correct responses, I quickly realised that I could not pass this exam. But neither could I afford to intercalate.

In response to the question about nerve blocking for castration, a boy raised his hand and gave a thorough description of the procedure that left me feeling empty and inadequate. What have I done? Why does he know this and I don’t? My future is over.

“If you scored less than 50% in these practice questions, you have some serious thinking to do about your place on this course. My job is to get you through the material, not give you a good time. Your job is to learn.”

I sat there, with all my wrong answers. Mortified.

Then she said, “What if I were to tell you… that this whole lecture was a wind-up from your final year students?”

The entire theatre sat absolutely silently for a few seconds, cogs turning as one. Then it exploded into laughter and applause. There were actual tears of relief, and final year students who had been planted among us sprang out from their seats and gathered at the front to laugh at us.

So, all is well. The head of school was fantastically funny, and the whole staff made it clear that they were there to support us… and there is no exam. Not yet, anyway.

After a sandwich pub lunch courtesy of our apologetic final year team, it was back to the halls to play ping pong before returning yet again to the pub for a “Five-Legged Pub Crawl”. And no, it was not a crawl with five legs/stops as I had assumed. It was a case of drinking, having my legs tied to four other people, and hobbling to the next pub for more drinks. Many times over.

And it was an absolutely cracking night.

I return to Easter Bush tomorrow for more escapades!


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