Understanding Me

So after living through this week, I can confidently say that university has begun. No more faffing, no more introductions, no more being led by the hand. This is the real thing.

I’m not complaining, far from it. It’s precisely what I expected, and even though I find myself saying things like, “Why on earth do I need to know this stuff?” and “There’s too much stuff, how am I meant to learn it all?” it’s infinitely better than being fed comparatively bland A Level material at a slow rate of knots. At the moment, it’s nice to pick up the pace.

But essentially, moving away from everything and everyone I know, and being in such a different place, has finally caught up with me. At first it was so overwhelming and novel that it was easiest just to be swept along and ride it all with a smile. But the tsunami of introductions and information has passed, and I’m now left kind of drifting in this great big new place.

I’m used to being in a household full of people who, while being a hindrance when trying to squeeze through doorways or get up the stairs, have kept me constantly surrounded by familiarity, cuddles and stimulation. And strangely, despite being surrounded now by hundreds of students and my fantastic friends, I spend much larger chunks of my time feeling very much alone. And for me, at least, being in that state can cause immediate and and prolonged internal reflection and analysis.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed my own company and can happily spend hours just doing my own thing. But that was in the environment I had known my entire existence. Here, my time alone has (for reasons I can’t actually understand) thrown out my entire life in front of me and demanded that I pay it attention. It’s revealed to me the unavoidably inevitable things that will happen to me, and made me unsteady about the less certain parts. What do I truly believe in? What matters to me? Who am I? Do I like who I am? What do I want?

Maybe this has come from the tunnel-vision that I’ve been using for the last few years. That one-track mind that has driven me to get where I am. It’s been a very simplistic outlook: I want to get into veterinary school. But now I’m here, confronted by 30’000 people all going in different directions, wanting different things and holding different belief systems. The world is so big. And I want to know where I am in all of this.

At some points, this experience has made me extremely insecure and unhappy. At others, I’ve felt profound relief at finally understanding things about myself, or even realising that there’s a name for the things I think and believe, which means that maybe I’m not completely odd!

I don’t expect this to magically end anytime soon, but I know it’s up to me to close it down and deal with it objectively. I’m exactly where I want to be. And that’s all that really matters.

So, there you have it. What is it? I dunno, some kind of early-life crisis? You tell me. What I do know is that it was unusually deep. Sorry about that.

On a similarly introspective, but more superficial note, I had my white coat ceremony on Wednesday, i.e. my induction into the embryonic stage of the veterinary profession. And I spent the whole day worrying about whether my meningitis vaccine had worked after all.

No, seriously. Everyone has a little card in their room with the symptoms of meningitis on one side and septicaemia on the other, and I reviewed it twice that morning, trying to understand why I felt so awful. I foresee many years of over-enthusiastic self-diagnosis coming as my medical knowledge increases.

It’s all good now, and I now know that I’m an overreactive student. But aside from feeling the overwhelming need to disturb an entire row of students to escape the lecture hall, I really enjoyed the event. There was a short lecture on the history of the Dick Vet and I got that epic sense of being part of a distinguished heritage of professionals, and now I really want to go to the birth place of William Dick, in the city.

In fact, this image shows the staff and students of the Dick Vet circa 1860 in the courtyard of Clyde Street. There are four gentlemen sitting on the floor at the front. William Dick is the first on a chair to the right of them, in a top hat with a cane:

I’m not sure I really need to point out the change in demographic for the students.

Briefly, William was born in Canongate in 1793 to a farrier originally from Aberdeen. His father trained him as a farrier at their stables in Clyde Street.

In 1816 he attended lectures at an extramural school on anatomy and was identified as one of the brightest students. In 1817, aged 24, he moved to London to attend lectures at the Veterinary College in Camden. After 3 months, he sat his examination and received his diploma in 1818 (our head of school informs us that the course of study is in fact still 3 months at RVC!).

When he returned to Edinburgh that year, no one was interested in his lectures. But by 1819, he had four students, then in 1820 he had nine. The next two years saw that number increase. He rented a convening room using funds from the Highland Society of Scotland and gave his first official lecture in 1823. Forty-six lectures followed, with a group of 25 men.

The school progressed in size from there, and students also took lectures at the medical school. By 1828, he had put in place examinations to qualify students to “practise the veterinary art”.

By 1844, 800 men had attended the college and half had qualified. When he died in 1866, the 818 students that had qualified could be found all over the world, and founding vet schools in Liverpool, Glasgow, Canada, the US, Ireland and Australia.

He left the school to the council and it was incorporated into the University’s College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine by 1964. It moved from Clyde Street to Summerhall and finally to Easter Bush. Some of the original features, such as his statue, the stained glass windows, a lecture theatre bust and the stone horse from atop the original college can be found around my school!

So here we are, continuing the world-famous legacy of the Dick Vet, spending significantly more time with significantly more women and a (thankfully) significantly higher pass rate.

And here I am, with my proof of studentship, and my friends:


If only Professor Dick could see us now… if only he could have seen me, a student of his prestigious veterinary institution, flinging water, buckets and disinfectant around a barn in a desperate attempt to pass my biosecurity exam.

Yep. I sat my biosec exam on Thursday. And I couldn’t even hazard a guess at to whether or not I’ve passed. To have someone watch you wash yourself head to toe, even fully clothed, is a very strange experience. I was too slow, despite hurriedly flinging water everywhere, and I don’t think I finished in the allotted time. But many people pass if they’re close to the end of the procedure. I’ll find out tomorrow.

In comparison, the rest of the week was quiet, civilised, sometimes quite boring. Particularly cell bio. These lectures, and the recent anatomy ones, started with people frantically trying to understand and take notes as the lecturer rattled through the material. Now we just sit and stare in the hope that information might osmose into our skulls.

But this week I have cattle handling and head dissections to do! In other words – I’m going to meet my dead dog. No doubt there will be much to talk about.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this gem:

On the way down to brunch today, I got into my lift… and immediately regretted it. For a whole floor’s journey I repeatedly hit the “open doors” button in a desperate bid to get out. Why?

Because smeared across the floor of the lift was a sloppy human poo, and I hadn’t noticed quick enough to escape before the doors shut. And so after taking the stairs the rest of the way and describing the scene to my dear friends over our meal, I went to security to report the mess.

And just as I finish this post, I see the disgruntled officer leaving the entrance to Chancellor’s with a bucket, mop, gloves and doggy bag. Because it’s Sunday afternoon and she couldn’t pass the buck on to the porters, because they’re all at home. Ha.

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