Fate would have it that I ended up at St George’s University in Grenada in January 2013. It would be both the hardest and best experience of my life. When you say to people that you went to vet school in the Caribbean, people normally think you were lying on a beach for four years sipping cocktails. I won’t lie to you; I did force down a few cocktails during my time on Grenada but SGU is fighting the stigma of being a Caribbean vet school by being hard on the students academically. We started off with about 120 people in my class and finished with about 85 people. Some of those people did transfer back to the States but many of them we lost because they failed out. SGU want the standard of the students to be very high.
I didn’t enjoy the first couple of years on Grenada, and it was nothing to do with the island or the people there. I was desperately homesick. It was the first time I had been away from home for more than a week and the prospect of going for four months without seeing friends or family was so difficult. Each time I tearfully left from Gatwick, it seemed to get harder and harder. It wasn’t as if I could pop home for the weekend!
Having said this, once I established a group of friends and I’d found my feet, it was the best experience I could have asked for. Very, very hard mind you with countless hours of study but in your time off when you can go on a boat and sip a rum punch it all seems worth it. SGU is too small to cater for final year rotations and so you are sent to a different school either in the States, Canada UK, Ireland or Australia to complete final year. This is done based on rank, but to be honest, since 95% of the class are from the States or Canada, most of the competition is for those spots.
SGU want their final year students to look as good as possible and so 4th year on Grenada is like a pre-run to final year, structured in the same way with routine surgeries such as spays and neuters. In doing this, I had more surgical experience than my UK and Irish counterparts and that made getting a job after university very easy because I stood out from the rest of the new grad applicants. I chose UCD in Dublin for my final year and did wildlife trips as part of my rotations. SGU are so good at preparing students that I felt like I was one of the strongest candidates in final year and ready to go out into the real world.
So, if you’re looking to go abroad for veterinary school I would seriously consider SGU. Yes, it will be hard being away from home, I won’t lie to you, sometimes I would long to be on the Virgin Atlantic or BA flights you saw leaving from across the bay. Not only am I a better vet for having gone there, but I am also able to cope with a lot of obstacles that life throws at me as a person as well.
P.S. As a side note, I adopted my dog Maggie from Grenada when I was there. She was burned with battery acid at 10 days old, (this is sometimes done in the Caribbean to get rid of unwanted litters) Something you have to understand is the culture towards animals there is different and so you will often see things that seem unfathomable. The people at the GSPCA called her Maggie because of the maggots in the wound on her back. At first, I flinched at that explanation but by the second day of having her I knew it just fitted. She’s now living the life of Reilly in Hampshire with my parents who are both retired and have their own dog. She loves to swim whenever she can just like she did on the beaches in Grenada!
To see a video about my experience on Grenada at vet school click here.