The Vet Bet

Pathma Pathma / International students, Manawatū campusLeave a Comment

Since the rest of the bloggers on this site have at some point talked about their course of study, and since I am the only one on the team who is a final year vet student, I might as well provide some insight into this field for potential readers who might be thinking of doing the same degree.

I feel like I may be the wrong person to brief you on the structure of how the vet school is run at Massey because I am the last batch going through on the old syllabus. All classes below me have now adopted the revamped curriculum which has been revised to produce even more high quality vets than Massey has already been spewing out for over half a century. Despite the moans and groans, I feel like this is a good move by the university to stay current and to maintain its spot as one of the forerunning institutes in its field on the world stage.

As such, I will give you a brief overview of what this degree involves and the aspects you can expect to dabble in should you choose to pursue it.


Animals (…obviously)

Ask almost anyone in the field why they voluntarily chose to put themselves through five long years of agony to end up with a middle-range salary that is barely enough to pay off their massive student loans and I guarantee that no one will say they did it for the fancy cars and screaming fans. It is our passion for all things furry and scaly that drives us. It doesn’t matter which species you like or even which ones you end up working with, these five years are the chance of a lifetime to get to know a whole range of members from the animal kingdom.

Be it the everyday animals to the weird and exotic, every little (or big!) guy is a charm to work with. Being close to them keeps you in constant awe of the biodiversity we share this planet with, and leaves you longing to gain more in-depth understanding of them. From anaesthetising horses to doing post mortems on mangrove snakes to everything in between, there is hardly a dull moment in the course.

Below are just some of the very many moments I have captured over years of encounters with all kinds of special fellas.

sheep birdbath cow doge dragon goat horse kiwi llama parrot peacock seal



One of the things that will be constantly repeated back to you in communications classes and soft skills workshops is that the veterinary profession is one that deals with people just as much as with animals, and I fully agree. I’m not just talking about classmates who will be a representation of the smartest and most fun people you’ll meet from all over the world. Many of the staff members we have in the industry at Massey are internationally renowned, and it is something I didn’t fully appreciate until recently. Having direct access to world experts who are ever-ready to impart their abundance of knowledge on you is a luxury a lot of us take for granted. You will also find heading out on practicums and working alongside practising vets and vet nurses who are equipped with tricks of the trade a blessing every time you work at a clinic.

Never mind the elite and the brilliant, some of the most wonderful people in the field I’ve had the personal pleasure of meeting comprise of regular pet owners and farm managers! A lot of the genuine Kiwi friendliness and warm acceptance I received when I first got here many years ago were from farmers who have taken me in to live and work with them as part of my required course training. This holds true even till today. Companion animal owners are equally grateful and lovely to you when you explain to them that you are a student. They are extra patient with your lack of competency because they know their pets are helping to serve as valuable learning experience, and it is not uncommon that they bring in baking and treats as a thank you for showing the utmost compassion for their little darlings that have to be admitted to hospital.




You will find heaps of opportunities for this if you look in the right places. Many vet students go on volunteer programs to work with all types of wildlife sanctuaries around the world. Here are some photos (published with permission, of course) of myself and my classmates who have had the opportunities to do some pretty cool stuff over the years aside from dogs and cats.


bex africa

brandy tiger

luke gazelle

panda boon

samoa steph

But fret not! even if you have qualms about money and/or time (although most of us make time and fundraise) about going overseas, there will be plenty of opportunity for you to at least move around the country on various prac work, and New Zealand is as good a place as any to do a bit of travelling. I know I can never get enough of it.


Medical Proficiency

Many people are still of the perception that vets do not know nearly as much as “real doctors” when in fact, this is just as hard as any medical degree. Imagine everything a medicine student has to learn in their lifetime. Now multiply that with the number of species we have to study for. Now add to this the fact that our patients can’t talk to us about what their ailments are and diagnosing them depends solely on clinical knowledge and experience. We have it pretty rough, don’t we?

The field of modern veterinary medicine is no longer separate from other aspects of health sciences but is in fact being integrated more and more every day in a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment. So the knowledge we gain, while still in many ways exclusive to animals, are actually coherent with a lot of the relevant medical breakthroughs being achieved in modern times.


Invaluable Degree

We once had a lecturer who claims that a degree in Veterinary Sciences is just about the most versatile degree in the world. And as I near the end of my studies, I am starting to see how right he is. Getting into general clinical practice or specialising is just a very tiny sliver of the pie. Vets are delving into and branching out to all sorts of related fields from R&D, public health, animal welfare, education, epidemiology, international biosecurity, forensics, consultation, business management and much much more. Moreover, with qualifications from a university as internationally acclaimed as Massey, you can go pretty much anywhere once you’re done. The world is indeed your oyster.



I feel obligated to mention though, that because Massey is the only university in the country that offers this course, and with the field being as competitive as it is, you might likely not find it a walk in the park to secure a seat. But don’t sweat it! There are plenty of other related options you can explore or other routes you can take if pre-vet doesn’t work out for you the first time, as helpfully run through by one of my colleagues here.

But hey, to everyone else who is thinking of it and is wondering whether this really is a calling they want to pursue, take it from me that there is nothing to look back on with regret if you do.



It’s not easy calling yourself a final year veterinary student when you have to vie every day for the affections of your cold-hearted flat cat. Like every other international student across the land, I came here initially because of Middle Earth but have since been opened up to the adventure of a lifetime. Most people wouldn't normally break out into song and dance at the mention of Palmy but having grown up in one of the busiest metropolises in Southeast Asia, I have mad love for the peace and clean air this city has to offer. Hard to think it’s been five years already and yet not a day goes by when I don’t feel lucky to be living in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, studying at one of the most reputable institutes in the world. Other interests include travelling and obsessing over web pages dedicated to shiba inus.

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