Scotland Veterinary Intern – My First Week Abroad

Adelante Abroad

Nicole Hensley

Nicole Hensley is a Biology Major from the University of Kentucky participating in the Adelante Scotland Program. She takes us thru her first week at her Observation and Research Veterinary Placement in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I have just finished my first week here in Edinburgh, Scotland as an Observation and Research Abroad student with Adelante with a focus on veterinary medicine! I am headed into my senior year as a biology major and I am currently applying to veterinary school so this program directly aligns with my goals. My program placement is 8 am-7 pm for 6 weeks in a small-animal hospital just 30 minutes by train outside of Edinburgh, in which my responsibilities include: assisting the 6 veterinarians and 10 veterinary nurses, observing the many surgeries that take place each day, scrubbing in and assisting in some surgeries, standing in during consults with clients, and completing research assignments for the head veterinary surgeon on his more complicated cases. 

While I am from California, I attend the University of Kentucky so Edinburgh’s very rainy and cloudy weather is quite familiar as Kentucky is known for its wet seasons. My family and I have been very fortunate to be able to travel outside the country a number of times so I am well accustomed to traveling as well as traveling alone but I have never lived in a different country for an extended period of time. After two years of delays and cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was finally able to partake in my program!

Arriving in Scotland

Having left at 8 AM Saturday morning from San Francisco, CA, I arrived in Edinburgh on Sunday morning after a very bumpy and delayed flight. Upon my arrival, our program coordinator and contact in Scotland was waiting for me and once we had met up with another student, we took a taxi to our respective flats. I am in a flat with two of the other students and it is right in the city center so it is super easy to walk everywhere! Since myself and the other student were the first of Adelante’s Observation and Research in Scotland students to arrive, we hit the grocery store and I spent the rest of the day unpacking. I also realized I needed a few more adaptors so I ventured into the city center and the people were so incredibly helpful! The biggest difference between Scotland and the States I have noticed is the kindness of the locals and their willingness to help anyone! That evening, three more of the students had arrived so we all went out to dinner on the most famous street, The Royal Mile. All of us immediately clicked and we’re great friends! The food was delicious and another striking difference I noticed was how late the sun sets. We were walking home from dinner around 10:15 PM and the sun was just beginning to set! 

Dining out with scotland veterinary intern group
Dining out with the group in Scotland!

My First day Exploring Edinburg – First Monday

For our first full day in the city, all five of us completed the long loop of trekking up to Edinburgh Castle, walking down The Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, and finally, hiking up to the top of Arthur’s Seat. High up on the craggy outcropping, Edinburgh Castle overlooks the city and The Royal Mile winds its way down from the castle to Holyrood Palace, the official residence of royalty when visiting Scotland. It was currently inhabited by a royal family member so we were prohibited from entering the grounds but it was still incredible to see the history surrounding the place. We picked up the pace to the base of Arthur’s Seat, the dormant volcano that sits in the middle of the city. It was a steep and slippery climb but the views from the top were stunning and totally worth the hike up! Having walked 13 miles in just half a day, we all returned to my flat for our orientation with our Scotland contact and finished the night with another delicious dinner in the city center. 

Nearing the top of Arthur’s Seat
Nearing the top of Arthur’s Seat

Getting Acclimated to Scotland

While the other students all had to go to the university for their orientations on Tuesday, I had one more day to acclimate and get caught up on some work! I spent most of the day trying to figure out my train pass as there were many issues with the booking process and I eventually had to go in person to the station. Despite having so many difficulties with the website and phone numbers, I was surprised once again, by the kindness and sincere customer service I received. The staff at the station were so helpful and handled my season pass within five minutes after having tried for hours online and via the phone. We all went out to dinner again and I loved hearing about their day and their orientations!

Starting My Veterinary Placement on Wednesday

Wednesday was the very first day of my placement so I was a little nervous since I really did not know what to expect. With it being such a large practice, it took me a couple of hours to familiarize myself with the place as I found myself getting lost within all of the corridors and rooms but I soon acclimated and had a great first day! There was a third-year veterinary student for two weeks, so it was nice to have someone to work alongside that was also learning. My day consisted of sitting in on consults, getting to know the veterinary surgeons and nurses, and assisting the nurses in all things related to the running of a small-animal clinic. The staff are wonderful and take the time to answer my questions as well as explain any concepts that are unfamiliar. I came into this internship with about 800 hours of veterinary experience split between small-animal and large-animal so I felt right at home in the veterinary hospital here but every hospital runs and does things differently so it definitely can take some time to get into the swing of things. 

Morning-surgeries-scotland veterinary intern
Morning surgeries completed!

Settling into My Work

I fell into a pattern during my next two days of being in surgeries until the afternoon in which I then switched over to consults for the rest of the day. Despite maintaining a similar pattern between days, each day brought in something new and interesting that I did not have experience with as well as a new project assigned by the senior veterinarians. I was constantly learning something new or building upon my current knowledge and all of the staff are truly incredible! They are so informative and helpful as well as willing to teach me along the way! 

This placement has exceeded beyond my expectations as I really did not have much information going in but I am so thankful to have this wonderful opportunity! It is such a unique program and it has greatly assisted me in my applications to veterinary school. I am so grateful for the people that worked to make this possible as I received a scholarship that completely covered the program’s expenses. I have not really had any struggles thus far and I am looking forward to what else I will experience and learn during my program! Upon returning to the States, I will submit my veterinary school applications and head into my senior year at the University of Kentucky where I will receive my Bachelor of Science in Biology and graduate with honors. After I graduate, I will immediately head into my first year of veterinary school to specialize as an equine veterinary surgeon!

Hiking in Scotland
Gelato after dinner on The Royal Mile

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