Adjusting to a New Home

Unlike many of her vet school friends whose childhood dream was to become a veterinarian, Yuqi Yan’s path to veterinary medicine was a little bit unconventional.

Yan earned her bachelor’s degrees in veterinary medicine and industrial design at Zhejiang University, one of the top five universities in China.

“I always thought I would be a designer.” She says, “I didn't develop a passion for veterinary profession until later in my undergrad.

“My clinical experiences, especially with swine at that time, motivated me to seek more advanced veterinary education, and prompted my decision to apply for veterinary school in the U.S.,” she said

Yan first applied to and was accepted to Iowa State in 2016. But she chose to spend another year in pre-veterinary program at Kansas State, where she took classes in animal science while gaining animal experience to better prepare for DVM program.

“I feel this year of transition between undergrad in China and DVM study in the U.S. is very much needed, for both academically and culturally, so I said ‘why not’.”

With another year under her belt, Yan applied to Iowa State again. She is currently in her fourth year of studies in Ames and is also working towards a master’s of public health from University of Iowa.

As the only international student in a class of 150, she made extra effort on school work, cultural differences, interpersonal interactions, etc.

“I’m the only one who can’t speak fluent English in my class. But I’m still doing it,” she laughs, “and I made many friends. They made my life easier and much more fun.”

“When you are thrown into a vastly different environment you wonder if you can use the new language to communicate well enough to succeed. I had a lot of difficulties at first. But the more I struggle, the more I try to practice, the more comfortable I get.”

There are obvious cultural differences between her native country and the U.S., so the ability to quickly adapt to the new environment is very important.

“I feel challenged in vet school on a daily basis. But I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone to work and learn,” she said.

Yan continued to explore her research interest in summer. She conducted clinical researches in ophthalmology and swine medicine, presented posters on national conferences, and co-authored publications.

“I like clinical research because it also helps with clinical reasoning and critical thinking.” Yan says. “Not long ago a clinician gave me an evaluation saying I ‘have a natural tendency to seek and apply evidence-based medicine.’ It’s such a compliment! And I would attribute it to my research background.”

Each year has provided additional challenges for her. Now in clinical rotations in the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center, Yan has had to deal not only with that change but dealing with clients and patients in the COVID era.

Because of the pandemic, the fourth-year veterinary students communicate with clients via phone, not in person.

“Calling clients without being able to see their face is so strange, but I’m adjusted to it. It’s just another method of communication.” Yan says.

Once Yan arrived in Ames to begin DVM studies, she was assisted by other Chinese students, not only on advice on classes but living arrangements in Ames as well.

Now as a fourth-year student, Yan is returning that favor, helping her fellow students in making their adjustment. “I know how important it is to have someone as your support system when you come to a new place,” she said.

“I have been exposed to numerous aspects of veterinary medicine throughout my training here. There are so many fascinating aspects of this profession, but I’m still seeking the area of my strongest interest.”

January 2021