Samuel Baker, Class of 2022
Over the month of March, I was given the awesome opportunity to study veterinary medicine abroad in Norway at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). Over the course of my stay, I was able to work in their production animal hospital and with their field services team. I was hopeful that this experience would lead to new knowledge and opportunities and I was not disappointed. My main goals of this experience were to experience new aspects of veterinary medicine, gain more hands on experience with production animals, and to improve my language skills along the way. It’s safe to say I accomplished the first two, but learning to speak Norwegian was more difficult than I had anticipated!
Once I arrived in Norway, my first rotation was production animal medicine within the stationary clinic. While on this rotation, I was with students that were equivalent to 2nd year students at Iowa State. The first few days I spent getting adjusted to the new scenery within the hospital and meeting my classmates. Soon after, I was put in teaching scenarios, such as demonstrating the correct way to administer a magnet to a cow with suspected traumatic reticuloperitonitis or helping students refine their clinical exam skills. At the end of the week, I went with the rotation to a local dairy farm where we got the opportunity to assess hooves of Norwegian Red (NRF) cows and participate in hoof trimming. On the last day on the rotation, I participated in surgery of cryptorchid pigs. Over the weekend, I traveled to Holmenkollen outside of Oslo to enjoy the cross-country skiing world cup, which was a blast.
On my second and third weeks, I was with the ambulatory clinic riding along with faculty veterinarians to local farms. Over the course of these two weeks, I was able to do a lot of disbudding procedures on calves and goat kids, travel to small herd swine farms, and pregnancy detection of dairy cows. Probably the most interesting story to come from this experience happened on my third week, when I had the opportunity to perform pregnancy examinations on cows owned by the King of Norway (Harald V). Those two weeks were very hands-on which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also saw plenty of the Norwegian countryside and got into several different farms, which was a great experience. On my free weekends, I traveled back to Oslo and also took the scenic train to Bergen, where I hiked up Mt. Ulriken and Mt. Fløyen and spent time in the historic harbor of Bryggen.
My last week at the university, I was in the stationary clinic again working with production animals. Over the course of the week, we had many interesting cases come into the clinic, including a calf with severely contracted front limbs, a pregnant ewe with pregnancy toxemia, and a calf with a large umbilical hernia. The faculty also used me as an extension of teaching and had me giving assessments of younger students over their clinical examination skills on cows within the hospital. On my final weekend, my roommates threw me a going away party with plenty of Norwegian waffles and brown cheese.
Now that I am back at Iowa State and finishing up my last clinical rotations, I can look back and reflect on my time in Norway. I am very thankful for the opportunity and I am glad I decided to study abroad. Going abroad forced me to step outside my comfort zone, which is a good test with graduation coming soon. While in Norway, I managed to see aspects of veterinary medicine I may never experience again. I would encourage every student to consider study abroad opportunities as I believe it is a great opportunity for personal growth and an easy way to access the world outside your university.
Jae Won Yang, Class of 2024
I had a wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Toulouse, France this summer for small animal clinical rotation. As a third-year veterinary student, I participated in 3 different subjects throughout my 3-week program which were reproductive medicine, preventative medicine, and general medicine. I also assisted interns and 4th year students in multiple surgical cases. I was able to get hands on experience with many dogs and cats as well as clients on a day-to-day basis.
The best part about the externship was being able to interact with the local students to learn about their culture and learn all the differences between the veterinary practice in the U.S. and France. In France, it seemed like the learning was based more about what the mentors have to teach to the students as opposed to textbooks and lectures slides that we tend to focus more in the U.S. It was interesting to learn all the insights that the mentors have learned from their personal experiences as a veterinarian and how sometimes this can be more valuable than the lessons we learn from the textbooks.
One of the biggest benefits from the experience was to be able to learn French and be fully immersed into their culture. Although I am still not fluent in French, I was able to pick up a lot of their vocabulary and have enough skills to do some basic communication with the locals. Toulouse was also a very beautiful city, and it was amazing to be able to travel and explore different landmarks with beautiful architectural design and local foods that various restaurants had to offer.
Overall, the externship experience I had was amazing. Though there were some challenges along the way, it has strengthened me to become more resilient and be flexible to unexpected situations. I made great friendships with the students, learned some basic French, and learned so much about their culture. This experience not only reinforced my knowledge and skills as a veterinarian but also taught me to be more open-minded and be accepting of people from different background as I am. I would strongly recommend this experience to all my fellow veterinary students.