A Royal Summer Retreat at the Royal Veterinary College – Part I


Sarah Lewis gives us an inside look to her experience attending an amazing opportunity — the Royal Veterinary College Pre-Vet Summer Program in London, England. This week, she shares her journey finding, applying and traveling for the program. 

All teenagers–and even some adults­–face the pressing question, what do I want to be when I grow up? While some individuals are quite certain what career path they would like to pursue, others are not. Luckily, I have always had my eyes set on an equine related career ever since my first days as a horse crazy little girl. Initially, I was convinced I would become a thoroughbred jockey; however, I quickly outgrew the size restrictions for a jockey and had to decide on an alternate ambition. Fortunately, I received some insight after my first two years of high school as I developed a fascination for science and medicine. So, I thought to myself: What better way to combine my two interests of science and horses then to become an equine veterinarian?

I began to seek out opportunities to immerse myself in the veterinarian profession and gain first-hand experience treating animals. I volunteered at a local small animal clinic and enjoyed the hands-on experience. Unfortunately, the city where I live does not offer accessible opportunities to work with an equine veterinarian, so I slowly began to look for horse related vet opportunities further from home. I heard about the popularity of American high school students attending pre-college summer programs and I was rather intrigued. In Canada, summer pre-college programs are not common or as publicized. I did some research and came across plenty of veterinary related pre-college summer programs. One in particular fascinated me, the Pre-Veterinary Summer School program at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London, England. The program was exactly what I was looking for: a comprehensive veterinary experience at a world-renowned institution, the opportunity to go abroad, and had a reasonable time commitment, only two-weeks from late July to early August. The program seemed long enough to get a taste of what veterinary medicine and school offers, but not too long that I would be missing my horse–or my family–at home.

50 students from 19 different countries attended the RVC’s Pre-Vet Summer School.

The RVC Pre-Vet summer school application was competitive; over 200 high school and university students applied from all over the world for only 50 available spots. After convincing my parents, I applied and to my excitement was graciously accepted. I was impressed with how well the staff from RVC prepared me for the program as an international student. They ensured all of my questions were answered promptly and that I obtained the necessary visa and paperwork. Their excellent communication made it particularly easy and less stressful for my parents as I prepared to venture to England for two weeks.

You could say I received royal treatment when I arrived at the airport in London. I was greeted by the RVC liaison and joined the other international summer students on a coach bus that drove us to the RVC Hawkshead campus. The Royal Veterinary College has two campuses; one is located in Camden in central London and the other, Hawkshead, is located in the countryside, a short train ride north of London. The summer school is hosted at the Hawkshead campus.

My roommates and I (from left to right): Emily Harrison (UK), Sarah Lam (Hong Kong), Charlotte Foo (Singapore) myself (Canada), and Stephanie Lai (Hong Kong) on our very last night at the Summer School, which was a formal night with lots of dancing!

On our arrival to Hawkshead, I was amazed by the size of the campus and animal hospital. We stayed in the residence townhouse buildings on site. Each house hosted five students and one RVC student ambassador who was our group leader and mentor. In my house, I stayed with two girls from Hong Kong, one from Singapore, and one from the United Kingdom. It was nice to have the opportunity to stay in the school residence to get a taste of what university residency life is like.

Stay tuned next week for part II to hear all about what Sarah learned and experienced in her time at the Royal Veterinary College!