Nowadays, several students choose to continue their studies in a foreign country, it is not a surprising fact. The international courses at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest have been chosen by students from 62 countries, who received world-class education and made unforgettable memories, lifelong friendships. But how can this choice help your personal development? What challenges and difficulties do you face as an international student? Savannah-Rose’s positive attitude and flexibility is remarkable. She is the child of two different cultures, and now she replaced the peaceful country life with the busy city life, at least for a few years until she gets her degree at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest.
Let’s talk about your roots. As far as I know, you are from Ireland.
Yes, I was born and raised in Ireland. I am half Irish, half Sri Lankan. I am proud to be brought up by parents of two different cultures. I have an older brother and sister; they were born in Zimbabwe and lived there for seventeen years before moving to Ireland. I live about half an hour from Dublin, in a small village called Mornington. I prefer the country life; I spend most of my time with my dogs and horses when I am at home.
My father has his own company, he is a chartered accountant and my mom is a manager, she is doing sales for Chanel, so they have completely opposite careers compared to what I am going for!
So then why veterinary medicine? And why Budapest?
I always wanted to learn veterinary medicine, ever since I can remember. I don’t ever remember wanting to do any other career. I was brought up to be kind towards animals, I love them, and they’re a huge part of my life.
Hungary and the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest is very popular in Ireland, it has a high name. It turned out that some of my friends and vets from the stables came here to study so this is the reason I actually applied. Budapest is very safe, I love it althoughit did take a while to adapt to city life, the noise etc. In Ireland I live about 5 minutes’ walk from the beach, I miss that but I have other options here, like Margaret Island. Sometimes it feels good to be away from the busy city life.
Studying abroad is getting more and more popular. What are the benefits of choosing a university far away from your home?
Stepping outside of your comfort zone has a lot of advantages. Coming to Budapest has made me much more independent. I was forced – in a good way – out of my comfort zone, do my shopping, go to college, etc. I really matured since I am here and I don’t think that I would be at the same level I am now if I’d stayed in Ireland. When you are at home you know that you can rely on your parents, your family so you can be comfortable.
Next to this, I enjoy meeting people from different cultures and the English course gives you the perfect opportunity to come together. We are on the same page, we study the same things; it was easy to fit in. As I have Asian roots it is nice to meet people from that part of the world and of course, I get along well with the Irish students, they make me feel like home when I am with them.
Were there any challenges you had to face as an international student? How did you overcome these?
My biggest challenge is the homesickness because of COVID, I can’t go home until Christmas. Last year friends and family came to see me quite often or I went back for a weekend when I missed them. The pandemic makes this year difficult for everybody. I’m sure everybody feels the same; nobody can go home right now so we stick together. Having good friends here has a huge impact. If I didn’t have the friends I have now, I don’t know if I would be able to get through this course this year.
Indeed, the university experience is very different for this year. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the university switched to distance learning in the previous semester and now we have a so-called hybrid teaching method. How have these changes affected you?
When I started university, I had lessons from early morning until the end of the day; it is difficult to focus for such a long period of time. Personally, I loved it when we switched to distance learning last year. I was able to pause the lesson and revise it to freshen my knowledge; it helped a lot to prepare for my exams. The online anatomy practicals were especially useful: when you have these hands-on classes you cannot record anything. After you step out of the laboratory you might forget what you just did, with the recordings you can check back every little detail. I still have these videos on my laptop and I use them all the time.
The hybrid teaching that we have this year is a little bit different. Most of the courses are not pre-recorded, they are live-streamed and you can’t actually download them. Some practicals, like anatomy, are held regularly so we need to be there in person, while every other class can be attended online. Sometimes it is hard when you think that you could be at home with your family but because of the practicals, we need to stay, but of course these practicals are necessary.
The situation is difficult and you can’t make everyone happy at the same time. I think the departments are doing the best they can. Every time we contact them they try to compromise. They listen to us what we have to say, it doesn’t go unnoticed. The professors are keeping us updated about the whole situation. I think the way how they are handling it is very good, we all do appreciate it.
The Hungarian government has introduced tougher restrictive measures at the beginning of November like the curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. or the restricted opening hours of shops and restaurants. How do you cope with these changes?
It is difficult I must admit. Since the restaurants are closed we cannot go out for dinner or have a few drinks after a difficult week. This 8 o’clock curfew makes everything difficult, I feel like I am grounded, just like when you are young and your mother tells you to get home by 8 o’clock. I try to adapt of course, we are aware of how difficult the situation is. I think the best thing to do is to stay positive and share that energy with the people around you. I know that a lot of people are suffering; we are all affected by the pandemic in one or more ways. I tell everybody that we need to make the best of what we have right now. Find the little things that make you happy, for example, I take care of a foster dog with my friend, he keeps us busy and gives us a responsibility to focus on.
You mentioned that you have horses at home. Do you ride?
Yes, horse riding and hockey are my main sports when I am at home. Since I am in Budapest I wouldn’t call horse riding a sport anymore, rather a hobby. I do not compete, only enjoy myself and train a few of the horses but that suits me right now.
In Ireland, I played field hockey but I haven’t found any clubs here in Hungary where I could play. My hobbies are limited since the lockdown, but I usually go for a walk with friends at Margaret Island to clear our heads.
As a vet would you like to treat horses in the future?
I would love to go into equine because I have been brought up with horses but I can see myself in the future working with small animals as well. This semester was mostly about small animals, dogs especially, we haven’t learnt much about equine. I am only in my second year so I still have time to decide. If equine is meant for me, I will do that.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in veterinary medicine?
I think the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing; this will be your life in the future. If you do not enjoy it, it will be much harder to learn. I would recommend anyone to study abroad. I wouldn’t be the same person if I had stayed at home. You can explore other cultures, make friends from all around the world, it opens your eyes to new things. You have the opportunity to be free, independent. Stay on top of your work: that is my advice to those who plan to study veterinary medicine. So heads down and think about the bigger picture, where you want to be in 10-15 years.
Stay positive! I hope that this situation will be sorted soon and we can go back to normal college life. I feel bad for the freshers that they haven’t had the opportunity to experience real college life, but you have 5 more years, so keep it up!