The first week has already gone by and boy was it interesting. I’ve completed two post-graduate degrees back in Canada 🇨🇦 and I can tell you that the education system here is definitely different from what I’m used to, but different in a good way. Actually, MANY good ways! Here are some reasons I found veterinary school abroad to be different:
6-Year Program (depends on school)
In most western countries, a veterinary education requires at least 2 years of an undergraduate degree where you learn your core sciences, and then you are eligible to apply for a Vet Med program (which is 4 years).
Since admission can be very competitive, most applicants have completed at least an undergraduate degree and have practical experience – all things that can really beef up your application. That means that it will take you approx. 6 – 10 years after high school until you are a practicing vet.
I definitely don’t regret doing my education in Canada, BUT, it also wasn’t the most efficient path to becoming a vet. Many European countries have an alternative system. Here, you enter vet med straight out of high school (as is the case for medicine, dentistry, etc.). Some countries have 5-year programs, while others have 6-year programs. So far, I haven’t come across any schools that offer a 4-year program without requiring some type of higher education after high school.
It’s a different system and it seems to work well. If you are set on a professional program, vet school abroad can help you get there FASTER. Just be sure to check what accreditation your program has to see if you need to sit exams in order to practice in your home country (if you still plan on returning after being spoiled by the euro life). I’ll be writing a blog post in the future that will cover accreditation once I get some more research under my belt 😊.
Year 1/2 – Basic Sciences
Year 3/4 – Focused content and pre-clinical courses
Year 5/6 – Clinical rotation and practical experience
First Year Courses
We cover all of the basic sciences, with a hint of vet med in there. The courses are staggered in their start and end dates so you are almost always starting a new course and finishing an old one. Then, there are electives that provide you with an opportunity to learn about more specific topics. Whatever floats your boat.
Here is a look at what my first year looks like:
The Bologna Process and ECTS points
I just learned about this today so I will do my best to break it down for you (and me). The “Bologna Process” is a system put into place that tries to bring coherence to any university education across Europe.
This means you can live almost anywhere in Europe and have your degree recognized and accepted. Before this system, it was much more difficult to take your education with you from one european country to another. If you moved, you would essentially have to start over.
The system works by allowing you to collect ECTS points that make up your grade for each course. Instead of getting an 84%, you get a certain number of points. The nice thing here is that you can take courses at other european universities and earn ECTS points without worrying if your hard work will be accepted!
The BEST PART of the ECTS point system is that you earn points for attending lectures, labs, practicals, seminars, and more. Gone are the days that your entire grade relies on a 30% midterm and 70% final.
Here, they incentivize you to come to class and participate to the best of your ability. This is what every university system should strive for.
Flexible Exam Dates
Every school has exams. They are a great way to provide feedback, track your progress, and show you how much you REALLY know about a given topic. They can also leave students with stress that’s through the roof and even a lack of confidence if you perform poorly. No matter how we look at it, some sort of examination is necessary.
Here, you get to pick when you write your exams. You attend lectures/labs/practicals/seminars and then you are allowed to sit the exam, but when you choose to sit the exam is up to you. You decide whether you want to write it in January, February, March, April, and so on. If you’ve picked a date and aren’t prepared for your upcoming exam, you can ask to reschedule as long as you give a 48hr notice.
This was unheard of to me! Although you can have a flexible exam date, I think it’s better to finish it as soon as possible while that content is still fresh in your head. If you wait 3 months, you’re going to be studying for an exam AND taking other courses.
But wait, it gets better. You have 4 attempts to pass the exam before you have to retake the course (and then you get another 4 chances before they kick you out). You should always plan to pass the exam on the first attempt, but everyone has a bad day now and then, so getting another chance to prove your knowledge is definitely a relief.
At the undergraduate level in Canada you have 5 courses at a time, followed by 5 exams crammed into a ~2 week exam period. If you fail an exam then you’ll have to retake the course at the very least. You may even be kicked out from your program. The system here seems much more manageable for your mental health. School abroad is already stressful as it is, and having a program be geared to your success rather than your failure is a refreshing change.
Every week you have a different schedule. I’m not sure why, but that’s just how they do it here.
Professional programs in Canada rarely give exemptions for courses completed at other institutions.
Luckily my first year will be a little lighter since I am trying to be exempt from a few courses that I’ve previously completed. It’s great that this is even an option, but there is a lot of bureaucratic paperwork that you have to go through to get that exemption.
Once all your paperwork is in, it can take 1-3 months until you hear back from the university regarding their decision. Still, I rather wait for that exemption than put myself through physics again 💀.
I’m going to keep this part short. Every student has one of these nicely textured booklets called an Indeks Card and their purpose is to be a grade book. Your grades are also entered online in their database, but you have a physical copy just because. The annoying part is that you cannot officially begin the next year of vet med unless you have signatures from each professor saying that you completed the course. A little old school, but in due time they will transition to a fully online system.
Dress Code in Croatia
YES THERE’S A DRESS CODE!
The population of Croatia is mainly Roman-Catholic (86.28%) which comes with some general rules to consider. Most things are pretty straight forward, but a couple really stood out to me.
Hot day and you want to wear shorts? Sorry, pack pants.
Sweaty feet and you want to wear sandals? Sorry, lace up.
(At least there isn’t a uniform 😅)
My first taste of education abroad has been different from what I expected. But different in a refreshing way. There is structure, but it’s different. We have a lot of lectures, but the layout and how we are graded is different. The instructors CARE about your success and want to be a part of it.
Everyone of my classmates comes from a different background. A different upbringing. A different reason for wanting to pursue vet med. Somehow, all of our paths led us to Zagreb, and here, we will spend the next 6 years together 😊 enjoying vet school abroad.
If you’re looking for motivation to study abroad, look no further than our last blog post!
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- Guillermo, V., Tiropanis, T., & Millard, D. E. (2016). The Opportunity of Linked Data for the European Higher Education Area. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(1), 58-64. doi:10.7763/ijiet.2016.v6.659