The More, the Merrier - RVC's Global IVSA Exchange 

By Seth Kennard (JAVS Editor)

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Following the success of RVC’s first International Veterinary Student Association exchange in student memory with Budapest last year (see JAVS Spring 2017) planning for something bigger and better started early. The original plan of a three way exchange with Estonia (Tallinn), Greece (Thessaly) and Germany (Leipzig) was expanded with invitations being sent to all IVSA chapters globally. Thus, come Monday 16th October forty eight veterinary students heralding from Netherlands, Ghana, Thailand, South Korea, Finland, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, Indonesia, Germany, Canada, Poland and Estonia arrived in London ready for a week of adventure and learning.

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The week started on Monday night with introductions and games in the union bar before an early start up to our countryside campus on Tuesday where the students were treated to tours of the campus, practicals in our clinical skills centre and a very hands on practical at the farm. Condition scoring with the cows, a lambing practical and a sheep handling session gave the everyone a chance to experience a practises on a British farm. It can be eye opening to learn from other students how diverse the requirements of the vet course can be, with very few of the students having handled or worked with sheep before and many seeing them as a smallholders pet rather than a serious industry. Tuesday evening finished with a classic social down at Wetherspoons.

Wednesday opened with a morning in Camden market which offered some protection from the cliched British rain but the real highlight of the day was the wildlife dissections. Cadavers donated from local wildlife hospitals provided an opportunity to explore the anatomy of foxes, seagulls, hedgehogs, cats, ferrets, deer, herons, squirrels, and cormorants. A follow up lecture on native, endangered and reintroduced species of the British Isles topped of a great afternoon.

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Thursday started late and for many hungover thanks to the drink deals at Zoo bar, the club frequented the night previous. If you’re looking for  a cure for the hangover then perhaps leave a rapid tour of London off the list as visiting Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, National Portrait Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Westminister, St. Pauls, Tate Modern and Borough market in one morning can exacerbate the symptoms. An afternoon lecture from Sterillium caused some ripples among students who are taught to wash their hands every minute using as strong disinfectants as possible and it led to some interesting discussions between students comparing practice standards that they had observed. To give the visiting students a real taste of British culture a barn dance was organised with plenty of spinning, dosey-doeing and moves that can’t quite be described using words alone.

Friday offered a chance for many to explore the sights of London with a trip in the morning to the Hunterian anatomy museum and an afternoon free either to nap and prepare for the evening or for the energetic to see more of the big smoke. The evening social showcased some of London’s best and busiest bars and clubs with a classic bar crawl. By this point in the week everyone knew everyone and any apprehension that comes from forming such a large group of people had definitely melted away. The night was spent putting memories down in pen, in the form of the classic IVSA White - Tshirt party.

Saturday was without doubt the classiest day of the week with a group outing to Ascot. Much racing was watched, champagne was drunk, merriment had. After failing to see Her Royal Majesty (HRM) the Queen at the her own residence it was lovely to see HRM enjoying a day out at the races, and music royalty was also in attendance in the form of George Ezra at the Ascot afterparty.

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Sunday was the final day of a very long week and what better end it than a brunch with new found friends hailing from all corners of the world. Despite the cultural and national differences everyone was united in their passion for all things veterinary and animals, that and their passion for IVSA.

A special thanks for Sterillium for their support without whom the exchange could not go ahead. Make sure to check out the next issue of JAVS for updates on how the RVC students fare in Germany, Greece and Estonia.

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