The First of Three: RVC's IVSA takes on Leipzig

By: Dylan Yaffy

It may seem like ages since the RVC’s Global IVSA Exchange back in October, but for a group of 15 RVC students eager to complete phase 1 of the 3-part exchange, the wait flew by. Just to catch everyone up to speed, RVC exchange officer, Tavishi Pandya, organised 3 IVSA exchanges for the spring term, the first of which involved a group of students looking to cure their January blues with a visit to Leipzig, Germany.

Having formed friendships with the German students back in October, even a 5:00am trip to Stansted wasn’t dampening the excitement across the group. Upon arrival to Berlin, our hosts welcomed us with a huge jug of mulled wine, and with a glass warming ours hands we made our way into Berlin for a day of sightseeing. Despite poor weather, our hosts brought us around the city pointing out important political and historical sights, such as the remains of the Berlin wall and the Brandenburg Gate. Unfortunately our tour was cut short as we rushed off to the train station after hearing word that Storm Friedrike was playing havoc with the trains across the country. We spent the next few hours waiting for a train to Leipzig while posing as “disgruntled tourists” for photographers of some local papers. It wasn’t until the next morning (Friday), when we were finally on our way to where we’d spend the next week.

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Despite the train delays, we arrived with more than enough time on Friday to enjoy day 1 of the Leipzig Veterinary Congress. Think London Vet Show or Birmingham BSAVA, but mostly in German. After the day of free coffee, food and veterinary products, we made our way to the Leipzig Veterinary University’s student bar to catch up with the rest of our hosts. After a short night’s sleep (a recurring issue of the week), we were back at the Vet Congress Saturday for a series of english talks on equine reproduction. We also ran into some friendly RVC faces, like Holger Volk, who seemed quite shocked to see us attending Germany’s largest vet conference. Saturday night brought us to a fancy dress party with the entire veterinary faculty, including staff and alumni.

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After a well needed lie in Sunday morning, we received a private tour of Leipzig Zoo from one of our hosts who has worked as a zookeeper during his time in vet school. Highlights include their ape enclosures, whose inhabitants are subjects of ground breaking behavioural research at Leipzig’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Sunday night was a bit more relaxed than those previously, giving us the opportunity to rest our eyes and be serenaded by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Monday was our first glimpse of the Leipzig Veterinary University campus and their accompanying farm. The day was filled with practicals and lectures, including the chance to diagnose pregnancy in cattle, practice equine ultrasonography and learn about proper handling and care of marmoset monkeys. As expected, the day ended with another pub night. Starting to see the trend?

Tuesday began with a special guest lecture from the president of the European Society of Veterinary Neurology, Dr. Thomas Flegel, who helped us work through a neuro case they had just treated in their small animal hospital. After lunch, the group split, with some deciding to nap while the others visited the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument of the Battle of the Nations), which commemorates the defeat of Napoleon in Leipzig. Upon returning to the university, there was one final lecture from a specialist at Leipzig’s farrier school, before we got the chance to give horseshoeing a go on our own specimens. Tuesday night found us all scoring 0s at a local pub quiz before dancing until the early hours at another one of their student nightclubs.

Unfortunately the week had blown by as fast as it had approached, and our final day in Leipzig was spent exploring the city and spending one last night with our hosts in their student pub. Another early morning, but on time, train to Berlin on Thursday followed by a flight back to Stansted had the 4th year students in the group arriving right on time for their purple scrub top ceremony. For these students, the Leipzig exchange was a great segue into their first proper clinical rotations, while for the rest of us it was a well-needed break from lectures and the stress of impending exams.

It’s always nice to visit another vet school and get a feel for how different regions and cultures translate into a different curriculum and teaching style. Our hosts in Leipzig kept downplaying their school and making poor comparisons to their week at the RVC, but I think I speak for the majority of our group when I say that we were blown away by their university and student life. After an amazing week, the RVC IVSA chapter can’t wait for their next 2 exchanges, to Estonia (Tallinn) and Greece (Thessaly) later this spring- make sure to check out the next JAVS for more!

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