Studying veterinary medicine abroad: Slovakia
Having completed a bioveterinary science degree in the UK with the promise of going to vet school I was let down when I found that cost was going be an issue with it being my second degree. After finding the UK vet schools still charged full whack for tuition for second degrees and so with the potential fees of £33,000 plus living costs I made the smart decision and applied to the University of Medicine in Kosice, Slovakia. When I got a place, I started to look at ways of funding it, and then left the UK on 10 September 2012.
Arriving in Slovakia
Stepping off the plane into the sun I was surprised at how warm it was. I came through customs in Budapest airport and looked for a place to change some pounds into Euro’s to pay for my taxi transfer across the border to Kosice in Slovakia. Finding a foreign exchange booth I confused the poor lady when I asked for Euros instead of Hungarian Forint the currency for Hungary which was the country is was in – she probably thought I was insane however after trying to change my mind gave me the Euros I wanted.
I headed out into the sun and attempted to find my taxi, struggling here I found out that if I tried to call my phone gave me a recording in Hungarian but when I hung up I got called back so something must have worked. It was my first time really alone in Europe, and I was excited about everything. I found it funny when we crossed the border into Slovakia and the first animal I saw was a goat tied to a tree in a front garden.
Preconceptions and challenges
I guess everyone has preconceptions of what they expect, and I admit I was very ignorant about the country I was going to. So much so that I hadn’t bothered checking the address of the dormitories that were to become my home on the assumption that Kosice was just a small village and everyone would know where the veterinary dormitories were so arriving to a city instead, the panic set in (an urgent post for the address on Facebook saved me here).
"Living abroad is not easy, and so has given me a new respect for every single person that has come to the UK from abroad"
Arriving at the dormitory, I attempted to find food so went in search of a supermarket. I found a supermarket but all the meats were on a deli counter, I hoped they spoke English but I had no such luck. I managed to point to what I wanted – yet then it got intense with the person asking me something in Slovak, me saying I don’t understand, and then the person starting to repeat it louder and louder until they were screaming at me. Luckily here I was rescued by another young person who told me she was asking how much ham I wanted…
The dormitory was basic, however was comfortable. There were sinks in every room, 11 rooms on a corridor, which shared a room with 4 toilet cubicles and another room that had 3 shower cubicles. However it was not possible to change the temperature on the showers and you either got cold or burning depending on how it was working that day. It really did make me appreciate my time away at conferences where being able to change the shower temperature myself was an absolute luxury!
One of the biggest shocks was how hot it was in summer, yet when October came around and it started to snow over the winter it was great to head to the ski slopes just 20 minutes bus ride away. However having to wade through knee deep snow to get to class everyday was not such fun, or the days trying to walk down the front steps that were buried in snow and not visible causing you to slip and fall. There were ever a couple of days where my face had frozen within seconds of venturing through the front doors, prompting me to go back to bed for my own safety.
Something I now consider invaluable that I got without realising, and without paying for was the experience of being in a new country without understanding the language or culture. Whilst on holiday it is not such a problem, but when you live somewhere and need to shop, to go to a doctor or hospital, and to understand a different system it gets more interesting. It is not so easy, and so has given me a new respect for every single person that has come to the UK from abroad.