on my first jobs

The beginning of most gap years start with a job to earn some money for travelling, and mine was no different. I had already applied to a job before results day at an events staffing company (a bit of an indicator towards my confidence in my grades…), and got it. I was put on a system which worked like an agency for hospitality workers – waiting, bar staff, hosts, that kind of thing, and I landed myself a month-long stint working as a ‘hospitality assistant’ at a very fancy firm, which dealt with money in some way (I heard private equity a lot and that’s about all I know). Basically, I had to refresh the tea and coffee in all of the meeting rooms (about 20 spread across 10 floors in two buildings – rip my poor feet).

This was my first ever proper job – I had earned money from pet-sitting and running a stall at school fairs, but this was my first you’re-on-the-payroll-and-have-to-work-8-hours-a-day job – scary stuff. I loved the atmosphere of working at this firm – there was a great sense of camaraderie between our team and the mail room guys, cleaners, and secretaries. However, running around all day trying to make sure that each room was set  up for the hundreds of meetings that went on everyday was exhausting, and I didn’t have much passion for what I was doing. So, looking for a change of scene, I applied for about five different jobs on the Fortnum and Mason website (a very fancy department store in central London), and got a call back for a couple of them. The first: ‘corporate sales advisor’. I didn’t know what this would entail or what it really meant, but I went along to the assessment day along with about 20 other gap year students and got the job, so that was that.

After a week of intense training to teach us all how to use the outdated ordering system, we were stuffed in an office and began two months of selling and placing big orders for F&M’s corporate and high profile clients. It was an interesting insight into the corporate world, and I made some lovely friends, but I have to say that the office life is not for me – which is a good thing, I guess, considering I won’t be leading one. A lot of my time was either waiting for hours for any replies to my insistent emails, or, as it got closer to Christmas, dealing with angry customers on the other end of the phone and staying hours late to make sure all my orders got done. My short attention span and spending 8 hours at a desk did not mix well, however, it was a great experience and I did deal with some lovely people who I will be sad not to speak to again.

I’ve now got a three week job lambing on a farm in Northamptonshire, which I can’t wait to start. Switching the commute on the Victoria line for quad biking through fields and 9-6 at a desk for chasing lambs sounds pretty perfect, right now, and hopefully I learn a lot, too.


on my experience with the NSA

Well, I promised some work experience throwbacks so here one is.

Cast your minds back to late November 2015 – Christmas was on it’s way, everyone was working for end of unit tests, and revision for mocks in Spring was being planned. But, far more importantly, the NSA work placement list had gone live. For most people, my American friends especially, a much cooler image of an NSA work placement has probably come to mind than the reality. Unbeknownst to most people, the NSA in the UK has nothing to do with government intelligence, but stands for the National Sheep Association – much more interesting am I right?

For those of you who haven’t left after realising this is about sheep, thank you, you’re the kind of people I want around here. Anyway, the NSA publishes a list of advertisements from sheep farmers willing to have students come and do lambing work experience with them. The listings normally consist of a few lines saying if accommodation is available, the size of herd, and a bit about the farm and the way they run things. Students can then contact the farmer and arrange a placement – simple, and that’s exactly what I did. The week that I wanted to go was pretty early in the lambing calendar – mid February – so I only had two options on the list that lambed early enough. I emailed both, and one was free. We had a brief phone call to arrange the dates and that was it – I was off to spend a week with a family of strangers working on their sheep farm in Anglesey – an island off of Wales.

I’m not sure how I convinced my worrying mother that I was going to be fine staying on a farm I found on the internet, but in February I was being driven up by my family, full of nerves and wondering why I had signed up for this at all. As it turns out, I found myself staying with the friendliest people I have ever met, and I had the best week ever. The farm was run by 25 year old Ger, who had taken over after his dad sadly passed away. I stayed in the farm house with him and his mum, and he had a brother and cousin who came every day to help out. I have to say that the people who you do a placement with really make or break your experience, and I was so welcomed by his family, and they really made my time there amazing.

Within an hour of arriving, I had donned my waterproofs and was in the barn, pulling  my first lamb. I won’t get too graphic here, but it really was amazing to help with the birthing process and watch so many lambs come into this world. Ger was a great teacher and I can safely say that I know my way around a sheep now. Every evening we were greeted back in the farm house with a delicious meal and then sat, happy but exhausted, by the fire chatting and watching trashy tv. If that isn’t the dream, I don’t know what is.


Aside from learning the ins and outs (sorry, bit too literal maybe) of sheep, I also drove quad bikes, got behind the wheel of a car for the first time (I was awful and still haven’t passed my test all these years later), and even tried shooting. They were all pretty shocked when I said that I hadn’t shot a gun before, so I was taken out to shoot some empty aerosol cans. I was surprising good, and they said I should join my local shooting club, which was very sweet but I regretfully informed them that a local shooting club did not exist in my south London neighbourhood.

I took to country life like a fish to water and was pretty sad to leave and get right back into school and exams. I missed the community spirit and being active all day, but one good thing about my surprise gap year is that I can hopefully return to lambing or something similar – the world is my oyster – for a year, at least.

on failing

Well, the 17th has been and gone and, no prizes for guessing, I did not get the grades I needed. I got ABB in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics respectively, a far cry from the AAA that I needed.

In the UK, you can accept two university offers – your firm, which is your first choice, and your insurance, which is a backup, usually with lower grade requirements. My insurance was a deferred (starting a year later) offer from the University of Nottingham, and was AAB. However, I am eternally grateful that Nottingham still offered me the course – not sure how that happened, as veterinary courses are usually very strict with grades, but I’m not asking any questions.

So, I seem to have got away with doing really quite badly, considering what I was aiming for. I was never motivated by chemistry and physics, and clearly did not put in as much work, but I think this has been a wake-up call that I can’t get away with doing the bare minimum like I used to. University will be a fresh start and I am determined to succeed.

Anyway, now for the more exciting bit – I have a whole year to do whatever I want. I’ve got an interview at an events company, where I could do part-time work serving at events across London, which is pretty cool. Hopefully that will go well, and I’m still looking for another part time job and am doing pet sitting on the side, which is more fun than work to be honest. The plan is to make as much money as I can before Christmas, and then go abroad to work or volunteer.

I will be keeping this blog going throughout the year to try and keep track of myself during what could be the most unstructured year of my life, and may even through in the odd story about the many things I’ve done in the two year gap I left on here.



on catching up

Hello there,

I started this blog during a long and exciting summer two years ago, and I’m afraid to say that I completely forgot about it once I got back to school and started the last two years of my education. It’s fair to say that I’ve matured a bit since my last posts (it’s taken a lot of willpower not to edit those cringe-inducing paragraphs), and I’ve got up to a lot of exciting animal ventures, which I’m sure I’ll post about during some quite periods.

But for now, back to the present – what’s made me return to this little blog that I wanted to use to remember my veterinary journey? Well, to be quite honest, I think I’ve had a massive f-up. As I’m sure I mentioned a while ago, I did biology, chemistry, and physics A level, and I’m 99% certain that I’ve missed my grade for chemistry. I’ll find out for sure on the 17th August (two weeks from now), but I think it’s safe to assume that I won’t be going to university next year – depressing, am I right? I’ll go into more detail in another post about failure, and rising up from it, I’m sure, but for now, I reckon I’ve got a year of retaking chemistry and trying not to die from boredom and envy of all my friends, so I thought going back to therapeutic blogging might be a good idea for my sanity. Is there anyone reading? Probably not. In fact, hopefully not, because I think this will come to be a record of embarrassing rambling and self-pity, but I’m an optimist, and I’m trying to make the most of this little blip in my life to come out the other side a better person – ok, unlikely but at least a person with more experience under her belt.

Think that’s enough for now – don’t want to embarrass my future self too much (yet).


on my dairy work experience

Heya friends,

I finished my dairy placement last week and had a tiring but amazing time, so I thought I should tell you all about it. As I said in my previous post, it was at Bore Place dairy farm, which is part of a group called commonwork which teaches kids about gardening and nature and helps disabled and disadvantaged people to learn and develop skills, as well as holding lots of family open days filled with outdoor activities. Despite this, the farm was very much a working one, and was not really there for teaching people – it was an organic milk business.

I turned up on my first day at 7:45, having caught the 6:38 train and still half-asleep, and was greeted by Martin, the very friendly and talkative herdsperson, who was just finishing the morning milking. I was handed a “scraper” (a broom handle with a massive squeegee on the end) and was told to scrape all of the muck from the milking parlour out onto the concrete area outside, where a big mechanical scraper dragged it down to a drain which lead to a cesspit. I then had to scrape the massive cow shed free of muck, and by the time this was finished I was exhausted. Every morning this was my job and, weirdly, by the end I really enjoyed it – it was very therapeutic!

In the afternoons I helped with milking, which involved herding the cows from the field to the cow shed using a mule (a kind of farm-buggy) and then ushering them through to the parlour. Then, we had to dip the udders in iodine foam to get rid of any bacteria on them, wipe them and attach the clusters. The clusters were pulled of automatically when the machine thought that there was no more milk and then we dipped the udders in iodine liquid, which protected them, as they do not close for 20 minutes after milking. Killing the bacteria on the udders was very important because it prevented mastitis, which is a real problem with dairy cows.

Between the milkings, I would accompany one of the herdspersons to feed cows up in the fields, help with various farm tasks like spreading bedding or sealing the silage pit, and trim the cows’ feet. The latter was particularly interesting because I learnt how important healthy feet are in cows. If they go lame, their milk yield goes down, they are less likely to go into calve, and overall they cost the farmer a lot of money. That’s why the cows’ feet are trimmed yearly. Sometimes, pebbles burrow through the claw and hit the soft tissue underneath, causing infection and puss or blood to fill underneath the claw. This liquid creates uncomfortable pressure on the soft tissue and so you have to cut down to the abscess to drain it. Then, it is sprayed with antiseptic and a cow slip is placed on the other claw to raise it and take all pressure off the painful one.

Unfortunately, I was too early for calving, although one had been born early so here’s a cute picture: IMG_1084

In the cow shed there were these massive yellow brushes that rotated that the cows used to scratch themselves with. (Also very cute).Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 12.29.11

I came out the week absolutely shattered, but I learnt so much and can’t wait to (hopefully!) return after my first year at uni!

I’ve just completed a week at a small animal vet practice, so will be writing up on that soon (we’ll see how much I procrastinate…)

Until then, byeeee!

Sophie x

on my stables experience

Hi everyone!

I have recently come back from staying for a week at a stables in Kent. It wasn’t really proper work experience, because it was a paid for holiday-kinda-thing, so I went with a friend and got lessons and looked after pretty well. However, as we were the only ones there, we did a lot of work. We spent a lot of time grooming and tacking up horses, as well as changing water and filling up hay nets – lots and lots of hay nets. We also spent a gruelling hour poo-picking a field, which was absolutely exhausting.

Continue reading

on volunteering abroad

Hi everyone,

Contrary to what I said in my last post, I am writing again but have not yet finished my GCSEs. I’ve been thinking a lot about my  next summer holidays (after year 12) and have realised that I would really like to do a bit of travelling and experience different animal occupations to the ones in the UK. Continue reading

Help Prevent and Fight Cruelty to Animals

Think that this post says some important stuff about ensuring the safety of animals in your community…

Lange Animal Clinic- Pet Care Tips and Resources

Cruelty Dog

Lange Animal Clinic is an avid ASPCA supporter with dedicated Agents that perform great work to save the lives of animals across the country. But did you know that you, too, can help crack down on animal cruelty in your community? Read on for simple actions you can take to make the world a safer place for animals.

Here are some other signs and symptoms that we see in many of the cases the ASPCA can investigate:

  • Tick or flea infestations. Such a condition, if left untreated by a veterinarian, can lead to an animal’s death.
  • Wounds on the body.
  • Patches of missing hair.
  • Extremely thin, starving animals.
  • Limping.
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal.
  • Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, often chained up in a yard.
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars-or are showing any of the signs listed above-and have…

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on nothing much

Hey guys,

So, I haven’t posted in a while ’cause I’ve been really busy with school work and that. My entire art (school-run) gcse was due this week so I’ve been pretty damn busy with that, among other things. The term also finished this week so I am now on holiday (whoop) but I now need to start revising so it’s not that exciting. Work experience-wise, nothing’s really been happening (hence the lack of posts). I keep meaning to ring up a couple more surgeries to see if I can get another vet placement this summer, but I keep forgetting and making excuses. I way prefer sending emails but the two contacts I’ve got are phone numbers so I’m just gonna have to pluck up the courage. I would do it now but it is a Sunday afternoon and neither are open (excuses, excuses, I know).

Anyway, I hope you have a nice easter holiday (or spring break if you’re american or something) and I’ll catch ya later.

Sophie x

on subjects

Last week, I had to hand in my a-level (exams for 17 and 18 year olds) choices form. For most universities, if you want to study veterinary sciences you have to do Biology and Chemistry at A2 (second year of a levels), and at Cambridge you have to have three of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Maths at AS (first year). Continue reading

on work experience so far

So far, I have completed no work experience…yay… Even though i haven’t completed any yet, I have booked some so I’m still on track, which is good. This is just to give you guys and idea of what I’ve booked for the summer and autumn term so far. Hopefully, if you live in London you can use some of these places yourself and if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them, as I’m sure others would as well! We vet wannabes have got to stick together:) Continue reading

on booking work experience

This summer is the big one. The summer that everyone tells me “will be the longest summer holiday of my life”. And it’s true, I’ll be finished on the 23rd of June, which is two weeks earlier than usual. Depending on whether or not you are doing latin, you may be ending way before me – lucky you! But I still have a considerable amount of free time, and this is the perfect opportunity to get a load of work experience done. Continue reading

Hello there!

I’m Sophie and am currently in year 11. I hope to study veterinary sciences at university here in the UK and thought that it would be fun to document my journey to becoming a vet. If you are interested in this field, you will probably know that you need to start doing stuff now if you want to be successful. So, I thought I’d take you along with me – whether you want to become a vet yourself or you’re just here for the hell of it, it’s sure to be an interesting ride!