RUSVM, (Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine) gives students the opportunity to start their veterinary education instead of re-applying cycle after cycle for the US schools. You could already be a 2nd-year or 3rd-year vet student at RUSVM by the time you get into a stateside vet program.
Name, veterinary school, and year that you started.
Elizabeth Muller, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, (RUSVM) 2015
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
Milo and Joyce. Adopted on the Island. Island cats are genetically TINY and it’s adorable.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
Tulane University, double major in Evolutionary Biology & Ecology and Anthropology
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
Applied to 4 schools. Only one cycle.
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
How many schools invited you for an interview?
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
What was your reason for moving to another country to attend RUSVM?
I didn’t want to wait to start my career! I’ve wanted to be a vet since I was 4 years old and I had no disillusions about my chances of getting into a state school on the first try. I had a 3.2 GPA, only met minimum requirements for hours of experience (600hrs), and had little to no research experience. I figured I could wait for 2-4 more cycles and hope that through adding to my resume I’d get accepted by the time I was 25, or, I could go to Ross at the age of 22 and be guaranteed to be working as a vet by the time I was 26!
Another factor was that Ross University partners with state schools to do your 4th/clinical year. I thought about it and realized, 3 years from now, I could be just getting accepted to my first year of vet school in the states or I could be starting at a state school to do my final year of school… the latter seemed like the more appealing option.
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions for RUSVM?
Something I wasn’t expecting but appreciated about my Ross interview was that they asked quite a few questions gauging my desire to travel and experience new things. I prepped for the interview thinking I’d be talking about my vet experience and academics and when the woman was like “How do you think you’d adjust to living in a new country? Have you ever traveled abroad before? Do you have concerns about making the move and being far from family?” I was totally caught off guard.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
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Did you apply to vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s?
Did you attend grad school?
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
I don’t remember what was on the app specifically… but I did cheerleading, president of the pre-vet club, and sorority merchandise chair. I participated in other little things but those were the big ones.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school?
Yes but not a ton. I think the distribution was like 400Small, 100large, 60exotic, 40research.
Did you work as a vet tech?
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
Audubon Zoo and Louisiana SPCA.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
Me and my mom.
When did you decide to become a vet?
I think when I was born? My first memory of it is when I was 4, but my dad is a vet and I never really considered being anything else!
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
Pre-vet society and Alpha Delta Pi.
Have you joined any student clubs at RUSVM? If so, which ones? Are they helpful?
Diagnostic Imaging Club, Feral Cat Project, Day of Service, Shelter Medicine Club, Exotics Club, Carnival. They are all super helpful! It’s nice to have experiences outside of the classroom in your area of interest and opportunities to apply your knowledge and explore beyond textbooks and labs.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
Vets I worked for and my undergraduate academic advisor. I knew most of them well. One vet I asked was the large animal vet I only worked with for a month and that one was a little weird to ask for/coordinate, as she didn’t know me all that well.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
Not really. The VMCAS made it pretty easy to apply to multiple places and be sure you had everything submitted etc. I think it was more stressful to wait for responses than it was to fill out the applications.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
Being a vet is the best job on earth! Who else gets to pet animals in every appointment and talk in baby voices to puppies and kittens at work? Obviously its hard sometimes, but even when you haven’t slept in days and are so stressed you think you might implode, you keep going because when someone puts an injured animal on the table and says “I know your shift is over but can you still help?”, you want to! I think that’s what makes me most happy. That even when I’m sick and tired, I’m never ever sick and tired of my job. That’s an amazing thing.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about attending Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine?
Something that took me a while to realize (many of my friends here experienced this too) is that going out of the country for vet school is not something to be ashamed of. A lot, maybe even most, of the students who come to Ross are here because they didn’t get into a state school for one reason or another. Maybe you didn’t want to wait for another admission round, or you’re GRE score wasn’t at the top of the range, or you didn’t have an in-state school to apply to, or you didn’t focus on academics enough in undergrad, or the interviewer told you that you need more hours of experience. There are tons of reasons!
People come down here with the mindset like, “Well I guess I have to go to this Caribbean veterinary school since I didn’t get in anywhere else.” But what’s funny is, sometime in your second year, you start to actually feel like a vet, interact with other vet students back in the states, work with veterinarians on cases and meet with clients, and you realize the only difference between a Ross vet and a state school vet is that the Ross vet was so determined to follow their dream that they packed up and moved to an island for 3 years! We go to a state school for our clinical/4th year, and when we get there, no one treats us like we are anything less than any other 4th year vet student!
When you go look for jobs, no one sees RUSVM on the resume and is like oh well they got a degree from Ross so they must not be a good vet. Where you get your degree DOES NOT MATTER! Its what you do with it that counts. There are good vets and bad vets from every vet school and everyone in the field knows this! If you are thinking about coming to Ross, but feel like you are compromising or giving up, please take a second and realize that going to RUSVM is an opportunity to follow your dream! If you refuse to let anything stand in your way; refuse to take no for an answer; refuse to give up on your dream of becoming a veterinarian, then take the leap, get on the damn plane and be proud to call yourself a Ross vet student!
What do you like most about RUSVM?
I have to mention two things here because they are equally awesome. First, I love the sense of community here. Students, professors, faculty, technicians: we are all here in a foreign country just doing what we love day in and day out. We all live in the same neighborhoods, hang out at the same beaches, eat at the same restaurants etc etc. I’m not really a small town person by any means so at first, it was weird to me seeing professors out at dinner or having conversations with a lab instructor at the beach over some pina coladas. Now that I’m in an upper semester I’ve come to realize how cool that experience is and how advantageous it is to your learning and development as a professional.
This leads into my second favorite thing about RUSVM which is that you have the opportunity to get involved in so many things!!! Most of our organizations are student based with faculty advisors, but there are also endless research opportunities and if you notice there is something you want to do that isn’t being done, you can usually start something up yourself! I know all schools have clubs and research but let’s try some examples to see if I can illustrate my point.
We have a turtle research team here at Ross that goes out every weekend and tags turtles to monitor their population and movements. We have the coral crusaders who go out on weekends and snorkel for hours taking measurements and evaluating pollution levels and the effects on our reefs. We have a monkey team that tracks the green vervet population on the island and evaluates zoonotic disease prevalence and potential public health ramifications. We have a club that does emergency rescue for the local population of dogs and cats. We have another club that functions like a humane society and helps find homes for stray animals. Our large animal clubs have agreements with the local farmers and go out and do hands-on work with their herds.
There is so much more but you get the idea! All of these initiatives are open to all students! Regardless of your interests, you can do research, fieldwork, gain experience, and hang out with friends and professors all at the same time while building your resume and skill set!
Any study tips?
If you’re a handwritten note-taker, find something else that works for you before you get here. There is just too much to write! And so many pictures!
What has been your favorite class at RUSVM and why?
Small Animal Medicine, because that’s what I want to do.
What is the most challenging class, at Ross, so far?
As a student, have you gotten to research or work on any interesting cases at RUSVM?
I am not really into research and just want to practice small animal medicine, but some of the opportunities are just too good to pass up! I joined Aquatics Club and got to take a training series on dolphin medicine with the vets at the dolphin center on the island. It was so much fun!
Do you have a specialty or are you working towards one?
Nope. I am interested in small animals and small/pet exotics, but I don’t plan to specialize.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
I don’t want to seem negative, but I feel like a lot of people have questions about what’s bad about Ross so I’d like to address that real quick. You may have heard rumors or seen posts that the island isn’t safe, or that the administration is disorganized, or that someone failed out because they didn’t feel like the professors cared etc. etc. I am not saying the people who say these things are liars, but I would suggest that Ross isn’t for everyone and that may be why some people feel this way.
As far as safety goes, I grew up in Atlanta, went to school in New Orleans, and have never once felt unsafe here on this tiny island where only one or two minor offenses (like burglary or “a suspicious-looking man walking in my yard”) are reported every few months. The things that make some people feel unsafe down here wouldn’t even make the news in most small towns in America. That being said, I think what these people really mean when they say they feel unsafe is that they are not actually at all comfortable living in a different country without the common comforts of America. There are no street lights, people don’t really walk around at night (even locals), most houses don’t have alarm systems or gated yards, and the thought of being isolated and alone like that is just freaky to some people.
Campus security is remarkably accessible and prompt if you ever do need to call, and they even patrol the neighborhoods where students live nightly! Admin disorganization is a thing at all schools. I am not saying we don’t have scheduling issues every so often, and sometimes emails don’t get responded to, but you know what’s something I’ve never heard any student say about any school? “This school is really great because the administration is totally on top of everything and things run smoothly all the time.” Like, even at my public elementary school in Atlanta my parents were fighting the administration! In high school and undergrad, I felt like the administration didn’t listen to me or do things the way we wanted them to. If anything, the admin here at Ross is more responsive and involved than any other school I have been to in my lifetime.
Lastly, the “my teachers didn’t care about me/ the students were mean or weird” comments. Ross is a school where there is a lot of opportunity and comradery, but if you’re a person who needs scheduled office hours to approach a teacher with a question or isn’t comfortable just showing up at a party and making some friends, you may have a hard time adjusting to life in a new country at a new school full of new people. It’s super easy to join clubs, meet people, go to parties, ask questions in class, contact professors to set up a meeting, or ask them questions through emails etc etc. It is just as easy to be intimidated by all the newness of everything, isolate yourself in your house, be homesick, skype your parents back home every night, and get depressed about how far away you are from home and all your friends and everything you are familiar with. If you decide to come to Ross University, be ready for an adventure. You are going to be way out of your comfort zone, but the comforting thing is, so is everyone else!