To help get a better idea of what SAVMA Symposium was really like for a first time attendee, we asked Chris White, a third year veterinary student at the Atlantic Veterinary College, to share his experience with us. This was Chris's first time attending SAVMA Symposium and his first trip to Texas, what could possibly happen?
Sitting in the Charlottetown Airport on a Tuesday morning, Meredith (the editor of this lovely gazette) turned to me and asked if I would be interested in writing about my experiences at the Symposium as a student blogger. I quickly agreed, because a) Meredith is an angel, b) I love writing and c) I love attention. We then settled into a long day of traveling. I had learned from flying mistakes of the past (example: don’t take a prescription Ambien for a three hour domestic flight or you will wildly hallucinate), and was excited to reach our final destination of Houston by nightfall. The curse of living on Prince Edward Island was not the winters or never-ending winds; it was the fact that I couldn’t find a single damn margarita on that sandbar. Needless to say, I had big plans for Houston.
Wow, oh, wow was I wrong. Winter Storm Stella dropped down upon the Northeast, and every airport on the Eastern Seaboard shut down. Meredith and I were stranded in Montreal, a city where French is the main language. In 2010, when I put on my Facebook that I was fluent in French, I quickly learned that I was very wrong and could not translate anything. Whenever a French person spoke to me, I eventually resorted to throwing my hands in the air and yelling “ENGLISH” with an apologetic look on my face. Thankfully, after waiting 3 hours for the most dangerous Uber ride in recent history, we got through the night and even explored the Montreal IKEA (where I realized that butchers block countertops just aren’t worth the expense).
It is now midnight on Wednesday. After nearly 48 hours of travel, I have made it to the Lone Star State. And yes, I did finally get a margarita.
Today was the first day of the 2017 Symposium. I arrived at 6:40am to help a friend, A&M student Caitlin Conner (instrumental in the organization of this year’s Symposium), set up for a wellness breakfast. Standing in line to register later, I scratched behind my ear and was horrified. I felt a large lump right behind my left year. Suddenly, I remembered the night before: immediately after ordering my margarita, I looked for a place to throw out the gum I was chewing. I looked around and didn’t see any trash can, and didn’t know if I could ask a bartender to toss my gum (this was a regret, after she charged me $15 for a single margarita). So, I stuck it behind my ear. CUT TO 12 HOURS LATER I realized the gum has solidified into a single mass. I ran to the bathroom and preceded to rip the lump of gum from its place, hair follicles and all. Thankfully, I used hair product to push the rest of the hair over my new bald spot. I resigned from the restroom, defeated, and started setting up tables and mingling, constantly pushing my ear back over my left ear like a 13 year old girl flirting for the first time.
It was a lovely breakfast, featuring roundtable discussions with veterinary students from across the world. I loved this, because as I am entering my fourth year, it gave me the opportunity to give Freshmen I met unsolicited advice, and there is nothing I love more than giving unsolicited advice. That afternoon was my first wet lab on equine behaviour. This was ample opportunity to get back to basics; while vet school teaches us all kinds of procedures, they don’t necessarily teach us how to approach our patients. Plus, they used Quarter Horses for the lab, and I live for their build. That sounded more sexual than anticipated, but I digress.
That night, following Opening Ceremonies, we toured the Northgate of College Station. Pubcrawls are always great for the pubcrawl goers; those unsuspecting patrons of those pubs who were ignorant of our plans automatically had their nights ruined. The 4 people in the Dixie Chicken, a pub decorated in the likes of Total Buck Hunter 4, were overwhelmed after a gaggle(?) of hundreds of vet students rampaged through the bar. After realizing I am old and can no longer handle my beer like my younger first year counterparts, I Ubered to my room, where I quickly fell asleep.
Friday, for me, was a day of lectures. Sure, I sit through eight hours of lectures, five days a week, paying 50k a year, but these lectures are fantastic. With topics ranging from bovine necropsies (fun!), how to climb “Mount Debt” (so fun!), and avian pathology for beginners (OMG!), there was literally lectures for everyone. I, of course, being a horse person (the worst type of person? Debatable), I sat in on the equine lectures for the day. While I enjoyed the podiatry and internal med lectures as much as the next person, I am crazy for derm, especially equine derm (oh, yup, okay, I am the worst, got it).
That night, the A&M Symposium Committee pulled out all the stops with “Experience Texas.” It was held at the Thomas Hildenbrand Equine Complex on the A&M campus, and with its huge grounds and multiple arenas is the Cheesecake Factory of equine centers (if you haven’t been to a Cheesecake Factory, you gotta go. It’s the bomb.com, which is an expression I hear the kids are saying nowadays). The event was complete with real Texas BBQ, step dancing, a mechanical bull, and a how-to lasso session. I even made a frenemy from Lincoln-Memorial! (Whitney, I’m sure I will forgive you, but I’m just not ready right now.) Plus, my Uber driver said she got accepted into the nursing program at Galveston as a mature student! So, all around, great day!
I started my Saturday much earlier than a majority of Symposium goers. I don’t quite remember the time I awoke, let’s call it asscrack early, and got to the campus a little after 6am. We loaded on the bus, and I was heading to the Houston Rodeo. We were lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes tour from the Rodeo veterinarians, both of which were Aggies. Quick sidenote: I don’t know just what an Aggie is, but if a person is an Aggie, you will know within 7 minutes of meeting them. Anywhozzle, the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show was fascinating. The horses, the steers, the food; everything was all about Texas. After touring the grounds, ogling the horses, and tasting some food I couldn’t get on PEI (ProTip: you actually don’t eat the corn husk on a tamale, I learned that), we headed back to College Station to wrap up the Symposium.
The closing gala was held at Kyle Field, an astonishing, amazing, and historic football field right in the heart of College Station. We were lucky enough to make our way onto the green, which was super cool. I could only have imagined how cool it would’ve been had I followed football or any sports at all, ever. The meal was fantastic, the drinks were flowing; it was the perfect way to say goodbye to all of our new friends, and frenemies (Whitney), that we made from schools across the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris White is a native of Maine studying to complete his DVM degree at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. He graduates in 2018 and will likely do an equine internship back in the States. He likes horses and wine and most things your aunt would like probably.