At the age of 27, Emma Sherlock moved abroad to study veterinary medicine; even after completing a BSc in Agricultural Science, and a masters degree, she didn’t get into graduate veterinary medicine. With a long-held desire to become a vet, her only option was to move abroad.

“I completed my Leaving Cert in 2015. At the time, I was weighing up my options,” says Emma, who is from Castlemagner, Co Cork. “Studying veterinary medicine was always a dream of mine because I grew up on a dairy farm, and my whole life revolved around animals.”

She had considered going abroad at the time but felt she was too young and too much of a homebird, having only just turned 18. Studying agricultural science at South East Technological University was the next best option.

“I loved my time there and I gained invaluable experience and knowledge,” she says. “In particular, the practicals at Kildalton were my favorite because you were out getting hands-on experience.”

In 2019, Emma came to a crossroads in her life; having graduated from agricultural science, she wasn’t sure what to do next.

“Throughout college – especially in the later years of my degree – veterinary was still there in the back of my mind. To be honest, it just felt like a far-fetched dream, going by the Irish system. I had pretty much given up on the idea of studying veterinary in Ireland at the time.”

That September, she started a Masters in Agricultural Extension and Innovation at UCD. After finishing, she started working on the Farm Zero C project in West Cork, with BiOrbic.

Crossroads in life

One day last summer, Emma woke up and thought to herself that she didn’t want to do this anymore.

“What is the point, you know?,” she says. “It became another crossroads in my life. I put a lot of thought into it and this time I was fully set on the idea of becoming a vet. I applied for the graduate entry for veterinary medicine last year at UCD. I had my ag science degree, my masters and I had the AI course.”

Emma Sherlock, veterinary medicine student, Wroclaw, Poland.

She was unfortunately unsuccessful in her application after receiving an email from UCD stating that they only take five Irish students via the graduate entry route.

“I was very disappointed because at the time I didn’t want to go away from home,” says Emma. “With all my qualifications, I was still turned down. I took my holidays from work and during the summer spent time with local vets, but having a lot of experience just wasn’t good enough.”

She researched her options and applied for veterinary medicine in two colleges – Warsaw and Wroclaw in Poland.

Affordable options

“Doing the Wroclaw interview, I got a very good feeling from the lecturers about the college and the actual course itself,” says Emma. “I nearly have a year down now, and I haven’t looked back. I love the city and the college and it is a lot more affordable than Dublin.”

The cost of studying in Wroclaw is cheaper than pursuing the veterinary graduate entry route in Ireland. Emma is paying roughly €9,000 per year and her accommodation is €180 per month with bills included. In Ireland, fees for graduate entry are €23,000 per year.

“In a way, I feel like I was forced to move out of my own country to study veterinary medicine, which isn’t very fair,” she says. “I’m speaking for myself along with the other 91 other Irish students studying here in Wroclaw and the endless number of students studying in other veterinary colleges across Europe.”

Regarding the new veterinary colleges, Emma feels increasing the number of veterinary places in UCD isn’t going to be enough.

“A new veterinary college, if not two, is needed,” says Emma.

“Out of more than 300 people who registered to the Veterinary Council of Ireland last year, only 85 were from UCD; the rest of the students have studied abroad. If that’s not spelling the problem out, I don’t know what is.”