One of the many non-academic challenges of becoming a vet is learning to cope with things not going to plan – to expect, or at least accept, the unexpected.
It may seem cliché to say travelling opens your eyes to different ways of life and changes you as a person, but the truth is it does prepare you for when the s*** hits the fan.
My friend and I had arrived in India with some trepidation; both of us had had busy summers and so very little time to consider what lay ahead.
We spent two days seeing some sights and travelling to our final destination, which was a feat in itself. India is just absolute mayhem.
Going to Goa
We had already circled Mumbai with a taxi driver who had no idea where he was going, returned to the hostel in the nick of time to grab our luggage for an onwards flight, only to be dropped off at the wrong airport and realise we had got our flight time wrong (though, thankfully, in our favour), before settling into our apartment in Goa, ready to start our EMS placement.
Having struggled to get in touch with the hosting charity, it finally arranged for a driver to pick us up on our first day. Therefore, on arrival at the shelter the final thing we expected was to be sat down by the board members of the charity, questioned and told they had no placement for us; we were subject to some miscommunication, goodbye.
Change of plans
Startled, with panic rising, we were shipped off to another charity 30km away to see whether they could offer us an alternative (which, after hours of discussion, they couldn’t).
After two days of frantic emailing and frustrating phone calls (with both parties struggling to understand accents) we found a saviour and abruptly departed Goa to fly to Delhi to squeeze in a few more sights before starting over.
This was also not without its challenges – we ended up directing two rickshaw drivers using maps on a phone, as they had both agreed to take us but, in reality, had no idea where our destinations were.
We battled the infamous Indian sleeper trains and had planned to arrive in Agra to see the Taj Mahal on the one day a week it was closed (again, calling for a swift diversion of plans). We had also been scammed on flights and made a total hash of accommodation bookings, having had to make so many last minute changes.
Almost at the end of our tethers, we finally arrived in Jaipur to start our quickly organised placement at the charity Help In Suffering, which had completely saved our skins in terms of finding a suitable EMS placement that would count towards our degrees.
When it seemed like nothing else could possibly go wrong, something inevitably did. Nevertheless, we pulled each other through and overcame several unexpected challenges, despite being very close to just getting on the next plane home.
Although we had some extra hurdles, I think travelling in India at all is a total minefield for anyone, but you just have to accept the disorder and embrace the madness.
It may have started out (and continued for a fair while) as a total nightmare, but I definitely think we will both be better prepared for mishaps and abrupt, last minute changes in future veterinary practice – after all, we have this to reminisce over and think “it could be worse – at least we’re not stranded in India.”