Former Coleg Cambria Llysfasi learners Jennifer Bamber and Megan Roberts are among the first ever cohort on the Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery degree at Harper and Keele Veterinary School, a ground-breaking partnership launched last year by Harper Adams and Keele universities.
Ex-pupils of Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin, they have been forced to enjoy the creature comforts of home rather than campus life because of the ongoing pandemic.
The pair – who both garnered vital work experience at local veterinary practices – cannot wait until restrictions ease to get back to practical workshops and lectures.
Jennifer, 22, from Cyffylliog, is now back on site in Keele, Staffordshire, where construction is underway on a building that will incorporate teaching facilities, a clinical skills centre and a veterinary school hub, due to open in 2022.
She said: “When we arrived, we settled in and were able to have practical sessions and lectures safely, but since December all learning has been online.
“The lecturers have been very supportive and because the last few months of our time at Llysfasi was also impacted by Coronavirus we were prepared for that.
“There’s no substitute for being out there in the fresh air working and handling the animals, but we are all staying positive and learning a lot.”
Megan, 19, who hails from Llanbedr DC, grew up on a sheep and cattle farm.
She added: “We are doing a lot of assignments and being given real-life, real-time scenarios to deal with, which are challenging but great preparation for our future careers.
“When onsite we are in ‘bubbles’ with other vets, so that was an ice breaker and certainly helps create a bond.”
Jennifer and Megan were learners on the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management at Llysfasi, near Ruthin, and say it was a great grounding for higher education.
Covering themes from agriculture to anatomy and physiology, dissection, animal management, handling health and production, they will complete their studies at Harper and Keele in 2025.
“Coleg Cambria Llysfasi was a great base for us and a fantastic stepping-stone from school to where we are now,” said Megan.
Jennifer added: “Having attended Llysfasi we were already used to being around a lot of different animals, so that gives you extra confidence. It really prepared us for university and definitely confirmed this is where we see our futures.
“Spending time at Pritchard’s Veterinary Centre in Denbigh also helped develop my skills and made me even surer this is what I want to do.”
Elin Roberts, site lead and Assistant Principal of Technical Studies at Coleg Cambria Llysfasi, praised Jennifer and Megan for their determination.
“Attending university during the Coronavirus pandemic, especially for first year students, has been a real test of their strength and resilience,” she said.
“We are very proud of the progress and positivity Jennifer and Megan have shown since joining Harper and Keele and know they will go on to have successful careers in the veterinary industry.”
As well as the new build at Keele, the Veterinary Education Centre at Harper Adams, Shropshire, is now complete and will start being used for lectures and clinical skills training when students are back on campus.
Dr Matt Jones, Head of the Harper and Keele Veterinary School, said the students had “risen admirably” to meet recent challenges.
“We are really pleased to hear that the students have had a positive experience as part of the first cohort at our new vet school, in spite of the difficult circumstances,” he said.
“We have managed to keep the first year on track with some juggling of timetabling and the students have benefited from a lot of early practical skills experience in the autumn, such as animal handling and anatomy classes.
“They have risen admirably to the very challenging circumstances and this experience will help to build the resilience that is so important for vets.”
Dr Jones added: “We’d encourage any students from Coleg Cambria interested in a veterinary career to get in touch with us and join one of our many open days to find out what makes us a unique and friendly vet school.”
For more on the wide range of courses available at Coleg Cambria, visit the website: www.cambria.ac.uk