Lithuania-based veterinary student: ‘Think beyond the obvious’

A fourth year veterinary medicine student from Killarney, who is studying at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, Lithuania, is urging second-level students to think beyond the obvious when it comes to third-level options.

Colman Kelliher said that he wants to create an awareness of the choices for those going straight from school or through the post graduate entry route when it comes to studying veterinary medicine.

“I feel the lack of information provided about veterinary studies abroad is holding prospective Irish students back. They only see UCD [University College Dublin], UK universities and possibly Budapest as the only options. If they don’t get into these universities they believe they are at a standstill. This is not the case,” he contended.

He said that the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences recognises prior learning as entry to the veterinary medicine courses. “Entrance to European colleges is not solely based on Leaving Certificate or bachelors degree results. It is based on an entrance exam of chemistry and biology questions.

I am sure that there are agricultural science students who would like the option to study veterinary medicine as a postgraduate masters. I think they would be excellent large animal vets.

“In Ireland at the moment there is a shortage of large animal vets. Farmers and agricultural students would make excellent candidates and fill the shortage,” said Colman.

‘Whatever it took’

“I’m not from a farming background but I am getting as much experience as possible within the dairy and poultry industry in Ireland. I’m keen to become a poultry and dairy vet,” said Colman.

“From a young age I knew I wanted to be a vet. Animals have always been a passion of mine. Growing up, I had an array of different pets – small and large.

I spent most of my time involved with animals; horse riding; feeding calves; raising and breeding chickens. I knew this was the career for me and that I would do whatever it took.

“My main areas of interest include food security, health and welfare of food-producing animals, mainly poultry and dairy and public health. Having grown up in the countryside in the kingdom of Kerry, I was surrounded by different types of farms, mainly dairy.

“I have done many placements with veterinary practices that work with dairy and beef cattle, horses, small animals and, my favourite, poultry.

“I try to increase my knowledge of farming wherever I can include milking on two large dairy farms and attending farming talks and farm vet continuous professional development (CPD) talks,” said Colman.

After failing to secure a place in veterinary medicine at UCD following his Leaving Certificate, he studied for a BSc in veterinary nursing at Dundalk Institute of Technology. After graduating, he worked at Ark Veterinary Hospital in Killarney for 15 months.

“It specialises in orthopaedic procedures, small animals and second opinions. I continue to work there during the academic holidays alongside the many vets who bring their different expertise to the table. I have gained excellent training from them,” Colman said.

I chose to study at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences because of its reputation of top-quality graduates; attractive course content; competitive fees; and the chance to study abroad.

“The entry requirements are lower than in Ireland or the UK. Entry to this degree programme is based on an entrance exam consisting of 60 chemistry and biology questions,” said Colman.

“The university offers an entry route for graduates with previous degrees in the area of biomedical sciences, agriculture, zoology, etc. This is on an individual basis and the relevant degree would need to be discussed with the university,” he said.

“The entrance exam for the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences is held in Dublin every year but it can be taken in any of the European cities the representatives from the university visit.

“There are four Irish people in this course. It is not as well known as Budapest or Warsaw but the classes are getting larger every year,” said Colman, who is the Irish student ambassador for the veterinary academy.

Cost of living

The cost of living in Lithuania, he said, is about 33-50% cheaper than in this country.

“Dormitories are available to first year students for approximately €125 per month. Most people live in apartments off campus, with rooms ranging from €150-250 per month.

“A monthly bus ticket costs €15. A monthly budget of €400-500 is more than enough for a modest student lifestyle,” said Colman.

Living in Lithuania is enjoyable. The university is in the second-largest city so it’s always thriving. Kaunas will be the European capital of culture 2022 which is a huge deal for the city and the total city is being renovated.

“Generally, everyone under 30-35 will speak English so language is not a barrier.  There are many options to travel to neighbouring countries and transport in Lithuania is cheap. It’s nice to experience a new culture. There is a small Irish community but I hope it will grow.”

Colman usually gets home from Lithuania around three times a year.

“After graduation I plan to specialise in the areas of poultry; dairy; and public health. I may join a graduate programme or accept a job offer if a suitable position comes my way. I plan to travel with this qualification as the options are truly endless.”