Vet Students Around The World - Meet George Petrellis from Thessaloniki, Greece
We think veterinary students are awesome! Together with the International Veterinary Students’ Association, we are bringing you stories of vet students around the world.
To start, please tell us about yourself.
I am 22 years old, and currently starting my 4th year of veterinary medicine studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh). I was born in Athens, the capital of Greece, and at the age of 10 I moved with my parents toThessaloniki. I was lucky to be able to study here. AUTh is the largest university in Greece and provides its students with the best opportunities both in terms of research and jobs after graduation. Getting into university is hard work here in Greece: in school we have to give exams on a national level in physics, math, chemistry, biology, and the Greek language. The results of these exams are crucial for the universities’ decisions for their students. The competition is stiff because there are many candidates but few “seats” available. I was lucky! Admittedly, I had the best results among my classmates in the Veterinary Medicine Faculty and one of the highest grades at the national level. It made me feel really proud to see that my hard work was not fruitless.
Why did you decide to study veterinary medicine (and not human medicine)?
That’s simple: because I like animals more than humans! *Haha*
I guess I always knew I wanted to do something that included living organisms, whether it be biology or medicine. The year before my final exams I went to a presentation on the different faculties at the AUTh and learned a lot. It was when a speech for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was finished that it dawned to me that I wanted to follow that route. I think that the motives behind this decision are my love for animals, but also the complexity of being a vet. You have to learn about a lot of different organisms, different approaches (companion animals, livestock, etc.), and a lot of different fields on research, which is something I always wanted to do.
The big question for any vet: What's your favorite animal and why?
It is really the most difficult of questions for me. It is like asking a parent to pick his favorite child - you just can’t. When I first stepped onto the University, I loved horses the most because I always was close to them in childhood. Then I learned about cows: they are wonderful animals, really smart and witty, and sometimes naughty too! They pretend to seem really peaceful when they see you around, but when you hide and they can't see you anymore they start fighting in the funniest way in order to establish their group hierarchy.
Then something happened: two years ago there was one day I heard a strange noise at my window and thought it would be a bird, it sounded like a species called “Aidonis” (a sparrow). I opened the window and saw a beautiful white and brown one month old male cat. I gave him some milk and bread and left my window open in case it got cold. The next morning I woke up and found him next to me. That was the moment I decided to adopt him! He is now called Donis – following the bird’s Name.
Since that day, two wonderful years have passed and because of him, I started to be fascinated by cats. I knew nothing about them until I got one. The cat is a very beautiful and exotic animal which always moves with grace. My Donis is shy to strangers and I kind of like that because he is very expressive with me but not with others. So, I assume that I am special for him too. He reads my feelings and always makes me feel better quite effortlessly. I read that simply stroking a cat reduces the level of stress and anxiety and can also reduce the possibility of getting a heart attack. It is really amazing to be a cat owner!
I also love that they are so independent - they have their own lives which (in some cases) they choose to share with you. Yeah crazy-person about cats, here!
Any other companions?
I also have a dog, a Great Dane, named Clara. I bought her with my girlfriend and after we broke up I kept her. She is really lovely, too. Always swings her tail and jumps around like crazy and is always willing to play when she sees me. She loved Donis from the first moment, but Donis needed some time to get used to her. Now they don't have problems with each other.
Can you tell us one of your favorite "veterinary facts" or nuggets of "vet advice"?
Many young vets and students are afraid to approach a nervous horse or a “not-so-friendly” animal. What I have to share with these people is that if you respect and love your animal patient, and know what you are doing, the animal will feel that – so, you should not be scared. It was something one of my professors taught us when we were having lessons on how to approach horses. There was a student who wouldn't go near the horse because it was a little stressed and he told her this piece of advice, which I have found useful in quite a few occasions since then.
Did you ever have experiences with dangerous or toxic animals?
Actually, I am the coordinator of the wild animal care group at the AUTh, under the supervision of Dr. Anastasia Komnenou. I nursed many exotic and wild animals and some of them were dangerous. We had some falcons and eagles, some snakes but also turtles and smaller birds. I believe that young veterinarians shouldn’t be afraid to treat these animals, but one should be cautious otherwise they may get hurt. The feeling you have after taking care of these animals, seeing them recover and feeling their trust in you is really rewarding.
What advice do you have for new vet students?
Be prepared, people! Your studies are going to challenge your energy threshold and most of your free time, but the results are worth it! You really need to be curious, excited and prepared to learn about veterinary medicine.
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