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Grace Souness

Diploma of Veterinary Nursing Graduate Valedictorian

Grace Souness Diploma of Veterinary Nursing Graduate

Graduating is an exciting time, and even more so when you get a surprise email telling you that you’ve been named as Valedictorian for the Manawatū campus.

Grace Souness, graduate of the Diploma of Veterinary Nursing, discovered that first-hand.

"I found out from one of my supervisors - she emailed me saying I was a candidate, and that she hoped I would be picked. I felt really honoured, but also quite surprised - I was definitely not expecting that! From my perspective, I was just trucking along with my studies."

And if being Valedictorian wasn't enough, Grace also had something extra to celebrate. "I'm already working for Town and Country Vets! It was one of my placements and they offered me a role before I'd even finished my programme.

"It's really exciting, I get to put the knowledge I've learned into real life situations. It's definitely an emergency clinic - every single day is so different, we never know what is going to come through the door, so I'm on my toes!"

All of this is a long way from where Grace was a few years ago. "Before I started at UCOL it was hard to know what I wanted to do and life wasn't working out the way I expected it to. It was all very overwhelming, but when I checked out UCOL it just seemed like the perfect place to go. I loved the atmosphere here, and the team made it easy to talk through these things and realise how you can move forward. 

Compared to high school, Grace says adjusting to tertiary study was a bit of a learning curve. "At the beginning it was hard to navigate - the new relationships and friendships, a new environment, interacting with people from all different walks of life and ages. I had to build up my confidence to talk to people and share my interests. Even academically - it's very different to school, your lecturers want you to speak with your voice and bring your imagination to your assignments. I had to find my own way of studying, and get out of that comparison mindset of 'What is everyone else doing?'.

"But by the end of it - gosh, there were 20-25 people in my class and we're all really close-knit now, hanging out and going to movies together. When you get to where I am now, and you look back on those first steps - I can see it was hard for a reason.

"If anyone else is thinking about it - go for it! Go into it knowing that if you work at it, you will really get somewhere."

Grace also says that ākonga shouldn't be afraid to reach out, as there was so much support available. "There is always someone there that you can go to - that's what I discovered. The lecturers were always willing to help us if we had extra questions, or you could get lessons on APA referencing from wider staff. There were counsellors if we needed a hand, a friend of mine said it definitely helped her. It was really nice, the wide range of people we could go to for many, many different things. We weren't just a number to anyone, and the staff knew us."

It's no surprise then that Grace has been bitten by the learning bug - she's already started her Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing, which she'll be doing part time while she works.

If she had to boil her experiences down to one thing, Grace says it was realising the power of motivation, not just knowledge. "Our lecturers taught us that in the field, nothing's going to be the same, or the way we expect. There's going to be challenges and setbacks that are so unpredictable you may not know what to do with yourself. It really is all about critical thinking. The main thing I take away from UCOL is its okay not to plan everything, as long as you learn and adapt."

Find out about UCOL's Vet Nursing & Animal Care programmes.

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