Editors Note: The feature photo is of Annie (right) and classmates Araceli and Kayla showing school spirit at a University of Illinois football game.
With only 32 veterinary schools in the United States, chances are limited that you would have a school in your state and get accepted into it.
According to 2021 data from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, in-state students outweigh out-of-state students by at least 50% at most veterinary colleges. At the University of Illinois, about 77 students in my class are from Illinois while the rest of us are from different states. While this does bring diversity and different mindsets, it also can bring isolation and loneliness.
I am from Westfield, Ind., and have been a homebody my whole life; my tight-knit friend group made it easy to feel involved constantly. Even while being a few hours away in undergrad, I had many opportunities to travel home and see family and friends while in school.
Of course, with the nature of vet school, time is limited and there is not as much freedom to socialize as most of us are used to. I began to feel isolated by the unknowns of my new town. Everyone seemed so accustomed to the lifestyle here! Even the simple comforts of familiar grocery stores, town names, and local laws turned into a foreign concept.
Find Your People
Paralyzed by the fear of a strange new town, I thought it was easier to hide away and give in to the anxiety. I soon decided I needed to do something about this and searched to meet new people in veterinary medicine clubs and groups outside of school.
I joined several clubs, including the Illinois chapter of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, the diagnostic medicine club, the Christian Veterinary Mission Fellowship, and the pathology club. I also joined a church and local small group.
While this may seem intimidating, finding similarities in people fostered a community without the feeling of solitude. It’s comforting to know that other people understand the feeling of fear and isolation even without sharing my exact experiences.
I am not the only one suffering from the fear of a new city. Some students, such as first-year student Araceli, are from as far away as Texas and are limited to seeing family only on major breaks!
Araceli says, “It’s hard getting to know the area especially when you don’t have a car. Figuring out the bus system and how to get around makes it difficult to explore the city.”
Out-of-state students do have an opportunity to find community in the loneliness and unknown with other out-of-state students. We relate to each other by not understanding why Shnucks is the best grocery store, how it’s 30º at 10 am and jumps to 75º by 4 pm, or why everyone loves Jarling’s so much.
With almost a semester of vet school done, and four months in a new city, things are starting to look up. I can confidently say I have found my place in the community, and I am settling in to being okay with sitting in the unknown.
However, I can’t say I know my way around the town of Champaign-Urbana quite yet. But I’m getting there.
Student Blog by Annie Davis (c/o 2026)