Vets around the World – Justine

1 April 2020 – World Vets

My name is Justine. I was born in the US but have lived most of my life in Spain. I studied veterinary medicine at UCM in Madrid then had the opportunity to work in small animal practices in Spain, Austria and Portugal. I also had the chance to volunteer with elephants in Thailand and Cambodia and work on a snapping turtle project in the USA.

Working in these different countries and cultural environments was a great experience, but, at times, challenging. One of the biggest obstacles was the language barrier. I had to learn the language, then be confident enough to work in it as I was dealing directly with owners. Fortunately, I always had supportive colleagues and everyone, even clients, helped me out. Still it takes time and a few humorous misunderstandings until you really feel comfortable. The good thing about being a vet is that at least the animals all speak the same language! A very positive result of my travelling is that I have learned several languages which have opened other doors for me along the way.

I have also had to familiarize myself with different or new pharmaceutical drugs and diseases – and had to get used to the lack of some familiar medications in some parts of the world. I have found it interesting to observe different cultural attitudes towards animals that inevitably reflect themselves in the veterinary care owners are willing to pay for.

After more than 10 years abroad I sometimes wonder – was it worth it? The answer is – Absolutely! Had I stayed in Spain, my career would have been very different. Travelling has enriched my life not only as a veterinarian but also at a personal level. I have learned to be more creative, improved my problem-solving skills and my openness to new challenges and adventures. If you’re interested in working abroad, I would definitely say – go for it!