As I mentioned in my last two posts, I was at a Hill’s Veterinary Learning Experience camp for the last three days. We finished lectures on Wednesday around noon (and I managed to not forget any of them this time) and then were packed up onto buses and driven to a christian camp in the foothills of the Ruahine mountains. We unloaded and went to our assigned rooms and then all congregated in the main lounge for an introduction.
We were given a proper Kiwi welcome with a Maori greeting and prayer, songs, and well wishes for our future. After that we were greeted in a more normal western fashion with powerpoints and introductions to most of the staff. There were several, including the president of the NZ Veterinary Association, head of the Vet school and several other important vetty type people. It was early in the afternoon so we were also subjected to several activities outside in the sun.
The first activity we did involved going outside and mingling. We got in a big blob and then “mingled” by shuffling around while actually saying “mingle, mingle, mingle…” until someone told us to stop. Then the person with the megaphone told us what size groups to section off into, and what to talk about in those groups. We did this a few times and then were allowed to go back inside (much to everyone’s relief).
There was more talking and powerpoints and introductions followed by ANOTHER outside activity. This time we went down onto a big rugby field with paper plates in hand (sadly not for a bbq). Once on the field we congregated into a rough circle, each person standing on a plate. There was one too few plates, and one person standing in the middle. The person in the middle would say “I like people who _______” and then the people who fell into that category would have to leave their plates and run to another plate that was at least two plates away from their starting position. The last person to find a plate would be SOL and stuck in the middle to say what type of people they liked. I think the activity was called “know your neighbor”. It was pretty fun and there was a great deal of giggling involved. Looking back, the high number of games they subjected us to early on helped us to step out of Student mode and into Learner mode so that we were better able to absorb what they were trying to teach us.
My memory of the whole thing is getting spotty so I will probably forget some of the activities. At some point we also played a game called Challenge Circles where we stood in groups depending on if we were super comfortable, mostly ok but not thrilled, or very uncomfortable about something the leader said. The things he chose were: public speaking, risk taking, working in groups, and other similar things. It was interesting to see the dispersion of people across the circles. After this we made a map of where everyone was from. Each country had one blob of people (New Zealand was obviously the biggest blob) except for the US. All of the Americans separated by state, because we aren’t one country apparently. We all had a good laugh at this and continued to joke about it for the rest of the trip. There were six Californians, one Floridian (though he was a Vet graduate not a student), one Coloradian, one New Yorker, one from Wisconsin, and one from Washington state (at least that I can remember).
After the large group activities, we split into smaller groups based on little coloured dots on our name tags. I was in Pink group (which was by far the best). In our small groups we did activities and got to know each other. We did a number of activities in our small groups over the three days so I don’t remember what order they were in or which day we did what, but there were some interesting things. The first one that I remember doing was Traffic Jam, where we line up on pieces of A4 paper with half the group facing one way and half the group facing the other way. We had to figure out how to get everyone across to the other side of the formation without breaking the rules. It was supposed to demonstrate how communication is important and how people in the back of the lines felt entirely left out. Our group was pretty clever and we changed the way our line was shaped so that it bent around the sides (so the back people could see better) and we shuffled around so that we were shortest to tallest (again so the people in the back could see). One part that kept tripping us up was that one side had one more person on it than the other so we kept making the wrong first move.
Another game we played was holding hands with crossed arms and having to untie ourselves without letting go. We actually accomplished it pretty quickly and listened to each other and tried ideas really well. Once our activities and discussion sessions were over we were released for FOOD! which was very exciting since we hadn’t eaten since before noon and it was now after 5:30.
The food was pretty good for cafeteria style food. Thin slices of meat (think lunch meat thin) with mashed potatoes and steamed veges, water and tea for drinks, apple crumble for dessert. Not the most inspiring meal but definitely appreciated by all of our starving stomachs. After dinner we had free time and then reconvened in the big lounge for the evening session. The staff talked to us some more, lots of information about knowing yourself, knowing others, knowing how to work with others, having good communication skills, having empathy, needing to be able to work with people even though we all got into this because we love animals, that sort of thing. Free time was from 9:oo onward with quiet time starting at 10:00 and lights out at 11:00.
Day two started with breakfast at 7:30 followed by morning talks and activities at 8:30. The big group activity that I remember from day two is Dragon Tails. We were all given strips of red polar fleece material and told to tuck them into our belts (pants/jackets/somewhere easily accessible). We then got to run around like crazy people grabbing tails off of other people and adding them to our belts. We could only take one tail at a time, and had to tuck it in before grabbing another. The two with the most tails at the end of the game both admitted to not following the rules 100% of the time. This was to demonstrate that integrity is important, and that following the rules won’t put you on top, but gives you something more valuable.
We spent most of our time doing games and listening to lectures. We discussed the Meyer’s-Briggs’ personality test scores and what they meant for us. We have an even split of introverts and extroverts, but way more “judger”s than “perceiver”s (as in 95% of the class will be ontime and ready to go and only about 5% will be sauntering in late and not concerned with deadlines). Everything else was pretty evenly split. I (and 17 others) am an INFJ (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging). Our class is very similar to last years class, and not very similar to the other two previous classes (the other classes were more evenly distributed whereas we had three types with nearly 20% each). The thing to remember with the test results is that they don’t put you in a box, merely reflect what your habits are like (what you will tend to do if there is no pressure on you to do things in a specific way).
Lunch for day two was amazing, Mac N Cheese, and after lunch we separated out into groups for exercise type activities. There was Caving, Hiking, and Abseiling. Hiking seemed like the least likely to kill me so that’s what I went with. It tried so hard to end my days. There was a very steep part that had me gasping for air trying to climb up and by the time I reached the top I thought I might die. The feeling of “vomit imminent” didn’t leave until a good while after. About halfway through the trek there was an enormous tree that we were detoured around (because it was very impressive and worth taking the time to see), it was really quite spectacular. After the tree, I was slower than the lead group (of about 20 out of 54), enough so that I couldn’t hear them ahead of me. This of course meant that I was the fearless leader for the middle pack. Me. Who has never been on a hiking trail of this type before. Luckily the trail was clearly marked and there were no deviations or forks to get lost at and we made it to the rest of the group and were rewarded with chocolate.
After surviving the bush walk of death there was free time. I wanted a shower but hung out with my group instead. Dinner was less than amazing but still edible and satisfying. After dinner was Karaoke. Yup that’s right, a bunch of first year vet students making asses of ourselves. Each group did a song as a group and then there were solos and duets and such. My group did Shania Twain’s Man I Feel Like A Woman and two of our three boys wore borrowed bras (one had apples and the other had balloons to give it a really stacked look) and stripped during the song. The singing went on until the noise curfew at 10:00 and was great fun. My biggest contribution was to suggest singing Bohemian Rhapsody as a group, which was a big hit with everyone. I also sung T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy with one of the other Californians (whose name I have already forgotten).
After singing we congregated in the cafeteria and chatted until bedtime. Most of my room crawled into bed around 11:00, and the last staggered in around 11:30. There were people up making noise and having a good time until long after we all fell asleep.
The final day started with 6:30 Yoga in the lounge. Just under 30 people showed up including me and the girl from New York who was also in my room. I was actually impressed with how my body handled all of the positions. It wasn’t too impressed with how long we held some of them (yay shaky burny legs) but I was successful with all of them and even impressed myself with how flexible I was with a few of them. Breakfast was porridge (which I love) and then more activities.
The worst of which was the Helium Stick. We broke into our small groups and went to our respective areas around the camp. Then our leader brought out this wooden dowel and told us the rules. We each had to be touching the stick, with only the backs of our fingers, and had to be in contact with it at all times. Our first task was to lower the stick to the ground, then we would get to lift it back up. Easier said than done. As the name of the activity implies, the stick was very light and seemed to travel upward on its own. This of course was because everyone kept pushing upwards to make sure they were in contact with the stick, which moved it up, which made everyone chase it. We did eventually get it most of the way to the ground, but it took all of our allotted time. Our group was also the last group to make it back to the discussion in the lounge, so we made everyone late for lunch. After lunch was packing and cleaning, then the farewell speeches and such. We picked words to put on our banner (separated into groups to pick words then reconvened and picked five from all of the groups) and all signed the banner with words of encouragement for the future. Finally we piled back onto the buses and made it back to campus.
The words we picked for our VLE banner were: Unity (staying cohesive as a class and not forming cliques, being supportive, that sort of thing), Balance (keeping up the balance between school and leisure), Integrity (staying true to our values, being honest, being professional), Passion (remembering why we are here and doing what we are doing), Empathy (to our clients and patients and each other), Rule #6 (Don’t take yourself too seriously).
One of the big lessons that I took away from the weekend was that as Vets we have to be leaders. We are in a position of power, people trust us, and we are treated differently by the law. We have to inspire our clients to treat our patients when they get them home. We have to lead our co-workers and staff to be the best they can be. We have to lead by example and never compromise our values, because in the end, those are what make us who we are.
When we walked off the buses the first afternoon we were 100 individuals with our own little bubbles and a lot of uncertainty. When we climbed back onto those buses we were the class of 2016, a unit, with friends and common goals.
When we arrived back at Massey we checked our mail boxes and made our various ways home. Most of us also made our way to the Warehouse to pick up materials for a costume for the Mentor-Mentee meet and greet/Happy Hour. My costume was a Cock looking for Balls so I found a red/purple knit cap and a flesh toned bed sheet. My flatmates donated some out of date condoms to pin to my costume and I actually ended up looking pretty good. My mentor recognised me as soon as I stepped through the door, so I must have done something right. She bought me a drink, we talked a bit, I gave her my number, and then we parted ways. I spent the rest of the night with my friends in 3rd year and my new friends in my class. I only stayed for a couple of hours before walking home with Hawaii and Tennessee because I was exhausted from three days of non-stop interaction with other people.
Being an Introvert means that I recharge by being by myself or with a small group of friends. Being an extreme introvert (63% if I remember correctly) means that spending all of today (Sunday) in my room with my door closed has left me feeling very much recharged. I am ready to face tomorrow and the rest of my career, just so long as I remember to do self care each weekend.