Moving over to the UK to start a career is not an easy choice and is not suited for everyone. A lot of foreign vets spend a long time trying to decide whether the move is the best choice for them and always wonder about the challenges of the move. There are, however, a few challenges that we face as overseas vets that others don’t face when it comes to creating a career in clinical practice.
The cultural aspects of the population are often very different
Just like with any other country, the native population has a certain way of being and behaving that is likely different from what you are used to. Those that come from Mediterranean areas notice a big difference, as we are used to socialise a lot in a specific way, which is not usually encountered in the UK. This means that one of the biggest challenges of moving over to the UK relates to feeling like you’re not alone.
It’s very common for the native population to be reserved and socialise in specific contexts, and less common to socialise outside of the working environment. Sometimes, being in areas with other foreigners is very useful to fight this.
Another alternative to get together with people you still have some connection to is by joining BVA Young Vet Network meetings, which are regional meetings sponsored by the British Veterinary Association that can be attended by vets (including non-members). They are usually very informal (and have food!), so it might be a good way to find other vets that are not directly related to your workplace – and some may also be foreigner!
English language is not that simple
Of course, when we come from countries where we don’t speak English as our first language, we end up with the challenge of trying to understand English. Luckily, most of us have a very reasonable level of English. However, we need to go one step further when it comes to this because we have a highly technical profession that involves a lot of education, so communication is paramount to support us in our jobs. You then also quickly realise that the English you learned in school is most likely not what you are going to hear when you are living in the UK due to local dialects, accents and just generally speaking (you also write in a different way than you speak when it comes to your own native language).
There are some options to help you with that, from some books covering medical vocabulary (we have a whole article about that here) and also the online lessons we run at UK VetMove.
Lack of surgical skills
This is something we often struggle with when we move over with little experience. Most roles as veterinary surgeons request surgical skills. Surgery is a big part of clinical practice, namely routine surgery, like spays and castrations, lump removals, and so on. It is also something approached by the vet students in the UK, so they usually do finish University with more “hands-on” experience that those of us who have studied abroad.
However, this doesn’t necessarily apply to those who have been working for a while before moving to the UK and have developed those skills, or that have done volunteering or workshops to perfect those skills. Any surgical experience you can get before moving over to the UK will put more value on your CV. But don’t forget that even without that experience, you can quickly learn how to do surgery by getting a job in a practice that is willing to support you through this learning process.