Pre-Vet View: Darby Williams, '16, on Her Sydney Semester

January 23, 2015

Darby Williams, '16, is majoring in biology and minoring in psychology and English. She is the daughter of Mark and Esther Williams of Traverse City and a graduate of Traverse City West High School.
Darby Williams, '16, is majoring in biology and minoring in psychology and English. She is the daughter of Mark and Esther Williams of Traverse City and a graduate of Traverse City West High School.

Day three of my internship: Euthanizing a pigeon with a broken wing. What did I sign up for and why are they trusting me with this experienced task? A week earlier, I jumped out of a plane over the Great Barrier Reef. Sitting on the edge of a plane and suddenly flying through the air at 10,000 feet is definitely something you do not experience every day.

Besides my biology major, I'm working to complete a number of veterinary school pre-requisites, which meant my off-campus experience had to include academic coursework that would count toward my Albion degree. I also wanted it to include a significant internship experience and allow me to graduate on time. This program gave me all that, plus the chance to study in and experience a beautiful country. Who wouldn't want that?

My eight-week internship took place at St. George Animal Hospital in Sydney, and from the first, I was hands-on with animals. By the end of that first week, I was observing and assisting in the removal of a tumor from a dog’s spleen, stitching a bite wound on a dog, and drawing blood from a cat! I also learned how to put in catheters, give injections, do dental cleanings, and I even got to castrate a cat (under supervision, of course). American students don't usually have the chance for such experiences before veterinary school, so this opportunity was an especially valuable part of my off-campus internship.

The owner at St. George's was Peter Britton, the first doctor in Australia to do stem cell treatment on a dog via injection. Since then, he has been considered a leader in the world for the advancement of stem cell treatments. While stem cell treatment is seen as very controversial in the United States, I worked hands-on with the treatments and see the miracles it can work on dogs with cancer as well as hip and joint problems. I also got to see a dog's cells sampled after it had passed, and sent to a laboratory in Melbourne to be cloned!

I lived in the center of Sydney. The noise was a huge adjustment compared to Albion and my hometown of Traverse City, but an even harder adjustment was cooking for myself every day for four months. Outside of my internship, I took classes at Boston University's Sydney campus, studying Australian history, Australian literature (which counted toward my English minor) and the Australian wine industry, complete with a two-day trip to the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wine regions. I also took a four-day trip to Melbourne with my history class.

My internship could not have been more fitting to what I want to do in the future, and has allowed me to get a step ahead of the rest of the undergraduate applicants. Without being in Australia, I never would have been able to be so hands-on in the workplace. Not to mention: I got to spend every day with dogs and cats, so who wouldn’t love that?

Being in a city of 4.5 million people has made me value my close relationships to students and staff at Albion. The College prepared me well for this program by making me solve difficult tasks, become fearless, and make close connections with those around me. This program has been one of the best choices I have ever made, and I can see myself moving back to Australia in the future for postgraduate study (hopefully in orthopedic surgery).