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Ten-minute chat
  1. Emily Robson


Emily Robson followed in her family's footsteps and studied veterinary medicine. After three years in mixed and equine practice, she embarked on a sculpture degree at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen.

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What made you become an art student?

Art has always been a passion of mine: through late school and university I forced it to the back of my mind in order to fulfil my ambition of becoming a vet. However, it became increasingly difficult to ignore my desire to explore and express the artistic side of my personality. My full-time veterinary career did not allow me the time or energy to satisfy this, and I began to feel torn between life as a vet and a desire for something more.

Were you concerned about how your decision to study art might affect your career as a vet?

Two things concerned me: first, how future employers might view this career change, and secondly, whether it would set me back in my professional development as a vet. The years I am spending studying art are often those used to undertake internships/residencies, etc, and essentially kick-start a vet's journey to becoming a specialist. However, this is conventional, not statutory, and I would like to think that so long as I keep up to date, informed and interested, this path will still be open to me. Thus far, I am finding plenty of part-time and locum work to finance my study habit.

How do you spend a typical day?

I work in mixed and small animal practice almost all of every weekend, and during the holidays.

Monday to Friday during term time, I start my day ploughing up and down the university pool! I start in the studio around 09.00 and spend between eight and 12 hours there; my time is divided between researching, drawing, developing ideas, making things in the workshop and taking part in group discussions, and so on.

We have regular guest lecturers who are practising artists, and a course alongside sculpture, which is about the context and place of art in society. It is an incredibly interesting and stimulating course; I love it!

What do you like most about being a student again?

I love the personal expression facilitated by a creative curriculum. I also love the new type of learning; learning about myself and life from a completely different angle to that of science and evidence-based medicine. I find myself thinking about life differently, and seeing issues from a new viewpoint. It is also an incredible luxury to have time to think; to consider different philosophies and explore new areas of interest.

What do you not like?

The financial strain! It's not easy keeping a mortgage going. However, part-time veterinary work beats any other student job pay packet!

What advice would you give to someone considering a similar shift in career?

Life is fairly fast and fairly short, while bursting with opportunities for new experiences. In my opinion, people restrict themselves through fear of the unknown and the unconventional. We have to remember that we are free to make any changes; convention regarding lifestyle and career exists only in the mind. Each of us is suited to a different path, and the path less trodden may stand to bring more in return.

My advice, though a cliché, is ‘where there's a will there's a way’. If you find yourself with a desire to do something new or different, don't be put off at the first hurdle; it might not be easy, but it's unlikely to be as hard as becoming a vet.

Emily with a sculpture entitled ‘Pandora we applaud you', which is concerned with curiosity in relation to life experiences

What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Someone I used to know often said, ‘You've got to look after number one’. I ignored this advice for years; I thought it was selfish in sentiment. However, I have learned that looking after oneself is a necessary part of life. Vets tend to be incredibly conscientious and selfless in their approach to life and work.

We should not underestimate the benefits to our health and our usefulness gained by looking after ourselves. We need rest, we need a break now and again, and we could all benefit from ensuring that we eat healthily and take enough exercise. It sounds simple – we've heard it hundreds of times – but we seldom prioritise these elements of our lives.

What was your proudest moment?

I'm not sure that pride is something I experience in moments. I am proud of people close to me who have managed to overcome different challenges. It is a pride that I feel almost continually while in their presence, and also when I think of them; I feel proud of their achievements and fortunate to be part of their lives.

… and your most embarrassing moment?

I've had so many! Ask anyone I've worked with/lived with/socialised with! However, for those who know me, the antics at the 2006 Turriff Show probably top the blushometer!

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