An animal lover, Amanda Michelson enjoyed horseback riding as a young girl growing up in a suburb of New York City. Michelson is an animal science major with a pre-vet area of interest in the Department of Animal Science and serves as a CAHNR Ambassador while working as an administrative assistant in the College. While she’s leaving her options open, she is leaning toward a veterinary career with large or exotic animals. Here is what she said about her experiences as a CAHNR student:
What attracted you to UConn? I was initially attracted to UConn because of its animal science program and facilities. At the time, I was looking for a school that had a strong undergraduate animal science program that could prepare me for veterinary school, as well as a school that had a polo program since I had started playing polo in high school. When I came to open house and saw the close-knit community of faculty and students within the department and the College overall, I knew it would be a good fit for me.
Why did you choose your particular major? I chose animal science because I knew it would give me a strong foundation for vet school since that’s my ultimate goal. I also really wanted the hands-on practical experience that I knew I wouldn’t get through my major if I had chosen a broader scientific field such as biology or chemistry.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs, was the most memorable? Why? I just completed an internship this past semester at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which was a really great opportunity. When I was growing up, I always imagined what it would be like working in a zoo, but never thought I would have the opportunity to experience it. The experience with exotic animals made me a better candidate for graduate school and allowed me to explore my interests further. It was also just a lot of fun in general. I worked with really great zookeepers and learned a lot about exotic animal husbandry and welfare. I loved it so much that I continued going during winter break after my semester ended.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. My involvement in the CAHNR Ambassador program is one of the experiences I’ve had in college that has helped me grow the most. When I applied, I knew it was out of my comfort zone since I consider myself to be pretty introverted. Thankfully the advisors in the program saw potential in me and were willing to help me work towards my goals. The program has helped me improve my communication, public speaking and networking skills, in addition to helping me be more confident in general. I’m really lucky that I’m able to advocate for a program and a college that I feel so passionately about because I want other students to be able to have a positive experience like I’ve had in the college.
I also think that being a part of Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority on campus, has been a great supplement to my education. It has not only given me opportunities for professional development within the agriculture industry, but also a strong support system of women who have similar interests. Many of us share the same major or take similar classes and are able to understand each other’s academic struggles and successes. This strong support system of friends and family helps me not to get too stressed or overwhelmed with all that I have on my plate.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? I think the biggest challenge so far has been time management. When you’re taking a lot of classes and are involved with organizations on campus, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When you’re also in the position of making sure you complete prerequisites and earn certain grades to get into graduate school, it becomes even more stressful. I’ve definitely gotten more confident about my ability to handle my workload as the semesters have gone on, and I always try to stay cognizant of whether or not I’m taking on too much. Staying organized and keeping an updated calendar has definitely helped me stay on track as well.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I’m planning on graduating in May of 2018. My goal would be to go to vet school right after I graduate.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? This past year I’ve developed a passion for traveling. I studied abroad for a month in South Africa on a UConn-led field ecology program, and it was an incredibly fun and valuable learning experience. This year over spring break, I’m traveling to Honduras to volunteer on a veterinary medicine community service trip, and after the spring semester I’m backpacking in Europe for two weeks with friends. Having the opportunity to travel has opened my mind to new things and given me more confidence and a stronger sense of independence. I urge any undergraduate students to take the opportunity to travel, either personally or through one of the great study abroad programs that UConn offers.