Mexico City, DVM
I’m sitting on the second floor of a hole-in-the-wall café, overlooking a beautiful park in the middle of a bustling city. There are people all around, chatting about their mornings and reading the newspaper while a man plays old Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes on a trumpet. The only difference between this urban landscape and what you’re imagining is that I’m in Mexico City, home to 21 million people. (New York including the 5 boroughs is 8.5 million.)
Two months ago, my husband’s job relocated us from Washington, DC to Mexico. The largest concern that my husband and I had would be my ability to get a job as a veterinarian. When we moved, the only Spanish I knew was “Dónde está el baño?” and “Una cervaza, por favor.” I had no concept of what it would be like to order food in another country, let alone what it would mean to be a veterinarian.
Into the veterinary unknown
I had no idea what the quality of veterinary medicine would be anywhere outside of the US. I wondered how Mexicans view animals. Do they see their dogs as family members, or more as working pets? The one thing I knew was that I’d spent four years of my life obtaining my veterinary education, and it would have been devastating not use my skill set in a meaningful way.
When we got the news, I was working at a small animal general practice, but I was ready for a new challenge. Despite my apprehensions, I couldn’t help but be excited for this new, terrifying, yet exhilarating adventure. New food, new culture, and a new lifestyle seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Unfortunately, the rules in Mexico state that I need a letter of employment before I can apply for a work permit or for a transfer of my US-obtained veterinary license. So, while I was still in the US, I started networking—which was difficult because I didn’t know anyone in Mexico City. I did research before leaving the US and found a large teaching hospital that might consider hiring a foreigner. I reached out to the management team before I moved but I wasn’t able to make any meaningful progress until we were on Mexican soil.
In my first (and ultimately last) interview, I focused on discussing the skill set and high caliber medicine that I had learned in the US—specifically dentistry and oral surgery—and how I would pass this knowledge on to the veterinarians at this particular hospital. I was elated when the hospital offered me a job, even though I don’t speak Spanish fluently.
New job, new country
I’m currently waiting for my licensing to go through the several-month, bureaucratic process, and in the interim I am volunteering my time and observing the hospital’s practices to see how they can be improved. Honestly, the quality of medicine at this hospital is on par with most US veterinary hospitals, save a few areas where I’m hoping to be helpful, like dentistry. Most of the staff at this hospital speak fluent English, but I still take classes several times a week to improve mi español.
In the next several weeks, I will be giving a presentation (in Spanish) to all the doctors at my new home hospital regarding their dental practices and how to improve them. It’s meaningful work, and even though I’m not currently practicing medicine the same way as I was back at home, I’m using my veterinary skills and applying them in a new way, in a new place.
My husband and I are thrilled with Mexico City and with my (future) employment. Our worries and fears about the transition have dissolved. One concern we had was safety (as there always is when transitioning to a new city). While there is crime here, it’s similar to any major US metropolitan area; be aware of your surroundings and don’t travel to areas you don’t know well at night.
There are a few cultural differences that I’m adjusting to, including the slower placed lifestyle (lunch isn’t eaten until 2 or 3pm) and the terrible drivers (no one adheres to the rules of the road—stoplights are just a suggestion). Despite these changes, I have fallen in love with tacos el pastor (street tacos with pork and pineapple) and birria (Mexican lamb soup), and day by day, my Spanish improves un poco. So far, this has been a truly enriching experience and I cannot wait for what the next several years have in store for us.
Hasta la próxima, adios!
For those adventurers who are looking for advice on how to practice veterinary medicine in another country, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 22, 2017
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