Growing up in a family of animal lovers laid strong foundations, but it wasn't until Hope Larsen got her first pony at the age of 12 that her future was truly sealed.
Now the hardworking 18-year-old is in her first year of a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) at Massey University, and a step closer to achieving her goal of becoming a large animal vet.
"Becoming a vet has been a dream job of mine since I can remember, and I've never had a change of heart," says Hope. "But I think the biggest moment for me was when I got my own horse, and we moved out to a lifestyle block near Helensville. Working with horses opened my eyes to so many cool things, such as the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) community, stable handing, and the immense happiness and tranquillity horses bring to people's lives. From that moment on, I was pretty set on becoming a large animal vet!"
But getting into New Zealand's only veterinary school is no easy task. In 2021, the highly competitive programme chose just 115 undergrads out of 351 applications, some of which came from second and third year candidates reapplying after previous unsuccessful attempts. While Hope admits she wasn't one of ACG's top academic students, unwavering focus and tireless hard work secured her place.
Hope is a shining example of what can be achieved when you truly set your mind to something and a reminder that success isn't only measured by receiving A grades. Instead, it's about working to achieve your personal best and reaching your goals. Since graduating from ACG Parnell College, she's taken the transition to tertiary-level studies and the competitive nature of pre-vet (the pre-selection semester) in her stride.
"Throughout pre-vet, I was determined and worked very hard towards my goals. I felt that ACG had prepared me well for the workload, thanks to the university style of learning it offers. That meant I could take full ownership of my learning as soon as I got to uni – a skill many students struggle to grasp in their first year.
"I really believe part of my success comes down to the amazing study skills and techniques I learnt at ACG and the school's supportive, non-judgmental environment. This helped me stay on top of my work and stopped me from feeling too overwhelmed. It also meant I arrived at university feeling confident in myself and knowing I could meet the upcoming challenges ahead."
ACG Parnell College has a well-deserved reputation for bringing out the best in people. The school's support and guidance empowers all students, regardless of academic level, to lift their standards and maximise their potential.
"I'm very proud of myself and how far I've come. It's been great to use the skills I gained at ACG (like communication and teamwork, study strategies, time management and organisation) in the real world, and I've given it my all, which is something the school really encourages.
"ACG taught me to love what I'm studying, be curious about what I'm learning, and follow my goals. No matter where your grades are, support is always provided, and students are encouraged to give 100 per cent in a safe learning environment with caring and experienced teachers."
So far, Hope says life at Massey University has been nothing short of fantastic. Meeting farmers and learning about their lifestyles, and attending the Vet Hills Start Camp (a camp designed for first-year vets) have been huge highlights. So too, has the VetMAP (Veterinary Māori and Pacific students) pathway.
"VetMAP has given me the opportunity to explore my Māori culture, and I also receive an immense amount of support throughout my studies. I am so grateful.
"I'm loving learning the new material, being supported by a close group who went through pre-vet with me, and – most importantly – sharing our love for animals, advocating for them and studying with the goal of making their lives better."
It may be over four years before Hope qualifies as a large animal vet, but she's already looking to the future with enthusiasm and anticipation.
"I'm excited about forging my career in such a rewarding area, inspiring equestrians to work safely, helping farmers to have healthy livestock, and connecting people with animals. Growing up surrounded by animals showed me not only the immense joy they can bring to us but also the ways in which we can help them. I'd love to showcase this to people through my career."