Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

As college students, we constantly feel this pressure to succeed and the moment we even come close to failing, we automatically become overwhelmed with this sense of failure and hopelessness. We go into majors or classes or experiences with certain expectations and sometimes, we get our hearts broken and we feel like we’ve failed and that somehow disqualifies us from continuing our path to success. Isabella McNeely, a Biology major here at Cal Lutheran, has adopted Dory’s mindset: “just keep swimming.” As a Biology major, she plans to pursue a career in veterinary medicine because of her love for animals. From her various experiences throughout her college career and as an athlete, she applies the lessons she’s learned through her sport to what she experiences in life. Her outlook on how to handle the curve balls life throws is one that all students need to hear.

Her Campus at Cal Lutheran: Have you always loved animals?

Isabellla McNeely: Yeah, I honestly prefer animals over people. I basically grew up at the barn with animals all around me. I’ve always had dogs, cats, and birds as well so I’ve always been around animals and I’ve always loved them.

HCCLU: What was your childhood like in that sense?

IM: I’m an only child, so my parents raised me and they were full time workers. We’re middle class and we live in Reseda. My horses were in Browns Canyon so I basically grew up there. My mom got into horses herself and when she was in college she paid for her own college and she still had horses during that time too. My mom would still take me to the horses and even when I was a little kid I would sit in the back of her truck with a bucket of carrots and feed the horses or just riding around, bare-backed, with a halter as a way to control horses while riding them. Looking back, that might not have been safe, but that was my childhood.

HCCLU: What year are you?

IM: I’m a senior, but I’ll be graduating next fall.

HCCLU: What’s that’s like?

IM: It’s to be expected for vet people that you’ll be in college forever. My first semester of college I went to Cincinnati, Ohio for school at the University of Xavier and it didn’t work out. Then I went to Pierce College, which is the community college near my home. I had a lot of friends from my high school there and I was able to get back into my sport, which was swim and water polo, and I stayed there a little bit longer to continue playing my sport, then I transferred over to Cal Lutheran.

HCCLU: What was it like to leave your sport behind when you came to Cal Lutheran?

IM: I really miss my team; they were and still are a part of my family. I’ve known some of them since high school. It was a hard thing to leave and I still talk to my team and tell them how much I miss them. I miss seeing my friends all the time and swimming.

HCCLU: How did you first hear about Cal Lutheran?

IM: I got accepted here when I first applied during high school but I decided not to go here because I didn’t want to be close to home and I wanted to “spread my wings.” But it didn’t quite work out and I splatted pretty hard, but I’m picking myself up and flying again. I decided to go to Cal Lutheran after that experience because it is a really nice campus and I could commute, but then I decided to live on campus. It was perfect because after my horrible experience at Xavier, where I lived on campus, I wanted somewhere I could live on campus but if I ever needed to go home, I still could. 

HCCLU: What was it like to make the decision to “spread your wings” and find that it didn’t work out the way you expected and go through the process of picking yourself back up?

IM: I knew I couldn’t give up because I want to go into veterinary medicine and it’s a tough profession to get into. I knew I needed to focus on myself and recover. I would say for anyone who’s going through this same dilemma, remember to keep moving forward and enjoy your life. That’s why I stayed a little bit longer at Pierce because I wanted to be with my team a little bit longer. They really helped me get through the process of picking myself back up and getting my life back together and rebuilding myself. “Just keep moving forward,” is something I always think with sports and you can apply the lessons you learn in various aspects of life. For me, it’s always been swim and the lesson I learned from swim and that I apply to life is “take one stroke.” Even if it seems like it’s a really long set, let’s say you have to swim a mile. That’s 1,650 yards and that’s a lot of laps; it can be hard mentally and physically. So from there, start to break it down however you need to in order to make it easier to take those strokes. You can break it down to 100 yards or 50 or 20 yards or telling yourself “just one stroke.” Just keep on swimming forward, just like Dory says.

HCCLU: Why is veterinary medicine so difficult to get into?

IM: Medicine in general is difficult, human medicine is really hard. But with human medicine, there are several schools for it but for veterinary medicine, there aren’t that many. We have the world’s top vet school in the United States, but we don’t have that many. I’ll probably have to look for schools out of the country. Most people want to go into small animal vets because everyone has dogs and cats and they’re cute and small. But I want to do large animals, which is more livestock.

HCCLU: What is it like being a biology major?

IM: A lot of the bio intro courses are there to essentially scare you into not going into bio because they want to show you that it is a difficult major. But the more you get into your bio course, the more friends you’ll make because it’s a community and I know most of the professors in the bio department. Now I can just walk down the hall and say hi and have a conversation with them. There’s one professor that I’ve never had as my own professor but most of my classmates have had her and because I’ve gotten to know her through them, I can still hold a casual conversation with her. 

HCCLU: There’s recently been a big push for more women in STEM fields and as a female biology major, do you see any gender disparities within your program?

IM: There’s actually quite a few women in veterinary medicine. When I was taking my courses at Pierce, we had animal science courses and one of the professors was saying that several years ago there were only one or two females and as the years went by, the roles switched and there are only a few men. You can still see that with the veterinary medicine field. I work with large animals and the vet that I work under is a female and I know a lot of female doctors. I’m happy that I’m in the bio field because there are a lot of opportunities. I’ve always had strong females around me, like my mom. If anyone has met my mom, they know that she is a force of nature. I’ve known a lot of other women like that and they’re the ones that have pushed me into becoming someone strong. But for veterinary medicine, it’s always been a part of me ever since I was little and I saw the doctor work on my horses. I’ve always wanted to be in the field and when I started working under her, that passion really started to bloom. But I wouldn’t say that it had to do with being surrounded by strong females. My dad has always been there for me, he’s the one who’s told me that if I fall, just get back up and smile. 

HCCLU: Were you ever discouraged from pursuing veterinary medicine?

IM: My parents have always been on my side, they always told me to follow my heart. The only time I was ever discouraged was with other professors; they would see that I didn’t do so well at my first school and that I struggled trying to get back up with my grades and everything. But I just kept pushing on and now I’m applying to vet school; I got recommendation letters. I’m just going to keep pushing on and going until I get there. The only way I’m going to find out if I get to vet school is if I apply. 

HCCLU: What’s your favorite memory at Cal Lutheran?

IM: That’s hard, I’ve had some great memories just from this year. In my residence hall, with my roommates, I’ve had great memories. I love my job for Interlibrary loans; my boss is so sweet. She’s just a genuinely nice person and I always have fun, even when I’m struggling with my classes, I’m still having fun. I can’t specifically say one memory because I have so many little memories that fill my heart.

HCCLU: Is there anything about Cal Lutheran that you’re going to miss?

IM: I’m going to miss a lot of it actually. I’m going to miss my roommate Julia because we’ve gotten really close and she’s leaving me. I am going to leave all of my friends who I’ve made here. I’m going to miss my job and this happy hug of Cal Lutheran. It’s crazy to think that I could be going to vet school out of the country. Cal Lutheran is definitely coming with me in my heart and I’m never going to forget my adventures here.                                                                                                           Isabella and her roommate Julia

HCCLU: Do you have any regrets?

IM: No, I don’t think I should regret anything because you learn from everything you do. Things happen and I don’t have time to really stop and be regretful for things that have happened. I can be very negative to myself, but I try to be positive and I try to look at the good things that happen rather than the bad things.

HCCLU: Was that also part of your journey when you were trying to recover?

IM: Yeah, there’s that and I also lost some of my family members this past year. I had to work through that as well. I had such a great relationship with those people that I try to hold onto it, not the hard times that I had to go through with them in that last mile. When I did have to deal with that loss, I did have people around me to help me through it. When I got back to my room after a really rough weekend because I lost some people, my roommates were there with food and a good movie for me. 

HCCLU: From those experiences, would you say that finding a support system is integral to helping with that process of picking yourself back up?

IM: Yes, definitely. My mom always says you need a village and it doesn’t have to be blood related, it can be anyone you want.

HCCLU: For anyone reading this article: the bio majors, the students going through a rough time either because they’ve “splatted” or because they’re going through a loss, any words of wisdom?

IM: If you’re pulling an all-nighter, don’t. You’re not going to remember anything the next day, you need sleep. Sleep is important. But just keep moving forward. Even if it gets rough. Always talk to your village. Talk to your DAs, they’re really helpful with your courses. Talk to your professors; they like it when you talk to them. If you keep it bundled up, it’s going to explode. Don’t get discouraged if you mess up, everyone messes up. Keep moving forward. Go by Dory’s philosophy: “just keep swimming.”                                                                                                                     Gif courtesy of Giphy

Kyla Buenaventura

Cal Lutheran '19

Kyla Buenaventura was the Writing Director and Senior Editor for Her Campus at Cal Lutheran from 2017-2019. She double majored in Economics and Political Science with an emphasis in Law and Public Policy. When she was still at Cal Lutheran, she loved writing and inspiring her Writing Team to express their love and passion for topics through their own unique writing styles. 
Similar Reads👯‍♀️