She has always known she wanted to work with animals — her challenge was realizing that dream.
Galen Alsobrook is getting her Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of New Mexico this May. She had started with a chemistry minor, but “realized a little too late” that chemistry did not apply to her field of study and dropped it later in her college career.
Alsobrook said she is planning to take a year off to work and take some prerequisite classes for a veterinarian technician program. She has worked since her freshman semester at Arie’s Dogland, a “doggy day-care”.
Alsobrook said that she used to want to be a veterinarian, but felt that she could not compete for the limited positions in veterinary schools.
“From the time when I was little to when I was about 16, I wanted to be a vet,” Alsobrook said. “I realized that I don’t have the test-taking ability to be in that competitive environment.”
Alsobrook was originally from Connecticut, but moved to Corrales with her family for her father’s job when she was 7 years old. She said mostly what she remembers from that time was the giant forest in her backyard where deer would live. In Corrales, her next-door neighbors have four horses — another has cows. She said that her love for animals was really fostered during childhood, and grew into her passion.
“(Our family has) always wanted to incorporate animals into our lives,” Alsobrook said.
Alsobrook said college was a good experience, but it also had some lows.
She said she struggled to be engaged in her classes because biology prerequisites did not really relate to working with animals. She said one of the highs of attending UNM was finding upper-level courses such as animal behavior and research methods.
Alsobrook said finding her group of “scholastic introverts” — what she describes as friends who were really engaged in classes — elevated her experience in the program.
“I have a lot more friends than I anticipated finding,” she said.
She said her system of receiving support, but also providing it to those around her, made her feel centered when college got rough. Alsobrook said her boyfriend of six years, Elliott McCreary-Novak, was a source of strength during the lows.
“The one thing that did help me get through college was my boyfriend actually,” she said. “I would have a breakdown, weekly (at one point). He would come to my dorm and just tell me to keep pushing and keep going, no matter what.”
Her brother, Ian Alsobrook, is a freshman pursuing a double major in biology and mechanical engineering at UNM. He said that he wanted people to know his sister’s accomplishments are not just a degree, but the way she lives her life.
“Whether it’s baking, class or animal care, she puts everything she’s got into what she’s doing,” Ian said.
The next step for Alsobrook is achieving her dream to work with animals. And while she said she has always known what she wanted to do, she said she realizes other college students may not have that luxury. She said the key is trying to understand what you reasonably can do and what will help you in a big picture sense.
“Push to your limits, don’t push past them,” Alsobrook said. “Better yet, push to find your limit.”
Alsobrook said that sometimes she felt people tried to tell her to be something else in college. She said there’s a pressure of a stereotype about college kids constantly wanting to party.
“Even my mom was like, ‘Why don’t you go to tailgates?’ I just never have gone to one, and I see nothing wrong with that,” Alsobrook said.
Alsobrook said that college was a great place to meet like-minded friends and explore. But for her, it’s always been a means to her end — working with animals.
“I know people always say college is where you go to find yourself (and) that’s true. But for me personally, I knew who I was before I came here,” Alsobrook said.
Danielle Prokop is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @ProkopDani.