Hande Barutcuoglu ’05 is Turkish, she is a veterinarian, and she lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada). St. John’s (pop. 180,000) is the easternmost, and oldest, city in North America, and it’s a good place to bring up with anybody who says Waterville is remote. It’s a 20-hour drive from Colby, with a six-hour ferry to break up the monotony. And it’s even farther from Istanbul.
The way Barutcuoglu tells it, it’s not such a crazy story. Her high school guidance counselor in Turkey suggested Colby (“I got in and said, ‘Yeah sure, why not? … Let’s go to Maine.’”), and she completed a B.A. in biology (“For some reason Colby gives out a bachelor of arts for a biology degree, which blows my mind to this day”), with veterinary school being the plan all along.
In fact, Barutcuoglu doesn’t recall when she decided to become a veterinarian, only that she could never see herself doing anything else. U.S. vet schools are nigh impossible to get into as an international student, she said, and so she ended up in Guelph, Ontario. This is still a big deal. While U.S. vet schools have around two seats for international students per class, Canadian schools offer just eight or 10 international spots. “Most of those are taken by Americans,” said Barutcuoglu, “but still.”
After earning her veterinary degree, working in the States was out of the question (visa issues, general state of the job market) so Barutcuoglu stayed in Canada. There were openings in northern Ontario and St. John’s—both places were pretty remote, but at least the Atlantic was familiar. “I found there’s a good circus arts community here and I’m into that kind of stuff,” she said, “so I figured, there’s something to do, weather is crappy Atlantic weather, I can deal with that, let’s go.”
Barutcuoglu is a member of the Acro-Adix School of Acrobatics (acro-adix.com), where she practices flying trapeze, static trapeze, and aerial silks (“Everybody needs something to do,” she said with a shrug), continuing training she started in Toronto as a break from vet school.
At the veterinary clinic, Barutcuoglu’s patients include “cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats—the whole nine yards,” and she loves seeing a previously debilitated animal leave the clinic “purring or wagging.” And the hours? They’re about what a new doctor treating humans would expect—long. “Like, for example, [Friday] I worked eight hours, [then] was on call all night, so didn’t go to bed ’til four o’clock. This morning I woke up, worked for another seven hours, and Monday I’m on call again. That’s relatively standard. ... There aren’t enough vets here.”
And so Barutcuoglu is on the move again. After sticking out the year, she was headed across the country to another wet, remote place at the other end of the Trans-Canada Highway: Sechelt, British Columbia.
There are friends from vet school there, and Colby friends in Vancouver. It will be a nice change, but that’s probably not the end of the story.
“Newfoundland isn’t a place anyone plans on coming to,” said Barutcuoglu, “But they come, ... and then they try to leave.” She stopped for a moment and then admitted, “And I’ve heard that once they’re gone they start trying to come back.”
—Martin Connelly ’08