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Class of 2020 Story: I Took the Best Seat

Class of 2020: Kathryn Hamilton
Kathryn Hamilton (right) with Samantha Lin at their 2016 white coat ceremony.

Class of 2020 Stories The following by Kathryn Hamilton is the eighth and final story in a series before our oath and hooding ceremony on May 8.

Read all of the stories here:

The first day of veterinary school was similar to the other first days I have had throughout my educational career. Sure, these veterinary classes were likely going to be the hardest, most grueling classes I have ever taken. However, I still needed to walk into a room full of strangers I met a mere 96 hours prior and find my seat. 

There is an unspoken law that where you sit on the first day of class is likely where you will sit for the next 858 days. Any alteration to this plan and you could cause a mass panic among all that you have displaced by changing a seat.

I, being a creature of habit, stayed in that exact same seat all 858 days. 

I now can say I would not have traded this unspoken law and that seat for anything.  

In August 2016, I found a seat next to Samantha Lin, whom I had met the week prior. My seat was on the left side, third row from the front, close but not too close, and the second one in from the center aisle. 

In this seat, I learned and forgot a lot, daydreamed about being anywhere but in the frigid auditorium and learned many things from those who surrounded me. In particular Sam, the girl who sat next to me, became my personal tutor, running partner and best friend.

Throughout our three years of didactic teaching, I thought of that chair as just a chair, but now it means so much more. 

During August of our fourth year, our class received the hardest news we will likely ever receive as a group. Sam had unexpectedly passed away. No longer regularly in the classroom during our final year, our seats were only filled for Friday morning’s clinical conference. 

South Theater
The CVM’s South Theater, where Hamilton and Lin sat side-by-side.

The first Friday back from an externship, I did the only thing I knew to do. I went to my seat. 

Although I felt like my entire life was changed by the empty seat beside me, I knew that in front of me, behind me and beside me, I could find everyone in their seats feeling the same emptiness radiating from Sam’s seat. 

However, I found support and strength despite the overwhelming emptiness, support and strength from the 98 other classmates that surrounded me in their seats just as if it were a normal day.

As a class, we have endured hours of lectures, overcome an uncountable number of exams and grieved over a classmate. I never thought a chair could teach me so much. We learned so much from these seats, just because we aren’t in them doesn’t mean we will forget who we are, where we sat and what we learned from them.

Thank you, Class of 2020, for pushing me to be a better classmate, friend and veterinarian. 

Thank you most of all for taking your seats in August 2016. I couldn’t have done this without you. 

Kathryn Hamilton is from Ford City, Pa. After graduation, she will join the Animal Hospital of Waterford in Waterford, Pa., as a mixed animal veterinarian working with both small animals and food animals.

Samantha Lin will receive a posthumous DVM at May 8’s oath and hooding ceremony. In her honor, the Class of 2020 will wear pins bearing her initials.