“In veterinary school, I discovered the extent of the culture of domination between students”

Becoming a vet was my dream. I had just spent three years in preparatory BCPST (biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences) at Saint-Louis high school in Paris, preparing for the competition for veterinary schools. I chose without hesitation the school of Maisons-Alfort (Val-de-Marne), for its reputation and its geographical location. When I arrived, I was therefore very enthusiastic.

I quickly lost my illusions during the first week of integration, organized by fourth-year students. The staging begins with our first lesson in the amphitheater. Suddenly, fourth year students, all dressed in black and red, wearing a beret, sunglasses, arrive and interrupt the lesson. They call us by our surnames preceded by “poulot” or “poulotte”, ask us to be quiet.

We must form a pair with an “old” who is responsible for our integration into campus life and parties throughout the year. These elders had chosen us during the summer, after sending us a questionnaire: the fourth-year student who had chosen me “wanted” a girl with whom he had things in common. During this course in the amphitheatre, the “elders” played a PowerPoint with our photo, followed by three answers that we had given during the questionnaire, funny questions – like our nicknames – but also questions about our sexuality.

I pretty quickly refused to humiliate myself

It was during the first evening that I understood the extent of this culture of domination between students, and that this situation was not going to please me at all. We had to address the elders as address to mark their superiority over us. Whenever we were introduced to other students, we had to decline the letters of our last name with negative adjectives, and decline that of the former with flattering adjectives. If we refused, or if we were wrong about the formal address, our elder asked us to squat down and duck, that is to say, to imitate the animal by flapping our wings. I fairly quickly refused to humiliate myself. All week, I opposed the most “hard-core” integration rites. Some of my classmates were awake during the night and agreed to eat dog food and other most disgusting cocktails and preparations. Many lent themselves to the game with disconcerting ease and total adherence to humiliation.

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