Loop Abroad alum Sarah Telles shares her study abroad experience participating in the Thailand High School Veterinary Service program.
The first time I ever held a scalpel was in Thailand. I was seventeen, and all I knew was that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I’d actually stumbled upon Loop Abroad through a cousin’s post on Facebook, where she’d been lamenting the fact that she didn’t have time to do one of their veterinary study abroad programs. After I’d done a lot of research into whether or not this was some sort of kidnapping ring- it wasn’t- and if it was the sort of thing I’d want to do, I made the plunge and applied. It’s a long flight to Thailand, and it was also the first time I’d been out of the country without my family, so to say I was anxious would be an understatement.
It’s a two-week-long trip, a veterinary study abroad for high school and college-aged students to experience veterinary medicine in different areas of the world while getting hands-on experience that can be used to either bolster a vet school application or to determine if the veterinary field is what you really want. The first week was spent at an elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai. For me, at least, this was a life-changing experience. Elephants have always been my favorite animal, but the closest I’d ever gotten to one was from hundreds of feet away, craning my neck to look into an exhibit. Now, I was living among them, staying in a room that was only feet away from the field they roamed. I was learning how they did medical treatments on them, and getting to take part in swabbing an injured foot and cleaning it out. Most of these elephants were in the logging industry, and they were injured by stepping on landmines or after years of carrying heavy logs. But, while this was an absolutely amazing experience, I wouldn’t call it the most influential part of this trip.
No, the most life-changing part of this entire veterinary study abroad took place at an animal rescue clinic for the stray dogs that run rampant through Thailand. This was where we spent the second week of the trip, and it’s where all of us students fell in love with the animals of Thailand. As a seventeen-year-old, I worked with a fifteen-year-old, an eighteen-year-old, and two sixteen-year-olds to assist in neutering a dog. We worked as a group, everyone taking turns to practice our clinical skills or check the dog’s vitals. In the hour-long procedure, I learned more about veterinary medicine than I had ever learned before.
Even though I walked away from this veterinary study abroad unsure if I wanted to be a veterinarian anymore, it did clear up one thing for me. Whether or not I decided to go through the years of education required to become a veterinarian, I knew that I wanted to work with animals.