Costa Rica Pre-Vet Shelter Med and Dolphin Research

Applications are open for Summer 2023

Known affectionately in our office as “dogs and dolphins”, this program is the best of both worlds!

Common Bottlenose Dolphin leaping in the waterMaximize your two weeks in Costa Rica by combining small animal medicine and marine research.

This two-week program puts you alongside veterinarians and researchers whose job is to teach you so you can learn and practice new skills while helping animals in need. Work in a dog shelter or a dog clinic and learn clinical skills including blood draws, suturing, skin scrapes, and assisting in spay and neuter surgeries. Spend one week living at a dolphin research facility doing boat-based research on dolphin health and behavior. Your program will also include fun activities, such as ziplining!

Who It’s For

Cropped shot of rescued dogs.This program is designed for university-aged students who are interested in becoming veterinarians or working professionally with animals. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Most are 18 to 25, but we also accept full-time undergraduates over 25. There are no pre-requisites for this program. You do not need to be in school currently to apply. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty. This program can accommodate a maximum of 10 participants per session.

Highlights

  • Study and research wild dolphins 
  • Observe dog neuter surgeries
  • Learn and practice small animal clinical skills
  • Discover what it’s like to be a vet in the tropics

Dates open for applications

  • May 28- June 10, 2023
  • June 11- June 24, 2023

These program sessions are covered by Loop Abroad’s COVID-19 100% Tuition Refund Policy. If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of any program tuition you have paid (including the deposit).

 apply now

*Subject to 1 days +/- on the schedule, includes travel days

*Dates indicate the dates on which you will arrive to and depart from San Jose, Costa Rica. This program does not have a group flight – you will be asked to book your flight to arrive and depart within a travel time window on the arrival and departure dates. In-country airport transfer is provided. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

 

Want to stay for a whole month? Add a two-week program!

Our Costa Rica Small Animal Medicine and Marine Research program is a full adventure on its own, but it can also be combined easily with other Costa Rica two-week programs back-to-back, including our Sea Turtle Conservation and Research and Costa Rica Pre-Vet Wildlife Medicine programs. Combine two programs for an automatic $100 discount on each tuition.

Tuition

Vet student taking pictures in the vast seaTuition is $4,350, not including airfare.

Tuition includes all program activities, all in-country transportation, and all program housing and meals.

Interest-free payment plans are available. Current college students may be able to use federal financial aid toward their tuition. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Your tuition helps to support the partner projects where you will be working and studying.

Courses and Hours

This program is created with students who may want to apply to vet school in mind. For your application to vet school, the program provides approximately the following hours:

 A very long hanging bridgeVeterinary Hours: 40

Research Hours: 40

Students can calculate their own record of hours for their VMCAS or other applications.

The strongest veterinary recommendation letter is from a vet who has known and worked with you for at least a year. However, you will have a chance to build a relationship with your Loop Abroad teaching vet who may be able to write you a recommendation if you impress them with your performance and are able to build on your experience after your program.

This program provides a total of 80 service hours. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

A transcript for 2 college credits for this veterinary practicum experience is available for this program (optional; additional fee applies). You may also be able to get credit directly from your college or university for this program. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for any assistance needed.

All dolphin project photos by Yuval Amir.

COVID and Safety

All participants will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (which may include boosters if eligible). All participants will adhere to the Loop Abroad COVID policy which includes providing a negative COVID test within 2 days prior to travel, wearing a mask when flying and when interacting outside of your “travel pod” (your group and staff), daily symptom report, and testing if symptoms are present.

If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we offer a full refund of all tuition paid, including the deposit.

What if my program isn’t cancelled, but I can’t travel for personal reasons?

We understand that sometimes even though a program is not cancelled, an individual participant may be unable to travel due to illness or other personal reasons. In addition to our refund policy, if you must cancel your program enrollment less than 35 days before travel, for any reason at all, you can replace your program with the following virtual package.

 

This package includes 5 university credits from Iowa Wesleyan University (if you successfully complete the courses) and has a retail value of $5,080.

This offer is valid for cancellation of travel programs between 35 days and 1 day before the program begins, when no refunds are available for participants cancelling their travel. One virtual package available per participant; non-transferable. A participant cancelling their enrollment more than 35 days prior is welcome to select this option over their refund if they so choose.

 apply now

Apply Now

Itinerary

In this two-week program, you’ll work and learn alongside veterinarians in a small animal medical setting and with researchers at a cetacean research facility. See wild dolphins up-close in your boat-based research in the Pacific Ocean, provide check-ups and procedures to dogs in need, and experience magnificent Costa Rica first-hand.

Week 1 – Dog Sanctuary and San Jose

This program is divided into two weeks. In one week, students work with their veterinary leader to provide care to dogs in underserved areas outside of San Jose. Students will learn and practice clinical skills, including:

  • IM, IV, and Sub-Q injections and catheter placement
  • Blood draws, blood smears, and microscope skills
  • Sterile scrubbing and gloving
  • Instrument handling and suturing
  • Ear cytologies, skin scrapes, fecals, and other diagnostics
  • Calculating medication dosages and administering medication
  • Physical exams and stethoscope use
  • Canine spay and neuter surgeries, anesthesia monitoring, and recovery
  • Identifying tropical diseases

This week will also give you a chance to explore and learn a bit about Costa Rica, including

  • Ziplining trip in the jungle
  • Hiking adventures
  • Learning some Spanish

Students work in small groups performing physical exams and health checks, assisting with procedures and surgeries, and learning hands-on from the vet. Each day will have a lecture-style portion on site and a chance to put the skills learned into practice helping animals in need, culminating in one to two surgery days at the end of the week.

Week 2 – Dolphin Research project

The other week is spent living and learning on the Gulfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast about six hours from San Jose. This specially-designed research program gives you the opportunity to participate in ongoing research on wild dolphin populations in Gulfo Dulce. 

You will be trained in the on-site research methods and goals, and participate in on-boat research of wild dolphins and sharks. Your time will be split between the boat and the lab, where research includes examining photographic data for photo ID processing and image analysis, necropsies of fish that the local dolphins eat to determine their health status and analyze stomach contents, collecting and analyzing biometric data, and lots of behavior sampling tracking a known population of dolphins.

*Please note: swimming with the dolphins is not permitted, and there are no captive dolphins on-site. This is a wildlife research project. Gulfo Ducle is home to tiger sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, and mangroves, so while it is a wonderful area for marine research, free swimming in the ocean is not permitted for safety reasons. We will have opportunities to swim together in safe beach areas during the program.

Note: Either the Dolphin research week or the San Jose week may come first in your itinerary.

Safety

Every program begins with a safety orientation. We’ll discuss how to stay safe and healthy during your time in Costa Rica. We’ll also discuss best practices for staying safe with all of the different species we will be interacting with, and staff will always be on hand to further instruct students regarding safe interactions with animals.

Dogs

While most dogs are very friendly, some would rather be left alone. It is important to approach all dogs carefully. In order to safely interact with animals in a shelter and clinic setting, students and staff need to have an understanding of animal handling and behavior.

Staff and students will discuss animal behavior, including signs of anxiety, and animal handling and restraint before interacting with the dogs.

Marine Life

Your research will be capturing and analyzing data about wild dolphins and other marine life. You will not have physical contact with live dolphins – we believe in leaving wild animals in the wild. However, you will be able to see them VERY close from the boat throughout your work. It can be even more rewarding to watch the dolphins interacting with their natural environment from a distance because this is when their true personalities shine!

The research vessel will be captained by on-site project staff and exclusively for your Loop Abroad group. Your first full day on the project includes an orientation and safety training for participating in the program.

Students will always be accompanied by trained guides and volunteer coordinators who will instruct students in how to safely complete their wildlife research.

Scholarships

 

There are lots of ways to help fund your online and travel programs with Loop Abroad, and we are here to help!

Scholarships are a terrific way to cover some or all of your tuition for a Loop Abroad program. When you look for scholarships for pre-vet programs, you need to look at all your options!

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 1 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time! 

The Gilman Scholarship was designed to help students of limited financial means have the opportunity to study abroad – online or in-person. Nearly a third of applicants are awarded the scholarship! This is a great opportunity to help cover your tuition.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for travel or virtual programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs, to our semester programs, or one of our 2-week programs.

Along with their application, students must submit two essays, the Statement of Purpose Essay, and the Community Impact Essay. Students must also upload their transcripts (unofficial or official). For more information on the application guidelines, please click here.

See the official website and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship. If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship. The round of applications due March 1 will cover in-person programs or internships that start between May 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023. This cycle encompasses Summer 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Academic Year 2022-2023 programs.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Focused elephant imageLoop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one online program of your choice. Applications will open in early January 2023. We’re proud to add this to the list of scholarships for pre-vet programs.

Who can apply: This scholarship is open to all students age 18 and over. You do not have to be a US Citizen. You do not have to be currently in school. You do not need to be enrolled in an online course to apply. You can apply for the scholarship first and make your online course selection after you receive a decision about the scholarship. (Note: if you make any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded up to the value of one online program of your choice, not including an online semester.) 

Criteria for selecting the scholarship recipient: 

We will consider financial need, commitment to conservation and/or animal science, academic performance, and ability to be a positive team member as factors in our decision. We are not looking for the applicant with the highest grades or the most animal hours. We are not looking for the applicant with the saddest story. We are looking for a student who embodies Loop Abroad’s values of teamwork, commitment to a cause, and hard work, and for a student who would not be able to otherwise afford Loop Abroad tuition (whether because of household income or recent change in circumstances).

How to apply:
To apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Apply for the Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship here. The application requires a copy of your proof of household income (such as last year’s tax return).
  2. Follow @LoopAbroad on Instagram (instagram.com/loopabroad) and make an Instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post.

Dr. Erica Ward holding a black dog and an elephant at the background and an elephant dogWhy is it called the Erica Ward Scholarship? Dr. Erica Ward is our Academic Director. We believe that she embodies the values we are seeking in our scholarship applicants: she is passionate, dedicated, hard-working, and driven to make the world a better place. Dr. Ward consistently strives to find ways that Loop Abroad can support projects in need and help its students and alumni have fulfilling academic opportunities. We have decided to name this scholarship after her to honor her continued commitment to her values and purpose. (PS – She isn’t dead. Please don’t write your essay about honoring her legacy. She is very much alive and still working here. If you are a finalist for the scholarship, she will read your essay.)

Details:
The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad online program of their choice. If the chosen winner has already made payments toward his or her Loop Abroad tuition, those payments will be refunded in full.

The scholarship is non-transferable. If the student cannot attend, the scholarship will be void – it is not a cash prize and cannot be paid as such. Applicants must be over the age of 18. Citizens and residents of any country may apply.

 

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

Young lady holding a blue parrotThe Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

This scholarship is open to US citizen undergraduate students who are child dependents of active duty service members and receive any type of Title IV federal financial aid. Students can receive awards of up to $5,000 for 2+ weeks of international travel or online programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs,  semester programs, or 2-week travel programs.

The next round of applications for the Gilman scholarship opens in January 2022. The deadline will be in March. At that time, you can apply for scholarships to use on any program starting between May 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarships:

Smiling woman hanging on a ropeThe Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. This scholarship is open to both US citizens and permanent residents who are undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university.

Recipients can receive up to $3,000 in awards for summer programs. This scholarship can be applied to our Thailand programs for 2+ weeks.

In order to apply, students must fill out an online application. Read the scholarship instructions here and the eligibility requirements here.

Applications for the 2021-2022 school year are closed. 

The Fund for Education Abroad:

Loop Abroad scholarships student checking heartbeat of the tigerThe Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial needs who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate in any international education program that meets their academic objectives.

This scholarship is open to US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a college or university in the US. Scholarships range from $1,250 – $10,000.

Along with their application, students must submit a financial aid form (filled out by the financial aid office at their school), one recommendation letter, and a copy of their unofficial transcript.

Applications for Spring 2023 (programs from January- May) are due by September 15, 2022 at 12pm (noon) EST. Students may review the scholarship and application instructions here.

Scholarships of note that you can apply for through the Fund for Education Abroad include:

  • The Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial Scholarship – for students studying abroad in Southeast Asia
  • Boston Area Study Abroad Association Scholarship – for students with schools in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
  • Rainbow Scholarship – For LGBTQI students that participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.
  • Malú Alvarez Global Access Scholarship- Five scholarships for semester-long programs to be awarded for study in any country.
  • NAFSA Tamara H. Bryant Memorial Scholarship- These funds are awarded to African-American undergraduate students in the United States who hope to study abroad.
  • Gateway International Group Education Abroad Scholarship- Scholarship awarded to those who are first-generation college students, or those whose home or college of study is in Kentucky.

InternationalStudent.com Travel Video Contest:

Smiling woman holding small wildcatThe InternationalStudent.com 2020 Travel Video Contest gives students the opportunity to win a scholarship by sending in an original video discussing:

  • How COVID-19 has impacted your international education or cultural exchange experience abroad
  • Your ideal international education or cultural exchange after Covid-19

There are several prizes available ranging from $250 to $4,000.

In order to apply, students must create a 4-minute video and submit an online entry form. Tips and tricks for filming a video entry can be found here. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

Submissions are due by October 13, 2021. Apply here.

NAFSA scholarships

NAFSA is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and they have a long list of scholarship databases (including scholarships for pre-vet programs) that might help make your program possible!

"This was a great learning experience! We were able to spend a lot of time with the vets and they were constantly answering questions and sharing their knowledge. Strongly recommend this trip!"

Andrea G., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016

Wright State University, Dayton, OH