Costa Rica Shelter Medicine and Dolphin Research - Loop Abroad

Costa Rica Shelter Medicine and Dolphin Research


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

Maximize your two weeks in Costa Rica by combining small animal medicine and marine research  – you can build your professional resume while exploring the country of Costa Rica from the jungle to the city to the coast.

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 learning doing boat-based and lab research of dolphin health and behavior. Your program will also include fun exploration and culture activities, including ziplining and touring beautiful natural sites.

Who It’s For

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. 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. You must be able to swim (no special advanced swimming skills are required.) This program can accommodate a maximum of 10 participants per session.

Highlights

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

Dates open for applications

Summer 2022

June 25 – July 10, 2022

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).

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*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 Veterinary Medicine programs. Combine two programs for an automatic $100 discount on each tuition.

Tuition

Tuition is $3,950, not including international 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:

Veterinary Hours: 40

Research Hours: 40

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

You will get to know your vet during the program, and they will get to know you! If you participate to the best of your ability, you will be well-positioned to ask for a recommendation letter at the end of the 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.

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Itinerary

In this two-week program, you’ll work and learn alongside veterinarians at a dog sanctuary and with researchers at a dolphin 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 our staff vet to care for dogs at a dog sanctuary in a rural forest area 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 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
  • Waterfall trip

Students are in the examination room in small groups, assisting with procedures and surgeries and learning hands-on from the vet. Each day will have a lecture-style portion at the clinic 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 and shark dissections to 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. All dogs at the project have been vaccinated against rabies.

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.

COVID Protocols


We will use a “Travel Pod” model – all students and staff in a single project group (maximum of 10 students) will provide a negative COVID test before travel. From that time, the group will wear face masks when in contact with anyone outside the group, which will allow them to be together as a group without face masks in classroom and shared living spaces. 

Whenever possible we will use transportation, living spaces, and clinic space that is restricted only to our students and staff. By disinfecting classroom and living spaces throughout the day, using hand sanitizer, and wearing face masks, we can help everyone in the group to stay well.

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.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is October 5 at 11:59pm 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 to 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 October 5 will cover in-person programs or internships that start between December 1, 2021 and October 31, 2022. Virtual programs will be eligible through Summer 2022. This cycle encompasses Spring 2022, Summer 2022, Fall 2022, and Academic Year 2022-2023 programs.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Loop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one online program of your choice starting January 2022 or later. Applications are due November 30, 2021.

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:
In order to apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Submit the application to 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.

Announcement of Award: The scholarship winner will be notified by November 25th.

girl 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 in order 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.

Scholarship is non-transferable. If student cannot attend, 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:

The 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 receiving 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 open in January 2021. The deadline will be in March. At that time, you can apply for scholarships to use on any program starting between May 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022.

Freeman-Asia Scholarship:

The 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 of 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 2020-2021 school year are closed. 

The Fund for Education Abroad:

The Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial need who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate on 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 and can be applied for programs that run for at least 28 days.

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 Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 will open November 16, 2020 and be due by January 20, 2021. Students may review the scholarship and apply here.

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

InternationalStudent.com Travel Video Contest:

The 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, 2020. Apply here.

The Associate Home Loan Scholarship:

The Associate Home Loans Scholarship was created with today’s future leaders in mind. As college prices are constantly increasing this scholarship was created with the hope that it can help make a small difference in one college student’s life each year.

This scholarship is open to high school seniors who have been accepted into a college or university, and current college and university students who attend at least part-time.

Students can apply for the scholarship by submitting a 500-word essay to the question, “What is your dream career?” The student with the winning essay will be awarded $1,000.

Get more details about this program…

"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

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