Texas A&M University
Veterinary Science and Wildlife Conservation in Thailand


Live with rescued elephants, explore coral reefs, relax on the beach, and learn about tropical conservation

Message us on Facebook about this program!

This is custom program is based on our Signature Experience, which was GoAbroad’s Top Rated Study Abroad Program of 2018!

This 4-week program is an adventure to explore and learn about the most beautiful and amazing landscapes of Thailand from the rain forests in the North to the coral reefs in the South. We put you alongside veterinarians to learn about caring for elephants and companion animals. You’ll also learn from scientists conserving coral reefs and replanting forests. Spend a week living at an elephant sanctuary and another week learning to SCUBA dive on a beautiful island! Evenings and weekends are filled with fun activities such as zip-lining and exploring street markets.

Who It’s For

This program is available only to Texas A&M University students. Participants must be at least 18 years old. There are no pre-requisites for this program. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty.

All participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and agree to follow all COVID travel protocols, including wearing a mask when outside your “travel pod” (your immediate group).

Highlights

• Study and care for rescued elephants
• Assist in dog neuter surgeries
• Discover what it’s like to be a vet in the tropics
• Get SCUBA certified and learn conservation diving
Visit an elephant sanctuary
• Learn to identify marine invertebrates, tropical fish, and understand reef health
• Stay overnight in forest villages to understand their livelihoods and culture
• Zipline through the jungle

Some of the topics explored during this program are:

• Coral reef ecology and reef organisms from invertebrates to fish, reptiles, and mammals
• History and conservation of Asian Elephants
• Sea turtles and blacktip reef sharks
• How local communities traditionally use forests and reefs
• Preserving ecosystems while helping local people
• Tropical forest ecology
• Deforestation and accelerated forest recovery
• Climate change and its effects on all ecosystems

Dates open for applications

Summer 2022

May 28 – Jun 27, 2022

The dates above include the dates of travel of the group flight from and to New York City. All participants must arrive in Thailand on May 29, 2022 and will depart Thailand on June 26, 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).

 apply now

*Dates indicate departure from and return to New York. 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.

Tuition

Tuition is $7,900 $5900 – Special discount for Texas A&M students only!

Tuition  does not cover international airfare. It does cover all housing, meals, program fees, activities, equipment, and transportation (including your flight and boat travel in Thailand).

Your tuition includes donations to the ARK Dog Shelter and the Elephant Nature Park to help fund medicine, food, and care for their animals. It also supports the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program’s on-going research.

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 $1000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

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! See the official website for the latest details and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship.

Tuition does not include international airfare. All participants are suggested to fly on the group flight which departs from New York City. Students choosing not to fly on the group flight may pay a Loop Abroad fee up to $125 each direction depending on their arrival time – contact [email protected] for details.

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 the following hours:

Veterinary Hours60
Animal Experience Hours20
Research Hours20
Service Hours100

Students can calculate their own record of hours for their VMCAS or other applications. SCUBA certifications are offered through Scuba Schools International (SSI).

The AVMA says, “If you have the opportunity to work… for veterinarians who work with different species, that’s a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee.” We’re proud to offer you that opportunity!

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.

Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

TAMU students will earn 7 credits that apply to their biomedical sciences (BIMS) degree plan as BIMS-directed electives, and participating students will be eligible to enroll in an optional 1-credit course.

  • ANSC 448: Tropical Conservation will transfer as 2 credits of 200-level BIMS-directed elective
  • ANSC 450: Tropical Shelter Medicine will transfer as 3 credits of 200-level BIMS-directed elective
  • ANSC 444: Veterinary Clinical Skills will transfer as 2 credits of 400-level BIMS-directed elective
  • (Optional) Students can take a writing-intensive course with Dr. Michelle Yeoman for 1 credit, which satisfies 1/2 of their writing-intensive course requirement.

SCUBA Experiences for all levels

For many students, this will their first time SCUBA diving – and there’s no better place for it!

We accept students of all levels – from zero experience to Advanced Open Water or higher certifications. Each morning, we’ll break into small groups based on experience level for the day so everyone can learn at their own pace. We’ll regroup at dinner.

If you don’t have any SCUBA certification, you’ll have the opportunity to complete your Open Water Diver certification over the first three days. Each day, you’ll study and practice skills with your dive instructor in a small group. After your certification, you’ll join an ecological monitoring and coral restoration dive with New Heavens’ experienced Research and Conservation team.

If you are an Open Water SCUBA diver already, you’ll spend the first two or three days to complete your Advanced Open Water Diver certification in a small group with your dive instructor. After your certification, you’ll join ecological monitoring and coral restoration dives with New Heavens’ experienced Research and Conservation team.

If you’re already an Advanced Open Water SCUBA diver or have a higher certification, you will need to prove your skills on a refresher dive then you’ll jump right in with the experienced Conservation and Research divers! From day one, you’ll learn and practice advanced skills related to marine species identification, coral health monitoring, artificial reef construction and maintenance, and/or other skills. Just like students doing the SCUBA certifications, you may need to attend small group lectures and training to prepare for each day’s conservation dive.

As long as the weather and visibility are good, all students can expect to enjoy 5-6 SCUBA dives.

How to Apply

We suggest that applicants apply before March 1 if possible. This program is rolling admissions – your space is not held until your deposit is paid, and once all spots are filled, the program will close for applications.

To apply, go to “Apply Now!” (at the top or bottom of this page) and under “What kind of program are you applying for?” select “Private Group”. On the next page, the group you will select is “TAMU Veterinary Science and Wildlife Conservation in Thailand (May 28 – June 27, 2022)”.

Want to travel with us longer?

This program can combine with the following programs:

Apply Now

Locations

New Heaven Reef Conservation Program on Turtle Island

Much more than just a diving school, New Heaven has more than 20 years of experience showing and preserving the island reefs and occasionally hosting sea turtles in their small nursery.

find out more

Thailand

From papaya salad to coconut curry, from elephants to gibbons, from bamboo huts to bustling cafes, Thailand is a whole new world to explore.

find out more

Chiang Mai City

Chiang Mai is a city of surprises and contradictions. Once the center of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, the old city walls and brick Buddhist stupas remind passers-by of the city's 700 year history.

find out more

Elephant Nature Park (ENP)

Home to over eighty elephants who are no longer able to work in elephant-based industries or have been rescued from inhumane conditions in logging, trekking, or circus operations. The Park and its founder, Lek Chailert, have been recognized time and again for tireless efforts to improve the lives of elephants in SE Asia.

find out more

Dog Rescue Clinic

The Clinic provides free care and sterilizations to village dogs and cats and overflow housing for dogs at the nearby rescue, the Animal Rescue Kingdom. All made possible by the hard work of local veterinarians and visiting veterinarians and students!

find out more

Itinerary

Note: This program is made up of 4 one-week modules that may be offered in any order. This is a sample itinerary and is subject to change based on weather, tides, visibility, animals and ecosystems in need, and local COVID-19 restrictions.

Elephant Nature Park Week

The other week is spent living and volunteering with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in a specially-tailored volunteer program. Students work with the elephants, prepare their food, clean their homes, and provide overall care for them. They will also help with sanctuary upkeep and have the chance to participate in cultural activities.

In addition, your vet will help you learn about elephant anatomy and physiology, body condition scores, and behavior.

A Loop Abroad group from 2018 with Lek Chailert, founder of the Elephant Nature Park.

There will be a chance while at the Elephant Nature Park to learn from the elephant vet on staff, help provide medical care to animals in need, learn to test for various medical conditions in large mammals, and possibly observe surgical procedures in the on-site dog clinic. Students may also have opportunities to shadow the elephant trainer, participate in a diet study, prepare medications, or any number of other things going on at the park.

Students also generally have the chance to meet world-renowned conservationist and ENP founder Lek Chailert, and they get to learn a bit of Thai and get to know some of the elephants on the property one-on-one.

You’ll notice that elephant riding is not included in this itinerary. Learn about why we don’t ride elephants.

Dog Rescue Clinic Week

During this week, students work with our veterinarian to care for dogs at the Dog Rescue Clinic outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Students take part in a range of fun and cultural activities as well as learning and practicing clinical skills, including:

  • Chiang Mai city tour
  • Visit local street markets
  • Learn some Thai language
  • Learn meditation with a Buddhist Monk
  • Thai cooking class
  • Visit Doi Suthep temple
  • 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 and feline neuter surgeries, anesthesia monitoring, and recovery
  • Identifying tropical diseases

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 two surgery days at the end of the week.

Conserving Jungles and Forest Wildlife Week
Loop Abroad Student in Mountains of Thailand

Chiang Mai is the perfect base from which to explore rain forests, mountains, cloud forests, and the beautiful culture of Thailand.

Visit Doi Inthanon National Park to appreciate its beautiful cloud forests with temples that rise above the cloud line and wonderful waterfalls at the top of the world.

Spend a day ziplining through the rain forest and learn how ecotourism projects contribute to conservation efforts. Spend 2-3 days in a hilltribe village learning from people who depend on the forest for food, medicine, and shelter.

The Island Diving Week
We will travel by a combination of plane, bus, and ferry to Koh to the island of Koh Tao (“Turtle Island”) in the Gulf of Thailand. There may be an overnight stop on our way.

Koh Tao runs on ‘island time’. Being surrounded by palm trees, coconuts, and the sound of the waves just makes people slow down a bit. Here’s the rough plan for each day, but plan to be flexible:

8am: Breakfast
9am: Arrive to New Heaven and prepare equipment
9:15am: Morning class and/or SCUBA
11:30am: Lunch
12pm: SCUBA
4pm: Relax on the beach
5pm: Class or project briefing for next day
7pm: Dinner
8pm: Evening games or free time

Monday: Orientation to the island and New Heaven Reef Conservation Program’s mission of conservation and research
SCUBA Day 1

Tuesday: SCUBA Day 2

Wednesday: SCUBA Day 3
Evening: Marine Ecology 101 and Monitoring Techniques

Thursday: Reef invertebrates and indicator species lecture
Conservation Lecture and Dive
Evening lesson: Shark and Turtle Ecology and Monitoring

Friday: Conservation Lecture and Dive

Saturday: Say goodbye to your island home!

Sunday: International departure day! Relax and pack, lunch, shopping time in the afternoon and airport international flight home.

Groups will return to the US on final program date plus or minus one day depending on time of departure.

Reading List

Learn more about Thai culture, conservation, elephants, or veterinary medicine

None of these books are required reading. You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists at the links below.*

Chasing The Dragon's TailChasing the Dragon’s Tail: The Struggle to Save Thailand’s Wild Cats, by Alan Rabinowitz. Alan Rabinowitz is one of the leading authors on protecting large cats in the wild. He is the director of the Science and Exploration Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and has led research expeditions all over the world. He is known for founding the world’s first jaguar reserve, which lies in Belize. This book is a sad and beautiful tale of the author’s struggle to understand Thailand and to help save the wild cat population of Thailand.

A Chant to Soothe Wild ElephantsA Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants, by Jaed Coffin. Jaed Coffin lives in Maine, and was raised in the United States as a Thai American. When he was twenty-one-years-old, he left college life in New England to be ordained as a Buddhist Monk in his mother’s native village of Panomsarakram, Thailand. This book is the story of his time in Thailand, and explores themes of displacement, ethnic identity, and cultural belonging. (NOTE: this book isn’t about elephants.)

When Elephants WeepWhen Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy. This New York Times Bestseller was heralded as “A masterpiece, the most comprehensive and compelling argument for animal sensibility…”. Elephants are the national animal of Thailand, and are an important symbol in religion and culture there. They are also intelligent, social animals who are on the brink of extinction in Asia and Africa. This text is a great exploration of the emotional lives of elephants and an eye-opening tale for students of conservation and the behavior of animals, human or otherwise.

Elephant MemoriesElephant Memories, by Cynthia Moss. Cynthia Moss is founder and director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Africa. As a study of a family of African Elephants in Kenya over twenty-seven years, this book is a moving and important book. “One is soon swept away by this ‘Babar’ for adults. By the end, one wants to curse human civilization and cry out, ‘Now God stand up for the elephants!’”, wrote Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times.

Tales of an African vetTales of an African Vet, by Dr. Roy Aronson Booklist says, “For a veterinarian, it’s one thing when one’s patients are cuddly pet cats, dogs, and the occasional hamster. It’s quite another when the cats turn out to be cheetahs, the dogs are part wolf, and the hamster? Well, that could be anything from a gorilla to an elephant, a puff adder to a crocodile. Through equal parts luck, timing, and desire, Aronson augmented his 25-plus-year career as a small animal veterinarian in South Africa with house calls to treat some of the world’s largest and most dangerous creatures. Except that in Aronson’s case, the “house” was anywhere from a rhino’s cage at the renowned Pretoria Zoo to a lion’s pride in the densest African bush. The case histories of the animals treated in these treacherous locations provide an exhilarating glimpse into the lives of numerous valuable and endangered species. As intrepid as Indiana Jones and as compassionate as Dr. Doolittle, Aronson shares harrowing, and sometimes humorous, adventures in an engrossing memoir about an unexpected career.”

The Elephant WhispererThe Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild, by Lawrence Anthony Publisher’s Weekly says, “In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Anthony (Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo) purchased Thula Thula, “5,000 acres of pristine bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa,” transforming a rundown hunters’ camp (dating to the 19th century) into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism. In 1999, Anthony agreed to take in a herd of “troubled” wild elephants, the first seen in the area in more than a century. Winning their trust, becoming deeply attached, and even learning how they communicate (deep, rumbling “whispers,” sensed rather than heard), Anthony took enormous risks in the form of enraged elephants, distrustful neighbors, and poachers. Over time Anthony succeeds in his larger goal, winning support from the six Zulu tribes whose land borders the reserve (“most Zulus … had never set eyes on an elephant”); they eventually join Anthony’s venture as partners in a larger conservation trust. An inspiring, multifaceted account, Anthony’s book offers fascinating insights into the lives of wild elephants in the broader context of Zulu culture in post-Apartheid South Africa.”

Last Chain on BillieLast Chain on Billie: How one Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, by Carol Bradley ” Like the majority of captive elephants, Billie was captured as a calf, surfacing in the U.S. in 1966 as a four-year-old. After several years in a private zoo, she joined the circus, where she was trained to perform. Circuses are an extremely demanding environment for elephants, with constant travel from one town to another, multiple shows per week, and continuous noise. Although she learned difficult tricks and was a star, Billie rebelled and began to be known as a difficult elephant, gaining a reputation for attacking her trainers. Meanwhile, two former elephant trainers had grown disenchanted with circuses and the distorted lives that circus elephants lived, and they decided to found a sanctuary for former performing elephants in Tennessee. The story of how Billie got to the Elephant Sanctuary, and of how the sanctuary overcame the prejudices of both the circus and zoo communities, is both heartrending and uplifting. Full of details of the brutal life endured by performing elephants, of battles between Billie’s owner and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over her ultimate fate, and of Billie’s eventual adjustment to a life of freedom, Bradley’s newest has produced a well-researched winner.” – Booklist

*Links are affiliate links – thanks for helping to support Loop Abroad!

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:

Students of Loop Abroad veterinary scholarships recipient.

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 for 2023 are now open and are due December 1, 2022, for your choice of an online program in 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.

Announcement of Award: The scholarship winner will be notified by January 15th.

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 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 2022 and Fall 2022 will open on November 16, 2021, and be due by January 20, 2022. 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:

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 program gave me so many amazing experiences! I am so happy that I decided to go on this trip and experience vet wok and the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.”

Kayla D., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016

Willamette University