Special to the Patriot Bridge
This spring, Julia Turissini, 20, of Charlestown spent three months in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling on the selective Thailand Veterinary Semester Abroad hosted by study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Julia was part of a small team that learned alongside veterinarians from around the globe while volunteering with elephants, sea turtles and other marine life, zoo animals, and shelter dogs.
The Thailand Veterinary Semester Abroad program brings together undergraduate students from across the U.S. and Canada to move their studies to Thailand for a semester so that they can work in small groups with veterinarians who specialize in different fields. Students are based in Chiang Mai, Thailand but travel throughout the country to see different shelters and sanctuaries, learn from local vets and scientists, and volunteer with a variety of species in need.
While they learned about veterinary medicine, conservation, and Thailand, Julia and her team also helped by volunteering their time and skills. From hauling elephant food to monitoring anesthesia in dog surgeries, they helped to support and care for the animals of Thailand while improving their own skills so that they can help more animals in the future.
Some of Julia’s most interesting projects were volunteering at an elephant sanctuary and helping provide medical care for elephants, creating enrichment projects for zoo animals, and living on the island of Koh Tao for three weeks studying marine biology and helping to restore coral reefs and protect sea turtles. Julia and her team also participated in a spay and neuter clinic for dogs in the rural mountain villages of Northern Thailand.
Loop Abroad is the largest pre-veterinary study abroad program in the United States, hosting students in 9 countries on 6 continents throughout the year. Programs range from two weeks in summer to a full semester abroad, and college credit is available through the University of Findlay. Since 2009, Loop Abroad has specialized in pre-veterinary programs and helped students all over the world to pursue their dreams of a veterinary career. Interested participants can inquire or apply at www.LoopAbroad.com. Admissions to veterinary programs is selective and requires significant academic achievement.
By following a study abroad model instead of a voluntourism model, Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs around the globe, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.
The program’s Managing Director Jane Stine says, “Our students are really an amazing group of people. They are compassionate, flexible, driven, and dedicated, and it is always a wonderful experience to host them on their study abroad experience. I’m so proud of what they learn each year and the hard work that they do, and that this program allows us to provide important support to so many essential conservation programs around the world.”
Of her trip, Julia says, “My semester with Loop Abroad exceeded all expectations I had about the amount of veterinary experience I would gain. I was especially impressed by the diverse range of specialties we were exposed to such as small animal, equine, marine, exotics, and wildlife. A highlight for me was the opportunity to shadow elephant veterinarians through their day to day tasks at Elephant Nature park, where they treat a variety of traumas from the patients’ pasts in the tourist or logging industries. One of the many unique aspects that led me to choose this program was the SCUBA certification course. Now that I have completed this and gained my certification, I can say that observing marine life such as black tip sharks, green sea turtles, and coral reefs naturally in situ was a surreal and once in a lifetime moment. Most importantly this semester strengthened my passion for veterinary science and specifically supplemented my interest in small animal and wildlife medicine. In addition to all of the veterinary experiences, I had many opportunities to practice the Thai language and build up my spice tolerance through trying a variety of new foods while fully immersing myself in Thai culture. I highly recommend this trip to anyone looking to broaden their horizons and gain more veterinary experience.”
Julia is a Junior at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, majoring in Biology with a concentration in neuroscience.