You spent your winter break a little differently than most college students. Mind telling us a little about that?
Yes, I went to Thailand to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park (ENP).
My friend Iris Lee (a 5th semester student at Ross Vet) and I decided to book the final two weeks of our winter break at ENP. So we spent five days in Phuket to do some diving in Racha Noi and the Phi Phi Islands, as well as explore the main island, and then we spent the rest of our trip at ENP.
That had to be an incredible experience.
It was absolutely amazing!
I had worked at The Toledo Zoo for 3 years, and while I have been quite close to an elephant there, as well as on my volunteer trips to Africa, this was an entirely different experience. To be up close and personal with them everyday just takes your breath away.
So what all did you get to do while at ENP?
It was pretty routine every day, since most of the elephants in their care have one problem or another from the industries they were rescued from (logging, street begging, trekking, etc).
We would start the day by doing morning rounds with about 25 elephants, giving a variety of supplements in either sticky rice, pellets or bread balls. Following that, we had two elephants with foot wounds from land mines that needed treatment. One elephant, Thai Koon, had a pretty bad injury that still needed a lot of attention after 6 years of healing, and we were heavily involved with her. Treatment would involve a foot soak for 30 minutes, followed by a scrub, rinse with antibiotics, and in the morning we would wrap the foot to protect it from the elements.
Aside from helping with the elephants, we also helped out with the horses on the property in the afternoons; brushing them, picking their hoofs, and applying hoof oil.
Wow. Any favorite parts?
So many! Just seeing the differences in the elephants as the days went on was fantastic. We quickly learned to tell the different adults and babies apart by the way they were playing and interacting in their family, or by little physical details
You were able to work with baby elephants, too?
Yeah! They were so smart!
We’d be getting ready to treat Sri Prae, the other elephant we treated for a land-mine wound, and the babies in the nearby family would run to us and steal our bananas. They may be adorable, but they are strong and speedy!
What inspired you to seek out a volunteer opportunity internationally over winter break?
Coming to Ross Vet, I knew I wanted to take as many externship opportunities as I could. That’s exactly what I’ve done. I have been lucky enough to go on amazing externships to Belize, Guatemala, Las Vegas, South Africa, and now Thailand. It has all been so amazing!
That’s great! And I assume you’ve learned plenty through your tips, huh?
Definitely! While learning in a classroom is fundamental, I believe, as students, we really learn the most from worldly experiences and really getting out into the field, whether that be in a small-animal clinic or in the jungle!
Those classroom skills still come in handy, though, right?
What I learn at Ross Vet always comes full circle with these externships, whether it's a refresher in pharmacology, getting ahead in surgery, wound care, etc. Plus, I always come back to the island with more confidence in myself and my career path than before.
So where do you see your career taking you – the clinic or the jungle?
Maybe both! I will graduate August 2020, and when I first get out into the real world I would love to get into a small-animal practice that sees exotics and has a lot of mentorship opportunities. My main goal, though, is to one day work in a zoo or with wildlife.