I always found it so funny to tell people I found Loop Abroad's program as I was scrolling through Facebook. After clicking on the link and investigating further (and pushing for my parents to please say yes), I submitted an application, got accepted, and anxiously awaited for July to come. I had no idea this program would make such an impact on me. I was enrolled in the Loop Abroad high school veterinary service program, group 2. For two weeks I was with a group of 10-15 people. In the first week, my group spent time at the Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park which was founded by Lek Chailert, who has devoted her entire life to caring for all animals. The Elephant Nature Park is said to be one of the most respected elephant conservation efforts in the world. The sanctuary has been recognized by everyone from the United Nations to the United States congress for their work protecting Asian elephants. While there, my group and I were able to assist directly with the Asian elephants reserved there. We learned stories about each of the elephants; their past, what they went through, and how they got to the elephant nature park. Under supervision, we were able to wash the elephants, learn how to feed them, administer "medicine balls", exudating out purulent wounds from the elephants accidentally stepping on landmines, and learning how to harvest the food for them. I was able to go right up to the elephants and hug, kiss, or pet them. Not a lot of words can really describe what it's like when you make eye contact with an elephant, but it does change you. For the rest of our time there, we were able to walk around the reserve, eat our delicious Thai meals provided to us, shop at the street markets, and enjoy the incredible view of the park. There were so many other fun activities we were able to do while staying there, and I was able to create friendships that will last for a long time. Nothing else amazing or aesthetically refreshing can describe what it's like when you get to eat fresh pineapple and deviled eggs on a balcony, and you see the elephants peacefully strolling along the countryside. I will never forget that feeling.
The second week, my group traveled to an animal shelter called the Animal Ark Kingdom, a.k.a "ARK". There, we learned about the basic procedures of caring for animals and veterinary care. We learned how to perform physical exams, blood draws, administering medications, wound care, and surgery. There, I got hands on experience under direct veterinary supervision. I was able to learn the steps into performing neuters and castrations, and was also able to directly assist in these spays and neuters. The experience of ARK helped me begin learning my veterinary skills, and soon I was able to utilize those skills at the Vet Tech Institute as a skilled veterinary technician student. In between, we were able to take little side trips. We were all able to visit the Doi Suthep temple, eat at different restaurants, getting to cuddle and pet tiger cubs and adult Bengal tigers at Tiger Kingdom, and exploring the Chiang Dao Caves on a lantern tour.
Because of this amazing trip, I have been able to impress and inspire others around me. My community's newspaper interviewed me and posted an article in the newspaper, do a presentation about the trip in a college class, and I've been able to use this trip on my resume for jobs and for my vet tech externships; all that I've been able to successfully earn. If I am to pursue a career in zoo/wildlife medicine, I know this experience will make me standout amongst any other potential candidates. I was able to help animals from all walks of life, and the feeling of being able to give to others is a very rewarding feeling. Traveling abroad is a one in a lifetime experience, and I highly encourage everyone to try taking that opportunity.