Alumni Spotlight: Cassandra Reyes


Cassandra Reyes is a senior pursuing her BA in Psychology at Indiana University South Bend. Her interests are in animal learning, behavior, and cognition.

Why did you choose this program?

This program appealed to me because I am interested in working with exotic animals. I understand that knowing the biological mechanisms of animals is integral to getting a better understanding of behavior and cognition. LOOP offered me a unique opportunity to see that side of exotics in a (mostly) wild setting.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

LOOP took care of just about everything! They provided me with flights, accommodations, food, and more. Of course, funding was up to me, but they did provide us with a lot of suggestions and options for that. They even have financial aid for those in need. Also new this year, LOOP worked with a university in Iowa to provide us with course credits that can be transferred for involvement for the program. Very nifty!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Try everything at least once. Don't be easily put off by the unfamiliar. Even if you don't end up liking it, you will have still experienced it. This can be true with food, experiences, and adventures. Also, don't worry too much about money. The experience is worth EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY. Give yourself some time to gather money, but also, don't miss out on this chance just because of it.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The program changes weekly. There are two weeks, the first for my group was at Elephant Nature Park (ENP). Here, we woke up in the morning and had breakfast. This would then be followed by a pre-planned activity. At lunch, we would have a couple hours break, and then we would have another pre-planned activity afterwards. After about 5 PM, we would have some optional events to attend. The second week at the clinic was somewhat similar, but you were much more involved and busy throughout the entire day.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was handling my Anxiety Disorder. I like things to run smoothly, and I have a relatively set schedule for what my average day looks like. I feel like this has helped me deal with it better. Obviously, going to Thailand with LOOP would completely take me out of my scheduled comfort zone. So, going in, I worried about how I might deal.

What I ended up finding out is that LOOP was so well-organized; I had very little, if anything, to worry about. I felt significantly less weighed down by my stress and anxiety while in Thailand compared to when I am at home. I've been home for two days, and I already want to go back.

What was the best part about your trip?

The best part of my trip was all of the people and organizations that LOOP has chosen to work with. Having to leave them behind was the hardest part for me. Each one of LOOP's staff members are incredible people. They make personal connections and care about us. The organizations that LOOP works with are so much more than what I knew about them on the surface. For example, ENP not only rescues elephants, but also helps to fund the community that surrounds it. They take in refugees and provide them with jobs, food, and home. They also help to fund a children's school within the village. And that's just a couple of things!