Alumni Spotlight: Maria Berry


Maria is currently a sophomore at Michigan State University. She is majoring in microbiology and minoring in both the history, philosophy, and sociology of science, and in educational studies.

Why did you choose this program?

The Loop Abroad trip to Thailand was first brought to my attention during a meeting for my university's pre-veterinary medicine club. I was initially impressed because of the relatively low cost of the program, considering how much hands-on experience was included in the trip. I also wanted to go to experience the country's culture - I had been thinking of visiting Thailand far prior to learning about the trip and was excited to experience the country's culture. Finally, I knew this veterinary and cultural experience would be a fantastic addition to my applications to veterinary or graduate school in the future.

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

Loop Abroad was incredibly thorough in helping us through the application and trip preparation processes. This was especially true due to the fact that I signed up in a private group created by a fellow pre-vet club member who had gone on the trip the year prior. The main things we had to do were filled out a form (for safety/medical information, passport information, and other necessary paperwork), pay, and pack; Loop Abroad helped a great deal with the trip's financial aid and other logistics.

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

Even if this is your first time studying abroad, or your first time ever being out of the country, it's okay - you will be safe and enjoy yourself.

Loop Abroad is wonderful at answering questions - you just have to ask. As for the trip itself: make sure to bring more clothes than you think you need, especially for the time you spend at Elephant Nature Park. Since it's very hot and humid, you'll want to change clothes much more than you would at home, and you want enough clothes to last you through the whole week (and longer). Additionally, conditions at Elephant Nature Park are more "outdoorsy" (i.e. you will sleep in cabins without air conditioning and be working outside all day), so bring clothes for that week that you aren't afraid to get dirty.

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

This is dependent on the week. During one of the weeks, participants are staying at Elephant Nature Park outside of Chiang Mai. During the day, you and those in your Loop group will be doing various veterinary activities with the elephants, dogs, cats, and horses in the park. These include a diet study, a fecal/urine analysis, time spent at the park's cat and dog clinics, and rounds alongside an elephant veterinary professional. Meals will be eaten with the other Loop participants and those staying at the park. There will also be an activity every night, most relating to local Thai culture.

During the other week, participants will be staying at a hotel in Chiang Mai. During the day every day, participants will learn about veterinary medicine at a rescue clinic, and in the afternoon/evening, participants will do an activity (related to Thai culture) in Chiang Mai.

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

I was nervous to be abroad alone, as this trip was my first experience leaving North America. I was mainly nervous that I would be unable to communicate with my parents and other loved ones if something bad were to happen. Thankfully, I was able to contact my parents every day of the trip. I didn't need a SIM card, like many places we went to had WiFi access.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Another question I had prior to this trip was whether any prior animal science knowledge was needed to fully participate in the trip's activities. My (relatively short) microbiology experience has not given me prior animal science knowledge, and I worried I would be unable to completely understand what we learned in the clinics and at ENP. However, this concern was for nothing - the veterinarians who traveled with us did a great job of filling us in and explaining what was going on (and why).