I would highly recommend this program. I am a pre-veterinary student, and it was wonderful to get all of the experience of preparing animals for surgery. We set catheters, intubated, did physical exams, gave vaccines and medications, shaved, administered anesthesia, and got to help clamp, cut, ligate, and suture during the surgeries with a vet's supervision. Every student usually got to assist with 1 or 2 surgeries per day. We worked in pairs and followed each patient through all of the steps: intake, surgery, and recovery. Lots of the animals were fearful and many had fleas/ticks and were underweight. The clinic days were about 8 hours long (8am - 4pm) and we set up clinics wherever we could (churches, schools, community centers, private property). It was much different from any veterinary experience I have had in the U.S. and I could really tell that we were making a difference, which was wonderful!
All of the staff was very helpful and I always felt comfortable and safe. We just always stayed in groups of three or more when we left the hotels, and didn't have any safety issues. We stayed in hotels for most of the time, and then stayed with home-stay families for a few days after crossing into Nicaragua. We only got a few warm showers on the trip, but since the weather was fairly warm and humid, I didn't mind! The main food items were black beans, rice, chicken, and plantains. Several people got sick in Nicaragua, but nobody got sick in Costa Rica. In addition to all the clinics, we did some fun stuff like playing on the beach, playing soccer, taking a dance class, and going ziplining. Spanish was helpful so that you could communicate with the home-stay families and people in the community, but all of the staff spoke English very well, so it was not necessary to know Spanish.
Overall it was an truly remarkable experience and I am looking forward to returning next year!