Animals Abroad: Findlay Students Learn Career and Cultural Skills
This is the third in a series of stories exploring various University of Findlay colleges and programs for the work they do to provide their students with global learning experiences.
In Findlay’s Animal Science Program, it is well known that students begin working hands-on with animals in the first semester of their freshman year. What many people don’t know is that in addition to large and small domestic animals, our students have the opportunity to gain exposure to exotic animals through various study abroad opportunities. Although some students intern at the same location, this is no cookie-cutter study abroad experience. These students are placed in a position to learn about what they are most passionate about and study material relevant to their future profession on an international scale. Below you’ll find two unique and engaging study abroad experiences available to animal science students.
Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand
While spring semester was winding down, several animal science students geared up to begin their study abroad experiences. Working through Loop Abroad, an organization that provides hands-on experience for pre-veterinary students, students spent two and a half weeks working with elephants and small animals, confirming that this type of work is what they want to pursue in their career.
During the placement, students worked with elephants feeding them, giving them vitamins, cleaning wounds, observing them through a diet study, and taking urine samples. They also worked with small animals drawing blood, giving vaccines, performing physical exams, assisting in spays and neuters, and checking vitals. Additionally, they attended lectures about small animal veterinary medicine, practiced diagnostic procedures, assisted in small animal surgeries, and went on morning rounds with a Thai elephant veterinarian. Findlay prepared these students to execute these hands-on tasks at the Dr. C. Richard Beckett Animal Science Building where, in addition to learning the basics of how to handle and restrain animals, procedures such as blood draws, vaccinations, and various treatments are taught and practiced.
While several students participated in this trip, they each gained something different from it. Animal science with a pre-veterinary emphasis major Mackenna Eldredge is an expert at international travels, having traveled to England, Peru, and the Dominican Republic in addition to this trip. While interested in the exotic animal field, she wasn’t sure if it was the right path for her, but said this trip offered her certainty that this is what she wants to pursue.
The defining moment of her experience was performing a diet study on her elephant, Stinuan. She spent all day in 90-degree weather simply observing Stinuan’s behavior. “I was surrounded by nature, it was quiet and very peaceful,” said Eldredge. “It gave me time to reflect on all the reasons why I chose this profession and how blessed I was to be there in that moment and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.”
Inspired by her mother who taught her the importance of traveling, Eldredge prided herself on trying new things and keeping an open mind throughout the trip. After this trip, she said she is motivated to travel even more because she will never be satisfied with only understanding her culture. A driving factor is her love of learning about others, where they come from, and what causes them to be who they are. One of the greatest things she learned from this trip was to not be afraid to take a risk. “I took a risk by going on this trip in multiple ways – going halfway across the world not knowing a single soul on the trip and trusting that God was going to guide me the whole way,” she said. “In my future career as a vet, I will have to take risks and make last-minute decisions while I am practicing and now I know I will have no problem doing so.”
On the other hand, animal science with a pre-veterinary emphasis major Emily Kent had never studied abroad before and rather than focus on culture, she wanted to enhance her veterinarian skills. Through her time, she kept her specific career goals in mind: familiarize herself with zoo animal medicine, become more comfortable and confident performing veterinary tasks, and learn the role of veterinary medicine on a global scale.
Throughout her trip, she used the cultural knowledge she gained to widen her understanding of the veterinarian profession. The most surprising difference in culture she found was that while veterinarians will give animals treatment and medications to ease their pain, they believe that an animal should pass peacefully on its own, and euthanasia is not an option. “I learned from this experience that it is important to respect everyone’s opinions and the way they go about handling situations,” she said. “It may not be the way you would have done it, but you can learn from that and respect that, either way, you have the same goal in mind of bettering the lives of animals.”
Kent is planning on attending the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall of 2019 with the aim of becoming an exotic/zoo veterinarian. She says that this experience may be what set her apart in her veterinary school applications. “Not only did you get to learn about a new culture and be immersed in that, you also got to learn about your interests in other areas of the world and I would say that’s a huge benefit,” she explained. “Understanding the veterinary profession on a global scale is not something everyone can claim.”
Rakuno Gakuen School of Veterinary Medicine, Japan
As one of four schools in America privileged to partner with Rakuno Gakuen University, our students are able to participate in a 3-week study abroad program to their campus in Hokkaido, Japan. According to the school’s website, the university was established in 1960 with the Department of Dairy Science. With the concept of “tri-love” rooted in Christianity as the pillar of education, the school has since strived to nurture individuals who have a rich sense of humanity and academic expertise. Today, the university consists of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Sciences (three departments), the School of Veterinary Medicine (two departments) and two graduate schools (six doctoral and master’s courses), and is engaged in the highest level of education and research.
This unique opportunity is what led senior animal science with a pre-veterinary emphasis major Hannah Sueper to the University of Findlay. “Since my freshman year, I knew it was something I had to experience while I was a student here,” she explained. “This trip allowed me to gain veterinary experience in a different cultural context, immerse myself in a new culture, meet new people in the veterinary field, and learn about Japanese college life.” Selected for the trip in December, Sueper spent the semester preparing for this adventure. With the school located in the region of Hokkaido, she was able to make excursions to Ebetsu, Sapporo, and Tokyo. The trio was a mix of veterinary experiences and cultural immersion. Sueper had hands-on experience working with small and large wild animals in the teaching hospitals, stayed with local families to experience home life in Japan, and attended cultural events such as seeing over 500 dolphins in the Sea of Japan near Shakotan, a dance festival, and a tea ceremony.
Over the course of the three weeks, Sueper learned to appreciate the differences between Asian countries and America, from the food to the religion and language, and was able to experience a completely different culture. The differences made the experiences richer because of an underlying commonality, their shared love of veterinary sciences. “My time abroad taught me how to work with people from a different culture with a completely different language, but we were connected by the same passion for animals,” she said. “This experience will always stick with me as I encounter different types of coworkers, clients, and peers in my future career.”
Being an animal science student at Findlay is a unique opportunity that provides students with real hands-on experience with seasoned veterinarians, exposure to veterinarian schools, networking opportunities with potential employers, and chances to apply their knowledge beyond the boundaries of our campus. The breadth of classes offered creates diverse experiences where students can focus on their passion while earning a degree. Upon graduation, students can choose to continue their education, either with vet school or a master’s program, or find a job working directly or indirectly with animals. Pursuing this degree gives students the opportunity to not only benefit animals, but also improve human and environmental health. To learn more about the Animal Science Program at Findlay, please visit www.findlay.edu/animalscience .