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International Programs Student Trip Reports
In keeping with Texas A&M’s Vision 2020 objective of graduating students with a global perspective based on global experiences, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences provides a limited number of travel stipends to students to help them gain international work/study experiences. The following travel reports give an overview of what our students learned while living, working, and studying abroad.
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Australia - Amy Balzen

Australia - Amy Balzen

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

I guess you can say I officially caught the "travel bug" back in 2009 when I studied abroad in Italy. I had no idea at the time that most of my education during that summer had more to do with the people I would meet than the courses that I was taking. From that summer on I have been formulating a list in my head of all of the places in the world that I want to see; it's pretty much an endless list! When I realized that the fourth year of vet school gives you the opportunity to spend a few weeks away studying almost anywhere you choose, I leapt at the opportunity to cross a far away destination off of my list. I found out Michelle, a friend and classmate of mine, was looking into studying at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, and I quickly jumped on board.

A typical day at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital starts with triaging and treating any animals that came in overnight. Many of these animals would stay in the hospital for a couple of days to monitor their progress with treatment before being sent home with a caregiver that could properly treat the animals and help prepare them for release. There were animals that also spent much more time at the hospital with more lengthy treatment protocols. Among those were 40 koalas who were working their way from smaller treatment enclosures to larger enclosures that would get them ready to head back out into the wild. It was incredible what some of these animals could recover from with the proper treatment and lots of tender loving care from the amazing staff. The veterinarians, veterinary nurses, volunteers, and administrative staff at the hospital were some of the most dedicated and caring people that I have ever met. They were wonderful to work with and did a great job of teaching and helping us to relate the cases we were seeing to things that we would be more likely to see back home.

The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital was such an amazing opportunity to get hands on experience with the Australian wildlife. While some of the animals are very different from what we see here in the US, there are actually many similarities. Although I won't probably be seeing many kangaroos and koalas in my career, I do know that I'll be seeing birds and reptiles, and I was able to learn a lot from the veterinarians about these species. The animals and medicine may vary slightly from place to place, but I have learned that there are some universal truths to veterinary medicine; passion for bettering the lives of animals, compassion for all creatures and a deep desire to help in any way possible seem to always be at the core of veterinarians around the world.

Amy_koalaMany of the animals seen at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital are victims of car accidents or attacks by domestic animals. The flying fox, a very common patient at the hospital, is often caught in barbed wire or improper fruit netting. There is a display in the lobby of fishing hooks, fishing line, and trash that have been swallowed by sea birds and sea turtles and resulted in a trip to the hospital. These reasons for being admitted to the hospital have a common thread; all are a result of the expansion of people into animal habitats and a disregard for the effect on the local wildlife. Again, this is not happening only in Australia but right here in the US too. As members of the veterinary medicine community, I think it is our responsibility to help educate the public about these issues and what we can do to help at home and abroad.

In between work we were able to squeeze in some trips to the Australia Zoo that included feeding elephants, catching a show with birds and crocodiles, and getting up close and personal with several kangaroos. We also took a trip to a giant local market with vendors of all types. We went on a short hike to a beautiful waterfall and took a SCUBA diving trip. Throughout all of our traveling I was amazed at the kindness of the people. Most everyone could quickly pick up on the fact that we were American, but they were surprised to learn that we were from Texas because we weren't wearing boots and a cowboy hat!

I can say with complete certainty that I am not done traveling; I think learning about other cultures is such an important and eye-opening experience. I have found that when I set out to learn about medicine or other academic subjects in a different country, I end up learning so much more. I think the most valuable lessons I have learned in my travels come from people and not from books, and it has been a wonderful way to learn things about myself as well. I am so thankful to my family and friends for always encouraging me to stretch my boundaries. I am extremely appreciative of the contribution from TAMU International Programs that has helped me and many others to realize what could be considered an impossible dream.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. - Walt Disney



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