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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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Europe - Chloe Matelski

HPIM4424Hannover, Germany

I wasted no time during my trip. After arriving in Hannover in the early hours of the day and getting about 4 hours of sleep, I started my first day shadowing the laboratory animal veterinarians at Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH). After short introductions, we were on the floor for daily checks and a tour. At MHH, they house many laboratory animal species including: rodents, rabbits, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, and occasionally larger farm animals. I was able to assist in individual exams of sick animals and aide in administering medications. It was interesting to see how similar they operated when compared to other lab animal facilities in the USA. That afternoon I observed (and later performed) sentinel rat necropsies and microbiology testing. The next day we repeated the morning routine, but the afternoon I was able to participate in a course the veterinarians hold for the medical students that are interested in research. The course provides information on lab animal handling and basic husbandry knowledge to help researchers feel more comfortable and make more animal-conscious study design decisions. Though the course was in German, they allowed me to help demonstrate some of the techniques and help students with handling the animals. My final day at MHH was spent in the pathology institute. I learned how to make histological slides: taking samples, creating paraffin molds, making slices, and staining.

I attended classes with my host 1 morning at Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule or TiHo. It was neat to see how the classes held there. One interesting custom is the students begin and end class by knocking on the desks.  Along with attending classes, I also joined the students in their practical year (equivalent to USA 4VMs) at the horse clinic and the cattle clinic. The faculty was very welcoming and nice - treating me just as 1 of their own students. This included quizzing me and doing the 'dirty work'! I was able to tube feed anorexic cows and scrub in to a displaced abomasum surgery! It was a great experience!

Exploring Hannover

In addition to veterinary-related activities, I also explored a great city. I followed The Red Thread - a 5K tour around the city center, highlighting the architecture and historical sites. My host and I also spent 1 day at the zoo.

Berlin, Germany

Europe Chloe Matelski 2My first day at the Free University of Berlin veterinary school was spent with Dr. Aleksander Zuraw, a pathology resident student, and Dr. Achim Gruber, managing director of the pathology institute. I started the morning off by attending their daily meeting to discuss the details of the students' cases for the day. After the meeting, I was given a tour of the pathology institute and talked with Dr. Zuraw about the residency program in Berlin. It was good to hear from a current resident student about the program because I am considering a pathology residency, and was interested to learn more about the details of the program. We finished the morning by viewing histological slides with Dr. Gruber. I have talked with many pathologists, but have never actually watched how they look at slides and make diagnoses on real cases. It was interesting to see what the common diseases were; for instance, there was a large volume of dogs with mammary cancer because in Germany, it is not common for dogs to be routinely spayed at a young age.  Dr. Gruber also had a cool way of writing reports - again, because I have not actually watched pathologists in the USA, I don't really know if this is common, or unique to Dr. Gruber - he would speak in to a blue tooth microphone that was set up to communicate with his secretary who would then type what he was saying in real-time, so by the time he had looked through the slide and made a diagnosis, it was already written in to a report and ready to be sent to the client or referring veterinarian!

After lunch, I spent the remainder of the day in the necropsy room. I watched as students performed necropsies and at the end of the day, everybody gathers at each animal to discuss the findings.  On my 2nd day in Berlin, I met with a student worker, Lisa, in the reproduction clinic. Lisa gave me a tour and explained the common things they see and the different services the clinic performs. Though the clinic is mainly farm animals, I found it interesting that they also deal with reproduction cases with dogs as well - for instance, artificial insemination for show dog breeding.

IVSA

The IVSA chapter of Berlin was very helpful to my trip. I contacted the president, Beryl, who asked the club if anyone would be willing to host me during my time in Berlin. One member, Caroline, volunteered and opened her flat up to me. She was very friendly and a great city guide! On my last evening in Berlin, I was able to attend an IVSA meeting! It was great to see another chapter discuss plans for the year and meet fellow IVSA members! As president of our Texas A&M chapter, I now have a close tie with Berlin and we hope to organize something between our chapters. I was also very impressed by their initiative - they only recently became an official chapter (in January) and have already organized and executed a successful exchange program with Bristol, UK! They had lots of advice for me on how to organize a similar program.

Sightseeing

One can't visit Berlin without doing some sightseeing! The history in Berlin is palpable. It was amazing to see the East Wall Gallery - a gallery where artists painted on the remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. It's hard to believe that bit of history occurred recently. After seeing so many ancient buildings from thousands of years ago in the rest of Europe, to see a structure that caused so much pain and separation of a country that was built and torn down in just the last few decades is unnerving.

Europe Chloe Matelski 3Leipzig, Germany

Leipzig was a city I was really looking forward to visiting - and it didn't disappoint! I met my host, Ute, last year when she came to Texas with the exchange program organized by Dr. Wasser.  We kept in touch, and when I told her I would be visiting Germany, she insisted that I stay with her! She was able to talk with some clinicians at the vet school, and Dr. Susanne Hofstetter agreed to allow me to spend a few days with her at the bird and reptile clinic! I am interested in exotic animals, but have limited veterinary experience with them, so this was a great opportunity! I spent my first day following veterinarians and students in the bird clinic. I learned how to properly restrain birds for exams and injections. I also learned about some of the common diseases seen there.  I participated in the release of a wild bird that the clinic was rehabilitations - that always makes for a rewarding experience! For a few hours, I sat with the students to evaluate bird radiographs and try to determine the lesions - that was a great way to review some of the subjects from my last semester!

The following day, I worked with the reptile veterinarian and resident student. I practiced sexing snakes as well as sitting in on client owned animal appointments. I don't know if I was expecting office visits to be very different, but I was surprised to see how similar they were! The topics the vet discussed with the owner and the approach to client communication was basically the same!

Basel, Switzerland

My stay here was brief, but I was still able to appreciate this multicultural city. I chose to stop here and meet with Dr. Wasser's group to tour Novartis Animal Health. As I have said, I have an interest in laboratory animal medicine - especially industry. I have worked for Novartis in the past and I was looking forward to comparing the Basel headquarters to the campus in Fort Worth, Texas. Security is high, as expected, so I do no have any photos of Novartis, but the time there was a great learning experience as well as networking! I met some very influential people and was able to talk one-on-one with them to discuss possible future opportunities! It was also great speaking with the Texas A&M students about their time in Germany and exchanging stories! During our trip to Novartis, we had a lecture on drug-approval processes and a tour of the facility. We also saw demonstrations of how different pills are made, why certain materials are chosen, and the different jobs/people it takes to manufacture our pet drugs that are on the market today.

Bern, Switzerland

City of Bern. I love this city. As it is my plan to move to Europe after graduation, I took this independent study trip not only to gain international veterinary experience, but also to search for a city I could see myself living - that's what Bern was to me. I loved the other cities I visited, but there was something about Bern that really captured my soul. It's a blend of beautiful scenery; multiply languages, great architecture, endless activities for all seasons, cultural museums and festivals, and right in the middle of Western Europe! The people were very warm and welcoming and I immediately felt at home.

Europe Chloe Matelski 4During my days in Bern, I visited many museums, walked around the scenic and hilly streets of old town, and enjoyed the many shops. I also sampled much of the local cuisine!

Institute of Animal Pathology. I arrived at the institute directly from the train station - bags in tow - and went directly to the necropsy floor. There I helped a student dissect and collect tissues from a cow. At the end of the day I listened to the students' presentations of their cases, this time in English! (The resident students made the students present in the English, against their will, just for me!) The following day I got my own cat. I was responsible for performing the necropsy AND presenting my findings to the entire group. I was nervous, especially because many of the questions from the residents were about topics I will learn in my 3rd year, but they were nice, even when I didn't know the answer. My final day in Bern was similar, only this time I had a rabbit.

All of the resident students and 5th year students were very helpful and made me feel as part of the group.

Gruyères. Because Switzerland is relatively small and the transportation system is very efficient, I was able to visit the village of Gruyères, home to Gruyères cheese and Château de Gruyères, one morning before necropsy. After a short 1 hour train ride, I arrived Gruyéres and started my steep trek to the Château. I toured the castle and took in the beautiful landscape. Later, I took the museum of cheese, which lucky for me, came with free samples! The museum took you through the making of gruyeres cheese; from the cows feed giving the milk unique flavor to the processing and aging. I was surrounded by young, elementary-aged kids, but I didn't care, I love cheese! I then headed back to Bern to an afternoon spent doing necropsy - now that's the life!

In Conclusion

This trip was one of the most memorable events in my life. I was able to meld my favorite things: traveling, culture, and veterinary medicine. I was able to make great friends, build strong network connections, explore great cities, and confirm my desire to live and work in Europe. I owe a huge thanks to Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences for considering me for the scholarship. Without the financial aide of the independent study abroad scholarship, I would not have been able to go to Germany or Switzerland. I also want to thank my mentors, Dr. Jeremy Wasser and Dr. John Edwards. They were so helpful in ideas for activities as well as having contacts at the univsersities and institutes that I could email to set up the various events.



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