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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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Obihiro, Japan - Kristen Hurn

Obihiro, Japan - Kristen Hurn On Wednesday June 27th at 8:30 in the morning after almost 24 hours of traveling, I touched down on a small dirt runway in Obihiro, Japan. Tired and in desperate need of a shower, I slowly made my way to the single baggage claim to pick up my belongings. After pulling my four heavy bags to the main entrance, two figures in the distance caught my eye. Kobayashi san and Matsumoto san stood smiling and carrying a hand made cardboard sign which read, "Welcome to Obihiro, Kris." After exchanging greetings and loading my heavy luggage into their small K car, they both smiled back at me and asked if I would like to eat some gelato. Before I knew it we were eating green tea and pumpkin gelato outside next to a dairy farm at 9:30 in the morning. The day proceeded much like most days proceed in Japan; unexpectedly and full of surprises. Instead of a hot shower and a nap, I went with Masui sensei and Haneda sensei to a draft horse farm to check their mares for early pregnancy. In the afternoon, I went to the dairy barn and started to work on rectally palpating their dairy cows for signs of estrus. In the evening, I was shown to my desk in the reproduction laboratory where I would be working for the next 7 weeks. I suppose you could say that my first day in Japan was very eventful.

Kristen HurnAs the days passed by, I slowly found myself in a routine. I would wake every morning at 6:30 am, except Sunday, and practice palpating dairy cattle for early signs of estrus. This was challenging for me at first because I had never palpated a cow before and didn't know what I was feeling. After several failed attempts to find the ovaries, I finally was able to feel them. During my last week, I could feel them, tell how large the corpus luteum and follicle were, and use the rectal ultrasound to verify my findings. For me, this was a major accomplishment. In the afternoons, I would attend lecture classes with the 3rd or 4th year students. My favorite class was pathology. In Japan, the students get to perform all of the necropsies and the professors just supervise. It was a unique opportunity to help remove and photograph all of the organs, a system very different from our own. Every Friday morning, I would take a bus with the 4th year students to a nearby farm to do physical exams on any of the sick dairy cattle. The students would split into groups and fill out the exam forms while they collected blood and urine samples. They would then discuss their findings with one of the professors and come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Kristen HurnI also got the opportunity to visit Bear Mountain and work closely with one of the Hokkaido brown bears on the facility. The center called Kobayashi san to come and do a testicular ultrasound on an older brown bear. After darting the bear with Ketamine, I helped weigh the bear, perform the ultrasound, and draw blood. It was amazing to be so close to a bear and to have the opportunity to help work on one. There was no definitive diagnosis but hopefully future monitoring will help discover the origin of the testicular enlargement.

During my last week in Obihiro, I got the opportunity to work at both the Kushiro and Obihiro zoos. The first day at both zoos, I worked closely with a zookeeper is preparing meals, cleaning the enclosures, and helping to provide enrichment for the giraffes, seals, polar bears, Hokkaido deer, and chimpanzees. During the second day at both zoos, I worked with the on staff veterinarian in visiting and attending to some of the sick and injured animals. I also had the chance to see the onsite veterinary hospital and the tools that they had at their disposal to treat the animals.

Kristen HurnI could spend days writing about what I have seen, experienced, learned, and grown from due to my opportunity to study aboard this past summer. I am always amazed and humbled by the kindness and compassion that I receive every time that I go to Japan.  Matsui sensei and the entire reproduction team worked every morning to teach me the skills of rectal palpation, all of the 3rd and 4th year students welcomed me into their classes and helped me learn how to perform biopsies and to pass feeding tubes in cows, and finally the local zoos helped me better understand animal husbandry and nutrition even if it is on a limited budget. I have made lifelong friends, contacts, and traveled to places that some could only dream of. But above all, I have taken one step closer to my goal of becoming a veterinarian in Japan. For this and for all that I have had the opportunity to experience, I am forever changed and forever grateful.



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