There’s a quote, attributed to Brian Jackman, that says, “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same.”
Summertime for veterinary students is a time for us to get our hands dirty using the skills we learned over the last year in the areas of veterinary medicine that we are interested in. I used my time this summer to hop a plane and fly halfway around the world to South Africa on a faculty-led study abroad trip for conservation medicine and wildlife management.
Traveling abroad exposes you to new cultures and people. I was amazed to find at one of the ranches we volunteered at that the employees were from many different countries and cultures and spoke so many languages and dialects that they couldn’t even have a full conservation! Yet, somehow, they all work together to perform the very intricate operation of immobilizing, transporting, treating, and handling wild animals.
One of the best parts about exploring other cultures is the food. We were fed many dishes with proteins that are uncommon back home like lamb and a variety of wild antelope species. I’m personally not very adventurous with food, and especially proteins, but all of the dishes were amazing. You have to embrace the experience and at least try it.
The other best part was all of the animals we visited in the zoos; watching them run wild and free over there, without much influence from mankind, creates a whole new connection to nature that I never imagined. Since getting to work hands on with rhinos, lion, sable, roan, and so many more species, I am excited to learn more about our local wildlife and how veterinarians play a role in their management.
I look forward to my next passport stamp, hopefully somewhere tropical. You never know what kind of connections you will make when you travel—maybe you’ll find a way to use skills that you never imagined you might have, or maybe you will discover a new passion or job opportunity.
Remember that you’re not limited to what’s right in front of you; there is a whole world out there waiting for you to explore.