Last school year, I struggled to figure out what I was going to do with my summer. All of my classmates seemed to have amazing externships lined up, but all I had planned was hanging out with my family. So, I decided to take a leap and go on two international externships. I have always loved traveling and decided that this would be a great way to do something productive with my summer, while also seeing the world.
My first stop was Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for MARVET, a marine animal medicine veterinary externship. I was able to get some hands-on experience with dolphins, manatees, sharks, and sea lions. Clinicians from around the United States and Mexico spoke to us about aquatic animal rehabilitation, husbandry, and medicine. It was amazing to meet so many accomplished clinicians in the field in which I hope to work, while also being able to gain some much-needed hands-on experience.
Next, I headed to Bocas del Toro, Panama, for the CARES Project. CARES is an externship for veterinary and pre-veterinary students that focuses on wildlife medicine, conservation medicine, and One Health—a field that is focuses on the interrelationship between veterinary medicine, human medicine, and the environment. Visiting Bocas del Toro and participating in the CARES Project was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was able to assist in many dog and cat surgeries, see a wild sea turtle, help in educating the indigenous communities about the importance of clean water and animal health, and conduct a physical exam on a white-faced capuchin monkey.
While I was initially hesitant about traveling to foreign countries I had never visited, I’m so glad I took the risk and decided to go. I learned so much by getting out of my comfort zone. Meeting clinicians and other students who are passionate about the same things I am was a great reinforcement to get through the next three years of veterinary school. Whenever I start feeling discouraged, I know that I can draw on those memories and knowledge.
My advice to anyone searching for something to do over the summer is to embrace your passion and do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. You never know what experiences you’ll have!