Russell Hall has a room filled every other Wednesday with eager students wanting to shape their careers and their lives, even with COVID-19 constantly changing the job market.
The Pre-Vet Club is an organization on campus that is driven to help undergraduate pre-vet students boost their resumes, experience hands-on work with animals and give back to the community around them, as well as help them make long-lasting connections.
This organization has made significant efforts to give back not only to the students but to the animals that they are passionate about. Last year they were mostly online, which took in-person experiences away from its members.
However, that is not stopping them from putting in more effort this year to take back what they had lost. This includes their most famous study abroad trip to Thailand.
Both the members of the Pre-Vet Club and Dr. Hardyman, the academic advisor of Pre-Vet Club, loved talking about what the trip entailed.
Dr. Hardyman shared stories about her adventures in Thailand from where they slept to cultural differences like taking your shoes off before entering any sheltered area. The group travels so that students can have “hands-on experience,” said Dr. Hardyman. She also talked about the key takeaways her students experienced on the trip such as the cultural differences in food, language and religion and the different ways that their country takes care of their animals compared to us.
For example, she talked about the dogs in Thailand that the students would see. In Thailand, they provide food and water to outdoor animals like dogs. However, these animals will never be in people’s houses, and very rarely are they brought to shelters. “You start seeing all these differences and then you start to question, well, why don’t we do that?” Dr. Hardyman said, “Part of study abroad is you start questioning what’s normal or common, because it may not be common for everyone around the world.”
Two leaders of the Pre-Vet Club couldn’t help but smile when talking about the study abroad trip experience.
Brenna Diehl, the president of the club, said, “It’s a really good animal experience that you wouldn’t get in the U.S., because in a foreign country they actually allow you to practice medicine a little bit more.” Mostly in Thailand, they work with elephants, gain hands-on experience in the vet field and create viable connections with not only the people that they are traveling with, but also in a different country as well.
“Even though the trip might not happen in Thailand this year,” Diehl said, “Hardyman is looking at different options.”
On the other hand, Allison Leschke, who is an activities leader in the Pre-Vet Club and the president of the Dairy Club this year, described a memory from her sophomore year: “I was a sophomore when I was told about it, that it was a great opportunity. They go to Thailand and it’s like so different than what you’re used to here. Like you see elephants and you don’t see elephants often.”
She also urges people to take part in the study abroad experience. “If you can take advantage of study abroad, it is a great opportunity, because if you don’t do it now, when are you going to get a chance to travel (outside) the country?” Leschke asked.
According to Dr. Hardyman, the plan is usually to travel abroad every other January. However, this year, the university has stopped abroad programs until the end of January, because of COVID-19.
Dr. Hardyman has been researching if there is a chance that the group can go this summer. This is all still up in the air. However, if they were to go ahead with the study abroad in the summer of 2022, they could only go to a country that has a category of three or less for COVID-19 cases. Each country is categorized from numbers one to four on how bad their COVID-19 case rates are in that particular country.
From Dr. Hardyman’s understanding, to go to a different country this year, “They have to be a three or less and most are a four. Thailand is a four.”
Panama is only a three, meaning that would be somewhere the group could travel. Dr. Hardyman talked about how the summer trip would be taken to Panama: instead of working on elephants in Thailand, they would be working on avian clinics and other small animals.
She said usually when they go to different places around the world, they try to work with “unique animals of that country.” She also stated that if there is no summer abroad trip this year, the Pre-Vet Club members of 2023 would likely be able to go to Thailand again in January. She then added, “Even if Thailand won’t be available, they will still go somewhere with a different experience that they can’t get in the U.S.”