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Recent UW Pre-Vet Grad Gains Experience in Thailand

May 31, 2017
woman holding a young ostrich
Recent UW graduate McKayla Peterson works with a young ostrich during her three-month experience in Thailand this spring. (Loop Abroad Photo)

A recent University of Wyoming graduate spent three months in Thailand this spring, helping animals and learning what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

McKayla Peterson, 22, of Gillette, graduated after the fall 2016 semester with a bachelor's degree in animal science and pre-veterinary studies.

Traveling on the selective Veterinary Semester Abroad hosted by study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Peterson was part of a small team that learned alongside veterinarians from around the globe while volunteering with elephants, sea turtles and other marine life, zoo animals and shelter dogs.

“Living in Thailand for over three months was such an incredible experience,” she says. “I am honored to have made an impact on so many animals' lives, and the knowledge I have gained about the culture and veterinary world is truly irreplaceable.”

The Veterinary Semester Abroad program brings together undergraduate students from across the U.S. and Canada to move their studies to Thailand for a semester so that they can work in small groups with veterinarians who specialize in different fields. Students are based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but travel through the country to see different shelters and sanctuaries; learn from local vets and scientists; and volunteer with a variety of species in need.

While they learned about veterinary medicine, conservation and Thailand, Peterson and her team also helped by volunteering their time and skills. From hauling elephant food to monitoring anesthesia in dog surgeries, they helped support and care for the animals of Thailand -- while improving their own skills, so that they can help more animals in the future.

Some of Peterson’s most interesting projects were volunteering at an elephant sanctuary and helping provide medical care for elephants; creating enrichment projects for zoo animals; and living on the island of Koh Tao for three weeks studying marine biology and helping restore coral reefs and protect sea turtles. She also participated in an externship at a small animal hospital and helped care for dogs and cats at an animal shelter and clinic outside of Chiang Mai.

Peterson and her team also participated in a spay-and-neuter clinic for dogs in the rural villages in the mountains of northern Thailand.

Admission to the Veterinary Semester Abroad is competitive and requires a demonstrated interest in animals; a solid academic transcript; an essay; academic references; and completion of college-level biology. Peterson was one of seven students chosen to participate.

Loop Abroad has study-abroad programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising assistance. The pre-veterinary programs in Asia and Africa support ethical animal treatment while helping students learn in an in-depth and hands-on way. Interested participants can inquire or apply at

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