College student works with elephants in Thailand

Erryn Smith of Bridgeville volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park and a dog rescue
clinic in Thailand. (Submitted photo)

BEAUFORT, S.C. — This summer, Erryn Smith, 20, of Bridgeville, Delaware, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Ms. Smith was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter and spent a week working directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the U.S. and Thailand. For one week, Ms. Smith and her team volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand to work hands-on with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.

The Elephant Nature Park is home to over 60 elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging, or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness. At the Elephant Nature Park, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Ms. Smith helped to feed and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses, and cows, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Ms. Smith.

For the other week, Erryn volunteered at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter and helped to run Loop Abroad’s Dog Rescue Clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These shelters are home to over 200 dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten, or abused. While the dogs can be adopted, any who aren’t will be cared for by the shelters for their whole lives.

While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Ms. Smith and her team made a difference in the lives of these dogs. By providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs.

Loop Abroad has animal science, marine biology, and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Programs range from two weeks in summer to a full semester abroad, and college credit through Iowa Wesleyan University is available. Interested participants can inquire or apply at Admission to veterinary programs is selective and Erryn was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references.

Of her trip, Ms. Smith says, “Before this trip was even complete, I had decided that my first time abroad would not be my last. From learning the ins and outs of small animal medicine, experiencing Thai culture first hand, and getting to live amongst some of the most incredible and majestic animals to walk the earth — the Asian Elephant — the knowledge and beauty I experienced in Thailand was expansive and unforgettable. An experience of a lifetime.”

Ms. Smith is a junior at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, majoring in biology.

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