A Study Abroad Experience They Will Never Forget

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Kaboo, an elephant at a sanctuary in Thailand, sustained many injuries, including a fractured leg, before she was rescued by Elephant Nature Park. She is one of many elephants who have been abused and exploited for human use and entertainment. 

In June, a group of 32 students from Delaware Valley University traveled to Thailand, where they learned about helping rescued animals as part of their Tropical Shelter Medicine class. The students were accompanied by two DelVal faculty members, Dr. Jessica McCall and Dr. Jennifer Shelly. The travel experience was arranged through LoopAbroad.

Dr. McCall led discussions with the students on issues related to the treatment of animals and the environment. Dr. Shelly worked as a veterinarian for several years before she started teaching at the University. She teaches courses on topics such as pathology, animal nutrition, and animal-assisted activities and therapies. 

Jennifer Shelly, a Delaware Valley University faculty member, working with elephants in Thailand.

Courtesy: Jennifer Shelly. Dr. Jennifer Shelly, a Delaware Valley University faculty member and veterinarian, feeds elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand. Dr. Shelly and Dr. Jessica McCall took a group of 32 students to Thailand in June for a course on Tropical Shelter Medicine.

After spending their first week volunteering at the elephant sanctuary, the students spent a week volunteering at an animal shelter that serves cats and dogs. The students also donated clothes and many supplies to a local school and orphanage. Students who participated earned a certificate for 80 hours of volunteer service.

Through the program, students shadowed veterinarians at both the elephant sanctuary and the small animal shelter. They were able to ask questions and see what veterinarians at shelters do on a day-to-day basis to help rescued animals. Students also had the opportunity to learn about the culture in Thailand. 

“Traveling to Thailand taught me not only about a different culture but also about myself,” said Madison Dembinski ’22, a DelVal small animal science major. “I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience Thai culture and meet so many amazing people and animals. Thailand has taught me so much, and I know that my time spent there will be influential in helping me reach my future goals.”

A Delaware Valley University student, Madison Dembinski, in Thailand at an elephant sanctuary.

Courtesy: Madison Dembinski. Madison Dembinski ’22 traveled to Thailand with students and faculty from Delaware Valley University to shadow veterinarians at an elephant sanctuary. 

Dembinksi wants to pursue a career working with animals after she graduates from DelVal. Working alongside veterinarians who are helping animals affirmed for her that she has found a career path she is passionate about.

“I know for certain that my passion is helping animals and learning as much as I can about them," said Dembinski. "I had the chance to experience veterinary medicine in a different country, and it was truly eye-opening. Being able to meet so many people that share the same passion as I do was truly an experience I will never forget.”

A group of students and faculty from Delaware Valley University at Elephant Nature Park.

Courtesy: Jennifer Shelly. A group of students from Delaware Valley University at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.