Alison's Group: Australia

Alison's Group: Australia

This program is organized by Virginia Tech student and Loop alum Alison Mihailovich and is open to Virginia Tech students. It is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with Virginia Tech.

What: A two-week adventure “down under” to volunteer at a conservation and wildlife sanctuary outside of Sydney, Australia getting hands-on with koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, and all kinds of other Australian wildlife. Enjoy a fun tourist weekend in Sydney, explore aboriginal sites in the bush, and study “Australian Wildlife Handling, Conservation, and Care” with your veterinarian (DVM) trip leader in the classroom and with the animals.


  • Assist in treatment rounds with Australian wildlife.
  • Health check kangaroos and koalas.
  • Examine pythons and echidnas.
  • Handle and assess possums and bandicoots.
  • Walk an alpaca.
  • Create enrichments for everyone from dingos to cockatoos.
  • Perform veterinary labs such as marsupial necropsies.
  • Where: Walkabout Wildlife Park in Calga Springs, Australia

    When: May 19 - June 4, 2018.

    Who: The program is open to students at Virginia Tech referred by Alison Mihailovich. This program is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with Texas A+M. It is arranged by Virgnia Tech student and Loop alum Alison Mihailovich. Due to Australian immigration laws, we cannot accept students under 18 to participate in this program. Each group of up to 10 students will have its own US veterinarian and its own Australian Volunteer Coordinator.


    Tuition is $3,160 and is all-inclusive less airfare. This represents a 20% discount over our regular tuition for this program - no addition financial aid or discounts are available.

    Interest-free payment plans are available. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid. Your deposit is due by November 30, 2017 to secure your private group booking. Balance of your tuition is due by February 1, 2018.

    Tuition is all-inclusive less airfare. Tuition does not include medical insurance (the policy we suggest is under $25), passport, visa (required for US citizens – can be obtained online for approximately $15US), snacks and souvenirs.

    Please note that the packing list requires particular clothing including canvas or cotton work pants, hiking boots, and certain colors of shirts, which would need to be purchased before travel. We will limit necessary items to only those required for safe animal interaction and for representing Walkabout in your role as an animal-handling staff with animal-enclosure access.

    Application: You can apply here.

    Airfare: Airfare is not included. Group flights will be booked from Los Angeles, departing Saturday and returning Monday (subject to one-day change).

    Airfare is estimated at $1,600 (roundtrip including taxes and fees). You will have support staff at the Los Angeles airport for departure and at the Sydney airport on arrival, but may not have a staff member on the plane with you.

    Travel off the group itinerary must be approved by Loop Abroad and carries fees. Please contact before booking travel off the group itinerary.


    This is a suggested sample itinerary and is subject to change. It is provided here to give you a feel for your program.

    Arrive in Sydney with your group and head straight to Walkabout about two hours outside the city, traveling along the famous Australian coastline and through the tropical forest (or "bush" as they call it in Australia). You’ll be welcomed at Walkabout by not only the experienced staff but also the hundreds of animals who live there, from Kangaroos and wallabies to Tasmanian devils and wombats. Once we’re oriented and have our footing in the bush, we’ll get right to work!

    This is a veterinary program with a busy schedule, and all courses and volunteer work are focused on learning about, enriching, supporting, and caring for the animals at Walkabout. The special focus of this program is on handling, maintaining, and caring for wild animals in a zoo or sanctuary setting, with unique opportunities to handle and learn about Australian mammals, reptiles, and birds – practice that can be hugely valuable in future studies or career opportunities.

    The schedule will vary but a typical day might include two hours of animal care rounds in the morning with your veterinarian, two hours of class time (focused on Australian animals) before lunch, three hours of enrichment projects in the afternoon, and time to observe and report on certain animals before dinner in order to provide them with the highest standard of care.

    In some evenings, we will have the chance to observe the animals and their behaviors after sunset. We will also have the opportunity for a tracking and spotlighting workshop and some fun cultural evening activities such as exploring Aboriginal sites, learning about traditional tools such as throwing a boomerang, and stargazing and learning how stars are still used today in telling Aboriginal stories.

    We will help to provide medical care to the animals on the property, depending on what is needed at the time. You will participate in a classroom based course taught by your team of Loop Abroad veterinarians, entitled “Australian Wildlife Handling, Conservation, and Care,” so that you can learn in-depth about the animals you will care for. The course is presented through lecture, necropsies and labs, textbook and journal article readings, group work, video, observation, and handling.

    Loop Abroad will support you in pursuing college credit for this course through your school. We can assign you a final exam or paper if one is required in order for you to get credit.

    On the weekend in the middle of your program, we will spend the weekend in Sydney as a group. We will visit famous sites such as the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and Darling Harbour. You will have time to shop and visit the beach (although it will be too cold to swim!) We will also visit Taronga Zoo, one of the most famous and well-respected zoos in the world, to see what enrichments are being used and meet with a staff veterinarian. This weekend of fun is included in your tuition.

    The Project

    Walkabout Wildlife Park (“Walkabout”) is a one-of-a-kind conservation facility. For the last twelve years, this organization has pursued the goal of conservation through education. The 80-acre property is home to over 200 captive animals who are protected and cared for by the Walkabout staff. Many are rescues that are unreleasable, while some are wildly occurring. In addition, Walkabout cares for and conserves 170 acres of natural habitat. Walkabout is ZAA accredited (the Australian version of the AZA) and holds itself to very high standards of care. For some animals, including Tasmanian devils, Greater bilbies and Eastern quolls, it participates in breeding programs when the animals can be released to help repopulate areas that have recently been made safe for that species.

    Who lives at Walkabout? Animals that live naturally in the bush of Australia’s Eastern Central Coast Hinterland, including:

  • Lots of free-ranging macropods such as kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, bettongs, and pademelons
  • Possums and sugar gliders
  • Tasmanian devils and quolls
  • Bandicoots and potoroos
  • Echidnas
  • Wombats
  • Emus
  • Various species of parrots

  • Predatory birds including kookaburras and tawny frogmouths
  • Dingoes and flying foxes
  • Reptiles including pythons, dragons, skinks, and turtles
  • Some introduced farm species including alpacas, peacocks, and goats
  • This combination of native and exotic species, in a natural native environment, are cared for on a limited budget and with limited resources. We will be able to provide veterinary care, animal support, and necessary funding, while learning all about these animals in an up-close setting not available anywhere else in the world. Anatomy, handling, habitat, normal behavior, pathology, assessment, enrichment, and conservation of these mammals, birds, and reptiles will fill the program. Working in the Australian bush gives you a valuable opportunity to learn to work without a veterinary hospital and provide a high standard of care with limited equipment.

    You will not be treating animals in a veterinary clinic, but will be working with them hands-on, including observing them, handling them, helping to create and improve enrichments, providing medical checks, and performing physical exams. You will have the opportunity to get hands-on with most if not all of the species on the property (students who are not rabies vaccinated will not be able to interact with flying foxes). All your animal work, service, and study will be supervised by a veterinarian and sometimes also an expert animal ranger. Your work will not focus on husbandry and maintenance, and will instead focus on animal welfare and care from a veterinary perspective.

    Group and Staff: Groups will have a maximum of 10 students each, with a total of 2 to 3 groups on the property at a time. Your group will have its own veterinarian and you may learn from other Loop veterinarians or Australian veterinarians as well.

    Safety and Health: No vaccines are required but a rabies vaccine is required in order to handle the flying foxes. (Students without a rabies vaccine may interact with all animals except flying foxes.) Orientation will include a “snake and spider safety” class – programs take place during Australian winter when snakes and spiders are not prevalent. We suggest that you speak with a travel doctor and follow his or her advice on what vaccines or preventatives are best for you.

    Hours: Participants will earn 80 veterinary hours. You will receive a certificate for 80 service hours upon program completion.

    Housing and Meals: We will live at Walkabout for the duration of the program (except our weekend in Sydney). Students will be in rooms of 2-6 students each separated by gender, with shared bathrooms. Breakfast and Lunch are self-serve and include options such as cereal, toast, salads, and sandwiches. Dinners are prepared in one option each day (with a vegetarian alternative) and may include pizza, vegetable stir fry with chicken (or tofu), or hamburgers (or veggie burgers) and fries. Snacks and drinks are provided, but additional drinks and snacks (chips, chocolate, soda) are available for purchase. No alcohol is permitted at Walkabout’s facility. We can accommodate vegan, vegetarian, other dietary restrictions, or food allergies.


    As a Virginia Tech student, you may simply enroll in this program through a simplified application process. This guarantees your admission (barring any health factors that make it unsafe for you to participate). On the application page:

  • Choose "Alison's Group: Australia" as your program. (If you'd also like to attend another Loop Abroad program before or after the Australia program, you may select that one as well.)
  • Choose not to add a Bonus Week.
  • You may leave the essay blank
  • You may leave the transcript blank
  • You may leave the references blank. Because the email field is required, simply enter your own email address.
  • As a member of a private group, you do still need to pay the $50 application fee. If you attend the program, your $50 application fee will be credited toward your tuition, making the remaining tuition $3,110. If you choose not to attend, your application fee is non-refundable.
  • Apply Now!