Elisa's Group: Thailand

Learn and practice clinical skills at a dog shelter and spend a week volunteering hands-on with rescued elephants - all with a veterinarian to teach your small group!

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This two-week program put you alongside a veterinarian whose job is to teach you so that you get to learn and practice new skills while helping animals in need. Work in a dog shelter and learn clinical skills such as blood draws, suturing, and skin scrapes, including assisting in neuter surgeries. Spend one week living at an elephant sanctuary learning about and caring for rescued elephants. Evenings and weekends are filled with travel activities such as ziplining or exploring street markets.


• Feed, bathe, and care for rescued elephants
• Assist in neuter surgeries
• Learn and practice small animal clinical skills
• Discover what it's like to be a vet in the tropics

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Who It's For

This group is arranged by Loop Abroad staff alums and UC Davis vet students Theresa Aller and Elisa McAffee. It is open to students at any UC campus. The program is not sponsored by or affiliated with UC Davis or any UC school or campus.

Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty. This program can accommodate a maximum of 12 students per group.


In this two-week program, you’ll work and learn alongside veterinarians at an elephant sanctuary and a dog rescue. Live among the elephants and care directly for them, provide check-ups and procedures to dogs in need, and experience magnificent Thailand first-hand. Check a sample itinerary here.

This program is divided into two weeks. In one week, students work with our staff vet to care for dogs at the ARK (Animal Rescue Kingdom) Dog Shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Students learn and practice clinical skills, including:

  • IM, IV, and Sub-Q injections and catheter placement
  • Blood draws, blood smears, and microscope skills
  • Sterile scrubbing and gloving
  • Instrument handling and suturing
  • Ear cytologies, skin scrapes, fecals, and other diagnostics
  • Calculating medication dosages and administering medication
  • Physical exams and stethoscope use
  • Canine and feline neuter surgeries, anesthesia monitoring, and recovery
  • Identifying tropical diseases
  • Students are in the examination room in small groups, assisting with procedures and surgeries and learning hands-on from the vet. Each day will have a lecture-style portion at the clinic and a chance to put the skills learned into practice helping animals in need, culminating in two surgery days at the end of the week.

    In the evenings and over the weekend, we will have a chance to explore city life in Chiang Mai, including visits to local street markets for eating and shopping, dinners at local restaurants, a meditation lesson with a Buddhist Monk, a city tour, the choice of a ziplining day in the jungle or an outdoor Thai cooking class, a visit to Doi Suthep temple, and some chances to relax in the city and at home.

    The other week is spent living and volunteering with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in a specially-tailored volunteer program. Students work with the elephants, helping to feed them, bathe them, cut their food, clean their homes, and provide overall care for them. They will also help with sanctuary upkeep and have the chance to participate in cultural activities.

    In addition, your vet will help you learn about elephant anatomy and physiology, body condition scores, and behavior.

    There will be a chance while at the Elephant Nature Park to learn from the elephant vet on staff, help provide medical care to animals in need, learn to test for various medical conditions in large mammals, and possibly observe surgical procedures in the on-site dog clinic. The dog shelter at ENP provides many opportunities for students to help. They may also have opportunities to shadow the elephant trainer, participate in a diet study, prepare medications, or any number of other things going on at the park.

    Students also have the chance to meet world-renowned conservationist and ENP founder Lek Chailert, learn a bit of Thai, enjoy tubing down the river that runs through the reserve, and get to know some of the elephants on the property one-on-one.

    Either the Elephant Nature Park or the Chiang Mai week may come first in your itinerary.

    Courses and Hours

    This program is created with students who may want to apply to vet school in mind. For your application to vet school, the program provides the following hours:

    Veterinary Hours (for vet school applications): 72
    Research Hours (for vet school applications): 8

    The AVMA says "If you have the opportunity to work... for veterinarians who work with different species, that's a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee." We're proud to offer you that opportunity!

    You will get to know your vet during the program, and they will get to know you! If you participate to the best of your ability, you will be well-positioned to ask for a recommendation letter at the end of the program.

    This program provides a total of 80 service hours. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

    Loop Abroad can provide you with a pass/fail transcript for the course ""Tropical Shelter Medicine, Management, and Welfare: From Companion Animals to Elephants" at your request. This course is the academic component of your program. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for any assistance needed.

    Tuition and Dates

    2017 Dates:*June 17 - July 3, July 1 - July 17, OR August 12 - August 28, 2017

    Tuition: $3,275 USD not including international airfare. This represents a 15% discount from our regular tuition. June 17th group will fly from New York. July 1st and August 12th groups will fly from Los Angeles. The estimated cost of airfare is $1,700 round-trip including taxes and fees.

    No additional discounts or financial aid are available, but you can fundraise individually or as a group.

    Timeline: Applications should be submitted ASAP and will be accepted on a rolling basis. Deposit of $1,000 (or $500 on request) must be paid to hold your space in the program. Balance of payment is due before the start of the trip.

    You can get details on housing and meals here. All housing and meals are included in your tuition.

    Applying: As a UC Davis student, you may simply enroll in this program through a simplified application process. This guarantees your admission and saves you the $50 application fee. On the application page:

  • Choose "Elisa's Group: Thailand" as your program, and choose your dates. The July 1 and August 12 start dates fly from LAX. The June 17 start date flies from NYC.
  • Choose your bonus week. If you are in the July 1 or August 12 start date, no bonus weeks are available: choose "I would not like to add a Bonus Week to my program." If you are in the June 17 start date, you may choose not to add a Bonus Week, or you may add the Marine Bonus Week ($1,350) or Elephant Bonus Week ($800) for July 3 - 10.
  • 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
  • You do not have to pay an application fee. Simply choose "as a prior Loop Abroad student or member of a private group, my application fee is waived" and click Submit. You will then be taken to a payment page - you may close that page. You will get an email from us confirming your application within 1 business day.
  • Apply Now!

    For More Information

    Message us on Facebook, call us at (617) 412-0838, fill out the contact form, or send an email to admissions@loopabroad.com any time!

    *Dates indicate departure from and return to New York. Some flights depart early in the morning and may require students to arrive the night before. Loop abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.