This summer, Breia Easley, a senior biology major with a pre-veterinary focus, spent two weeks traveling and working in and around the Cayo district of Belize with Paws Veterinary Clinic. Her experience, organized through the Center for Engaged Learning Abroad Program and SFA’s Office of International Programs, incorporated lecture and hands-on veterinary experience.
How did you learn about this opportunity?
I came across the opportunity while researching different study abroad programs online. I then followed up with Inez Maxit, study abroad coordinator at SFA, who helped secure my decision to venture to Belize by gathering feedback from other schools and counselors about their experience with the program.
What were your responsibilities through the program?
My duties as a student included attending lecture in the mornings and either working at Paw’s Veterinary Clinic or traveling around to local farms where we performed different types of injections or procedures. I and other students assisted with surgeries including spaying and neutering dogs, cats, horses and pigs, as well as suturing the epidermis, or external skin layer, when necessary. We also performed physical wellness exams on multiple species of animals including cattle, goat, sheep, pig, dogs, cats and horses and administered routine intramuscular and subcutaneous injections. One whole day of the trip was reserved for a free spay and neuter clinic held in San Antonio, Belize, where we managed a check in station, a station for physicals and routine injections, a surgery station and a recovery station. I was also given the opportunity to milk a herd of Holstein cattle and later palpate them to determine if they were open or bred.
How has this experience benefitted your undergraduate career?
During my trip to Belize with the Large Animal Veterinary Course, I was not only given multiple opportunities to learn and gain experience in animal health and wellness, I was also immersed in the incredibly diverse and unique culture of the country. The experience was personally beneficial as well as rewarding in the sense that we were able to also give back so much to the community while there. Being abroad was eye opening, encouraging and a total boost of confidence for me, not to mention I was able to meet some awesome people! This trip helped me to secure my decision of wanting to pursue a career in large animal medicine.
What was your favorite part of the program?
I would have to say that my favorite part of the entire experience definitely has to be the opportunity I was given to offer my services to the Cayo district to help improve the lives of people and animals through the practice of animal welfare. I was able to assist with multiple spay and neuters of local street and domestic dogs, which aids in the overall reduction in the number of strays on the streets. It also helps to prevent the spread of disease throughout the animal community, which can sometimes be transmitted to the human species.
In addition to the lecture and hands-on veterinary experience, I was able to explore the country a little by visiting multiple waterfalls that were each breathtakingly beautiful, as well as the Mayan ruins Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. We also visited the Barton Creek Cave where we went canoeing through a cave containing ancient Mayan artifacts. After completing physical examinations and observing a dental examination on one of the horses at the Mountain Equestrian Trail we went horseback riding through the jungle. Though my personal favorite extracurricular was, hands down, the Green Iguana Conservation Project. At the Green Iguana Conservation Project we were able to learn about, observe, feed and play with the iguanas that were housed there.