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Local student studies abroad to South Africa to gain veterinarian experience
Arianna Holmes

SOUTH AFRICA - This summer, Arianna Holmes, 20, of Covington, spent two weeks in South Africa helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. 

Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Arianna was selected as part of a small team that volunteered at the Lory Park Zoo in Johannesburg helping to care for and study African animals.

Students working with the Loop Abroad team were able to learn from the conservation team at the Lory Park Zoo, one of only six zoos in Africa accredited by the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The zoo leads conservation efforts such as research in black-footed cats and conservation education programs in local schools, and has recently been in the news for providing radiation cancer treatment for Chaos the lion.

Arianna and her team were able to learn from their team of veterinarians about zoo care for a variety of species, from big cats such as lions and tigers to primates such as lemurs and gibbons. They studied the needs of these animals in order to understand how their diets, enclosures, and enrichments are designed to keep them physically and mentally healthy.

Loop Abroad has animal science 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 Arianna was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references.

By following a study abroad model instead of a voluntourism model, Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs in Thailand, Ecuador, South Africa, and Australia, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.

The program’s Managing Director Jane Stine says, “This is our tenth summer of providing engaging field courses around the globe, and we continue to be so impressed by our students and their eagerness to learn about the world around them and have a lasting, positive impact. By partnering with locally-run, leading conservation organizations, we help our students to learn from the experts and to understand the connection of conservation and culture, and we’re always so proud to see what they go on to do after their study abroad experience.”

Of her trip, Arianna says, “This was the opportunity of a lifetime. I gained so much hands-on experience I would not be able to do in the United States and got to work side-by-side with some amazing vets. This experience solidified my desire to become a veterinarian!”

Arianna is a Junior at Tuskegee University, majoring in Animal Science.