I was inspired to go abroad when I began to research possible pre-veterinary internships. As I began to search through different programs, I found that many of them were outside of the United States.
Why did you choose GoEco?
I chose the pre-veterinary wildlife internship in Chintsa, South Africa because of the wide range of veterinary experience they seemed to offer. When researching the program on the GoEco website, they made it clear that we would be able to work with both wildlife and domestic animals.
What was your favorite part about South Africa?
My favorite part about visiting South Africa was the simplicity of the area where Chintsa is located. Wherever we travelled in Chintsa, the mountains were endless and it seemed like you could see the ocean from any given point.
What made your experience abroad unique?
My experience abroad was unique because of the veterinary experience I gained while in South Africa. When most people go abroad to travel or study, it's definitely a different experience than going abroad to volunteer.
While volunteering I got a true sense of how many different groups of people live in South Africa, and I gained experience that will help me in my future career path.
What surprised you most about South Africa?
In South Africa I was most surprised by the poverty so close to where the people who were “well-off” lived. You could be in a gorgeous neighborhood along the beach, drive 10 minutes down the road, and pass a township.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff of the pre-veterinary wildlife program were seen as both friends and mentors. They make you feel welcomed immediately upon arrival and were very knowledgeable about the animals and techniques used in day-to-day veterinary work.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Although I was only in South Africa for four weeks, I believe I made the most out of the time I had. Between working with countless animals and traveling to different regions, I enjoyed every minute. I would have not done anything different during my time abroad!
What was the hardest part about interning abroad?
The hardest part about interning abroad was when I got a bit homesick and missed my family and friends back at home. However, luckily we were so busy, which made this a lot easier to deal with.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
A typical work day for this program varied. Each day's wake up time was different, but varied between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. After wake up, we would eat breakfast and pack lunch for the day ahead. We would all be driven to the place of work for the day. Whether this was a township to dip dogs, cow farm to fertility test, or game reserve to do a game capture. Work days would typically end around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., but some later depending on the work needed. We would typically spend the remainder of the day going for runs, spending time at the beach, or hanging out in one of the volunteer houses. Dinner would always be provided at the end of the day.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I enjoyed going for runs along the beach. The beach was about a five minute walk from the volunteer house and was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been on. The views definitely made for a more exciting run than back at home!
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
There were several different volunteer houses for the program. However, all the houses were nice, clean, and stocked with activities and food. My favorite part of the accommodations provided was living close to all the volunteers who became very close friends of mine during our time abroad.
What is one thing every individual should know before volunteering in South Africa with GoEco?
Before partaking in this program participants should know that as much as it is fun, it is also hard work. We worked with a lot of animals that were in rough conditions, which was not always easy to deal with. However, the feeling of seeing a change immediately was worth it in the end!
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to South Africa?
Bring clothes for a lot of different weather conditions. I went to South Africa in the month of June, and some days it was very warm while other days it would be very cold and windy.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before arrival?
Before interning in South Africa, I wish I would have known a bit more about the languages spoken within the townships. It would have an amazing experience to communicate with some of these people.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of interning abroad is?
For me, the biggest benefit of interning abroad was being able to experience a different culture. It was an amazing experience to be able to do what I love while also exploring a new and beautiful country!
Now that you're home, how has your time in South Africa impacted your life?
My time abroad has given me a bigger appreciation of animal care in the United States. Being in South Africa allowed me to see how proper supplies and medical care are hard to come by, and sometimes we take that for granted at home.
Would you recommend GoEco’s pre-veterinary wildlife program to others? Why?
I would definitely recommend the pre-veterinary wildlife program to others. This program allowed me to gain so much experience, both with domestic animals and wildlife. This program is great for anyone looking to gain some veterinary experience or who just has a love for helping animals!
If you could intern abroad again, where would you go?
If I could intern abroad again, I would either go back to another region in South Africa or to somewhere in South America.
Ashley is a pre-veterinary student at the Florida State University. Before volunteering abroad, she had never traveled out of the country alone, but GoEco made it a comfortable and exciting experience for her. In the future, she hopes to attend veterinary school and partake in more animal-based volunteer programs abroad.