Katie Raeker - CFANS Study Abroad Program
I recently spent a month studying abroad in Belize through the Belize: Wildlife Medicine and Conservation program. This once in a lifetime trip helped me grow in countless ways and gave me an experience I will always reflect upon.
While leaving home for the first time was a struggle, this was an opportunity to grow personally. I had really never left my family for any length of time prior to this course. Traveling without them allowed me to gain a newfound independence and self-confidence. I learned to navigate different airports, be very self-sufficient, and handle any mishaps that occurred. The traveling I had previously done with my family really did not give me much of a world-view as it was within the U.S and Canada.
Seeing Belize and Guatemala first hand opened my eyes to many cultural differences and the effect of poverty on a nation’s peoples. It made me appreciate the life I have and furthered my desire to help others, both human and animal. I also made many friends with similar interests and aspirations as mine, and the bonds we formed will last a lifetime.
Not only did my recent study abroad trip bring personal growth, but it also helped me to grow academically and professionally. I was able to make many contacts, which will help my academic and professional careers. I had the opportunity to bond with the professor, Melissa Palmer, in ways most students would never get to. This will assist me in both her future courses and other academic and professional moments when I may need her assistance or letter of recommendation.
In addition, I met with many professionals in the field of Animal Science who I may call upon in my future career. The most important of these, in my mind, is the founder of Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic; Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand. She is pioneering the wildlife rehabilitation sector in Belize, an area of animal healthcare that I am very passionate about, and helping to save Scarlet Macaws, my favorite avian species. Dr. Isabelle taught me an immense amount both in her lectures and in the field, and has even offered for me to return to intern in some of her projects. While I have had an unwavering passion for animals, I have often questioned what career was right for me. Working in Dr. Isabelle’s clinic and in the field within the Chiquibul Forest have renewed my passion for helping animals and once again turned me towards the veterinary rehabilitation field.