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In Thailand, high school student and animal lover gets a firsthand glimpse of veterinary profession

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 08. 2017 6:57PM
Nikka Robinson, 17, of Manchester, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals, including time at an elephant shelter, with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad. (COURTESY)

MANCHESTER -- A Central High student spent two weeks this summer helping animals in Thailand, learning firsthand what it's like to work as a veterinarian.

Nikka Robinson, 17, of Manchester, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad. Robinson was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter and spent a week working with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.

"Our students are some of the most amazing people I have ever met," said Jane Stine, the managing director who co-founded the program with her husband Addam Stine. "They are kind, compassionate, dedicated, hard-working individuals who have big goals and want to make a big impact. It's amazing to see how eager they are to learn and challenge themselves. Over the last eight years, we've seen them go on to do some wonderful things."

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the United States and Thailand. For one week, Robinson and her team volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand to work hands-on with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.

The Elephant Nature Park is home to over 60 elephants that have been rescued from trekking, logging, or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness, said Stine. At the preserve, Stine said, the animals are cared for by volunteers from all over the world.

Robinson helped to feed, bathe, and care for elephants, and learned about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and cows, and is sustained by the work of weekly volunteers like Robinson and her team.

"I never thought I could learn as much as I did during my time in Thailand, and I will definitely be coming back," said Robinson. "It truly was an experience of a lifetime."

Over the course of her second week in Thailand, Robinson volunteered at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai. The shelter is home to over 100 dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten, or abused. While the dogs can be adopted, any that aren't will be cared for by the shelter for the rest of their lives.

While studying under the veterinarians leading her group, Robinson and her team made a difference in the lives of the dogs at the shelter by providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries.

"The students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs," said Stine.

Loop Abroad has animal science and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Interested participants can inquire or apply at

Admission to veterinary programs is selective, and Robinson was chosen based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references.

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