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Working With Elephants in Thailand This summer, iu women's tennis student-athlete, Natalie Whalen, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

This summer, IU women's tennis student-athlete, Natalie Whalen, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Natalie was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter and spent a week working directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the US and Thailand. For one week, Natalie 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 who have been rescued from trekking, logging, or forced breeding programs.

One of the most meaningful things about the nature park for Whalen, was that the entire sanctuary was run by volunteers (only mahoots-elephant caregivers get paid) so they were able to really contribute in the kitchen and out in the field. They were also able to meet the founder of the park, Lek, who educated them on the entire park, elephant abuse in Southeast Asia, and how she was first inspired to start this facility. Whalen said it was refreshing to know that there is a whole world outside of tennis and school waiting for people to help.

For the other week, Natalie volunteered at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter and helped to run Loop Abroad’s Dog Rescue Clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These shelters are home to over 200 dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten, or abused. While the dogs can be adopted, any who aren’t will be cared for by the shelters for their whole lives.

Whalen will be a senior at IU this fall and is pursuing a degree in Biology.

"Overall the trip was very humbling and eye-opening and most of all validated that veterinarian medicine is what I want to do the rest of my life."

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