Loop Abroad program takes UF students to Thailand

Leah Alsept

 alseptl@findlay.edu

@leah_0913

 

Thailand—a country in Southeast Asia with a population of more than 68 million people in a country three times the size of Florida, according to the CIA World Factbook.

With its lush landscapes, golden temples and free-roaming wildlife, Thailand offered seniors Morgan Cashell and Stephanie Verkuilen an incredible experience when they visited in 2017.

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 A couple years ago, while Cahsell and Verkuilen attended a Pre-Vet club meeting, the club president mentioned the Loop Abroad program that was taking students to Thailand that summer. Verkuilen, already an experienced traveler with six continents under her belt, knew she had to go.

Cashell took a bit of convincing and a lot of thinking, but she eventually agreed.

A few months later, the two— both Animal Science/Biology double majors—were on their way to Thailand, boarding an 18-hour flight.

When they arrived in the night they were given flowers to wear as necklaces. Cashell also experienced a little bit of indirect culture shock.

“It was funny because we had a girl…” she recounted, “She had blonde hair, and somebody comes up and asks to take a picture with her and puts her kid next to her and like, takes a picture.”

Driving through the jungle, the two students eventually got to their first destination, Elephant Nature Park (ENP), for their first week in Thailand. Besides avoiding a large spider (given the name Lloyd) outside the house they stayed in, they were able to work closely with elephants in the sanctuary. Verkuilen said they flushed out a bandage on an elephant’s front foot, which was done daily by the staff.

“Each of the elephants at Elephant Nature Park had a background behind them— they came from the logging industry, or the tourism [industry] or just abandoned or something,” Verkuilen said, “They had stories. You could see that they had broken legs and stuff like that.”

Their second week together was spent at the Animal Rescue Kingdom (ARK) which deals with dogs and cats. They met a golden retriever named Sticky Rice and a white husky named Condensed Milk.

Eating rice almost the entire trip, Verkuilen said she had to get used to the food being a picky eater. Cashell said not to listen to her and said she [Cashell] “about cried” when eating chicken and rice in the city.

The Loop Abroad website states that tuition for the 2020 trip is $3,950, not including international airfare. Cashell stayed for two weeks in the country from June 3-17, with a total cost of about $5,050, she said.

Verkuilen spent another week on the island Koh Tao, departing June 25. Her trip cost around $7,000.

Given the chance, they both said would go back. Verkuilen did return to the island last summer for research.

One thing Cashell will never be able to forget is the Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai. The temple, its full name being Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, sits atop a mountain from its namesake. The climb to the temple takes 306 stairsteps, according to the travel guide Lonely Planet.

Recounting the image, Cashell said she remembers seeing bells hanging around the golden temple.

“It was just dead quiet; you could hear the bells in the wind,” she said.

Monks were conducting a ceremony the day they went: “You felt like you shouldn’t be there.”

Giving their last impressions, Cashell was appreciative of the guides.

“I feel like it was a good one to go with the first time,” she said. ”It was pretty much organized, we all pretty much flew out the same place and we all stayed together, which I feel like the worst part is the traveling, especially if you’re alone and you don’t know where you’re going. It’s good to have people who knew exactly what was going on.”

Loop Abroad is available to all young adults ages 18-23. University of Findlay students can receive credit from the program as Loop Abroad is now their School of Record as of 2019. To apply, the application is online on their website at www.loopabroad.com.

 

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