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Around the World, Student life

Students Work with Elephants at Rescue Park in Thailand

From January 2 through January 14, 11 Mount Ida College students traveled to Thailand as part of a study abroad program that offers them the opportunity to not only experience international culture but also contribute their service to an aspect of the country’s society. On this travel course, the focus of their efforts was to work at the Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation center outside the city Chiang Mai in the northern part of the country. The travel course is a credit-course in the Science Department entitled Wildlife in Thailand. While the course is part of the curriculum in the School of Applied Sciences, students from the College’s Schools of Business, Design, and Social Sciences and Humanities also participated.

Led by Assistant Professor of Biology Barbara Akum, Ph.D., and co-led by Learning Specialist Nancy Macdonald, students embarked on their journey, which took them from Boston to Bangkok where they spent two days touring the city. During their stay, the group crossed the Cross Choa Phraya River to visit the Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple that is one of the country’s most famous landmarks and dates to the seventeenth century. The following day they headed to Bang Pa-In for the night to explore the city. Stops included the Royal Palace, the summer residence of Thailand’s kings, followed by a trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand from 1351 to 1767, when it was raised and burnt to the ground by the Burmese army during the Burmese-Siamese War.

On January 6, the trek continued to Chiang Mai, where the students saw the sights of the city, including the temples of Wat Chiang Man, Wat Pra Singe, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Suan Dok, all dating back to the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries. The rest of the day offered an immersion into the city’s culture, through visits to museums and other landmarks, ending the day with a taste of local cuisine at dinner.

On January 7, the group boarded a bus and headed out on a one and half-hour drive to the Park to start their service work at the Center. The Park provides sanctuary for disabled, blind, and orphaned elephants that have often been abused as working animals and used for street begging. Other residents include dogs, cats, birds, buffalo, and other rescued animals, in addition to the more than 70 elephants.

Upon arrival, students were briefed on the tasks they would perform and protocols for operations and handling of the animals. Each member of the group including Dr. Akum and Ms. Macdonald were then assigned to one of the elephants for the next week. For the following seven days, the team spent their time feeding, grooming, and cleaning up after the animals. At the conclusion of the program, each group member was asked to present on their experience and what it meant to them personally. On January 13, they began their two-day voyage back to Boston via Doha, Qatar.

During this year’s Spring Break, four more groups of Mount Ida students will participate in similar international travel courses. Students will study leadership from a service perspective in Peru; work in Early Childhood Education in Ireland; offer veterinary care in Belize; and work with sea turtles in Costa Rica.

Applications for the Fall 2018 course will be available in early April via www.mountida.edu/travel.

Learn more about our Study Abroad Program.