Troy student's Thailand travels offer lessons in culture, zoology

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Sarah Osborn

For the first time in her life, a Troy local traveled to the other side of the globe.

This summer, Sarah Osborn, 16, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

“It was awesome to learn about the Thai culture and the amazing people that live there,” Osborn said.

Osborn is a junior at Troy High School, and was a cheerleader and member of student council at Troy High School last year. Prior to this trip, she had never been outside of the continent before nor had she ever been away from her family for that long. Osborn heard about the trip to the Southeast Asian country, and was interested in the learning experience and leaving her comfort zone.

“I decided to try something different, and wanted to do something I wasn’t comfortable with,” Osborn said.

She filled out an application and wrote an essay, and out of the many people who applied, she was selected for the trip, she said. The trip was coordinated through Loop Abroad, a study abroad program for students and young adults. Osborn chose to study under Loop Abroad’s Veterinary Service program, where she volunteered at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai and at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

The first stop was New York City, where she spent a week touring the city and shopping. Then, she got on a plane to Hong Kong, a 16 hour flight she said. Approaching the city, she saw the mountains on the eastern side of Hong Kong, noticing hang gliders and paragliders jumping off the mountains. Once the plane crossed the mountains, she said she was struck by the skyscrapers and urban development of the city.

For the first week, the group ventured to the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand. According to a press release, the park is home to over 40 elephants, 400 dogs, 100 cats, as well as rabbits and water buffalo. Many of the elephants had been abused or suffered from chronic injuries, and are cared for by volunteers like Osborn from all over the world.

Osborn said she got up close and personal with the elephants, learning that each elephant has its own unique personality. While some elephants were calm and obeyed instructions, others were sassy and playful, Osborn said. She said that some days she would watch the elephants for nine hours to examine their diet.

During the second week, Osborn and her group went to the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Osborn looked after the health and well-being of dogs by providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administered vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds and helping with sterilization surgeries. She said her favorite part of that first week was learning about the dog’s skeletal system.

The group also took tours of Thailand, visiting the ancient Buddhist temples and ruins. Osborn said that through the heat, she was still able to enjoy the beauty of the country. The Thailand environment wasn’t a big transition from western Montana, with mountains and forests surrounding them, but Osborn did experience some culture shock.

Despite the shock, Osborn said that it’s important to appreciate every culture’s differences.

“It’s a completely different culture. Even though you do something differently, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

One of the biggest cultural differences she encountered was animal euthanization. According to Osborn, putting down an animal is illegal in Thailand. Although this was different than what she’s used to, Osborn said she recognized the pros and cons of both laws.

She also experienced new foods, including a Thai dish that included mango on sticky rice, which she said she really enjoyed. For Osborn, the heavy rainfall, heat and time change were the biggest challenges, she said.

After this trip, Osborn is considering becoming a veterinarian, but said her true passion is film, because she enjoys seeing the world from all perspectives.

“Thailand is definitely a place to visit, and if anyone has the change I would totally recommend going,” Osborn said.

Reporter Bethany Rolfson may be reached at 293-4124 or by email at

Sarah Osborn, third from right.


Osborn One


Osborn Three

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