Tatum Pencek

Tatum Pencek is a doctoral student studying veterinary medicine who studied abroad in Thailand on the International Veterinary Medicine Experience in Thailand during winter break 2023.

The most memorable part of this study abroad was getting to do physical exams and treatments on elephants alongside Thai veterinarians. The elephants themselves were incredible, but getting to learn from elephant experts face-to-face was so valuable and I really enjoyed getting a different perspective on elephant welfare. 

One of my favorite moments was when we took a boat down the river in Bangkok. That day, we walked through the city, took the SkyTrain, got on a boat, rode in a van, and finally took a plane to Chiang Mai. We got to see a lot of the city from a lot of different perspectives. 

As a veterinarian, I’ll encounter people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. It’s really important for me to learn about and understand different cultural and religious viewpoints to best serve my clients and their animals. Learning more about Thai culture and Buddhism before the study abroad was valuable, but the immersion in the culture and speaking directly to Thai vets was even more enlightening. I feel more confident in my ability to navigate difficult conversations, such as euthanasia and end of life care, with greater sensitivity to different cultural and religious views and beliefs. 

I think this trip helped highlight areas for me to grow as I get closer to beginning my career as a veterinarian in order to provide excellent care with clear, culturally sensitive communication. It highlighted where I have more to learn about other cultures and ways of thinking about animal health and welfare. 

To me, being a global citizen means putting less importance on nationality and more importance in seeing everyone as a part of the greater whole of the human race.