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Montana Western Alumna Halle Broughton Travels to Thailand to Work with Elephants

June 21, 2023

This summer, UMW alumna Halle Broughton, of Seward, Alaska, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals, discovering Thai culture, and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Halle was part of a small team that provided care at a dog shelter and worked directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.

The Loop Abroad Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the U.S. and Thailand. For one week, Halle 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. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness. At the Elephant Nature Park, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Halle helped to feed and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses, and cows, and is sustained in large part by the work of volunteers like Halle.

For the other week, Halle learned from teaching veterinarians at the Dog Rescue Clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Halle and her team made a difference in the lives of local dogs. By providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing, and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs while furthering their career goals.

Admission to veterinary programs is selective, and Halle, a 2022 graduate from the University of Montana Western’s Biology program, was chosen based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references. The Pre-Professional Medical & Veterinary Sciences Option in the Biology program offered by UMW prepares students for graduate programs and professional schools in a variety of allied health fields and veterinary medicine.

Loop Abroad is the largest pre-veterinary study abroad program in the United States, hosting students in nine countries on six continents throughout the year. Programs range from two weeks in summer to a full semester abroad, and college credit is available through the University of Findlay. Since 2009, Loop Abroad has specialized in pre-veterinary programs and helped students all over the world to pursue their dreams of a veterinary career. Interested participants can inquire or apply at

By following a study abroad model instead of a “voluntourism” model, Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs around the globe, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.

The program’s Managing Director Jane Stine says, “Our students are really an amazing group of people. They are compassionate, flexible, driven, and dedicated, and it is always a wonderful experience to host them on their study abroad experience. I’m so proud of what they learn each year and the hard work that they do, and that this program allows us to provide important support to so many essential conservation programs around the world.”

“Going to Thailand has been a dream of mine for about twelve years, so when I found out I got accepted into this program I was over the moon with excitement. I have always had a passion for travel and culture, as well as a love and passion for animals and this trip combined both in the most magical way imaginable. The staff at ENP and Loop Abroad were so patient, accepting, welcoming, kind and knowledgeable. The experiences I had were incredible, ranging from elephant care and medicine, small animal practice and management to Thai culture and language,” said Halle. “The biggest realization for me was the amount of similarities between horse and elephant medicine due to them both being hind gut fermenters. I grew up riding and showing horses and spending a lot of time with our barns vet, shadowing and helping with routine care. I loved that I could make the connections between the two, and discovered I knew more about some basic elephant medicine just because of how similar they are. I feel so fortunate to have been able to come and learn from these incredible animals and participate in such a special program. Every day I was there I fell more in love with the country, the culture, the animals and the experience. I can honestly say that this trip was everything I wanted and needed it to be plus more.”

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