Day 1:
I left to O’hare at 8:35am on Monday, January 6th.The flight was scheduled for 11:56am and it was about 6 hours total- 3 hours to Houston Texas, a 4 hour lay over and then 3 and a half hours to Managua. It was a long flight and an extremely long day of traveling. This was my first time traveling to another country “alone.” I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have friends in the group as most of the other students did. However, even though I did not know anyone we already had two things in common, we all desire to become veterinarians and we were eager for this amazing opportunity.

We finally arrived in Managua at 10:30pm. We met Eli, the man in charge of Vida in Nicaragua. He helped us with our luggage and had us board a bus to go to our hotel. We didn’t get settled into our hotel until Midnight so we did not have much time to explore the city.

Day 2:
Today we started our morning at 7am with breakfast and then orientation at 8. The breakfast was different from what I am used to. We had eggs in a red sauce, rice and beans and fresh orange juice. It was quite delicious. In orientation we met the professional veterinarians; Dr. Farron, Dr. Douglas, Dr. Leo, and Dr. Juilian. They all introduced themselves and then we went around the room so everyone else could introduce themselves as well. All the vets seemed extremely friendly and I was pleased to know that we would be working with them for the rest of our stay in Nicaragua. In orientation we learned the different names of the surgical instruments, how to use them, how to set up areas in clinic, different medicines and what they’re used for, how to put on gloves in a sterile manner, and then we practiced sutures! Practicing sutures was my favorite part of orientation. We practiced sutures using a shoe lace on a thick cord. We practiced the surgeons knot, the millers knot, and how to tie a square knot. Learning all these different types of sutures was challenging but all the vets were helpful and patient with us. After orientation we got on the bus to head to Diriamba. We made a pit stop along the way to exchange money. I thought this part of the trip was kind of sketchy.. We picked a guy up off the side of the road and he exchanged everyones American dollars to Nicaraguan cordobas. Nicaraguan money is so beautiful compared to American money, its really colorful. And I didn’t know American money is worth so much here.

The ride to Diriamba was beautiful! It was about an hour ride and we got to see the breathtaking landscapes Nicaragua offers. We stopped at a focal point to take pictures of one of Nicaragua’s volcanos. Did you know Nicaragua has 8 volcanos, 6 of which are active?
When we finally arrived in Diriamba and were settled into our hotel rooms, we decided to go and explore the town. Diriamba wasn’t the nicest of all cities but it allowed us to see the reality in which people of a third world country live. We saw some really fancy homes and some run down ones as well. We saw stands on the side of the road and a carnival! I thought it was interesting how many people had rocking chairs on their porch or facing the window where they could sit and watch the world go by around them. In America where everything is so fast pace you rarely see that.

After our walk through the city we went to dinner. What an experience that was! The VIDA staff allowed us to go to dinner on our own and none of the waiters spoke English! Mind you, we were a group of “gringos” as the Nicaraguans called us and only one person from the group spoke Spanish. We all tried speaking Spanish, which the waiters found amusing. I ordered my meal, arroz con pollo, chicken and rice. My meal was quite yummy and only cost me $8! After dinner we all were ready for bed, it had been a long day and we had to be up early again for clinics tomorrow.

Day 3:
Today was our first clinic day. I was very nervous about it because I had never worked in a clinic nor had any animal care experience. We woke up at 6am to get ready and have breakfast. We had to be on the bus by 7:30. We drove to a rural area, since the goal of VIDA is to provide free veterinary care for those who cannot afford it. When we arrived, our clinic was a small building with about 4 rooms. We set up the intake, surgery and recovery areas. The intake area was put outside to provide the most space. After setting up we got put into groups and then we started receiving patients. My partner for the day was Ana and our first patient was Binky. He was a mutt and he was coming in to be neutered. We began Binky’s exam with a physical assessment.

With the aid of Dr. Julian, we checked the heart rate, pulse, body temperature, respiratory rate, capillary refill and the lymph nodes. After the physical assessment we measured out the doses of medicine based on the weight of the dog. After measuring the exact amounts of medicine needed, we checked our calculations with a veterinarian and then we learned how to make injections. After pre-medicating Binky, we shaved his left forelimb and cleaned it off. This shaved forelimb would be for the catheter. Dr. Douglas helped Ana and I learn how to place the catheter into the dogs vein, cap it so no blood spilled, and then bandage the catheter up. Once the catheter was in place, we injected cocktail into it which put the dog under anesthesia. Immediately after injecting the anesthesia, Ana began monitoring to make sure that the dog was under anesthesia while we continued prepping him for surgery. The next step was placing the endotracheal tube. To me this was the hardest part of pre-surgery preparation. We measure the endotracheal tube comparing it to the size of the dogs nasal septum. Then, we pulled out the dog’s tongue, stuck the tube in bringing down the epiglottis and sliding the tube to the tracheal inlet about halfway down the pharynx. Once the ET tube was in, we shaved the surgery area and then the dog was finally ready for surgery.

I was assisting Dr. Douglas in surgery today. I put on a scrub cap and sterile gloves, and cleaned the surgery site. Dr. Douglas walked me through the steps of the procedure. First he showed me what to do and then he allowed me to make incisions myself! It was so cool!! I was able to make an incision on the scrotum and then squeeze the testicles out and cut them off. Then when closing up Dr. Douglas caught me off guard when he asked if I wanted to suture. Making incisions was easy, you just cut, but sutures? We had only practiced using shoelaces and now he was asking me to suture a live dog. I was hesitant but he showed me how he wanted the suture done and then handed me the instruments to replicate his knot. I did a surgeons knot and then finished it off with 4 square knots. The surgery was successful. I cleaned the instruments while Ana took the dog to recovery. We removed the ET tube and we administered Fipronil, a treatment for fleas and ticks and injected our patient with Ivermectin, a dewormer. Then we clipped the dog’s nails and cleaned his ears. It took him a while to finally wake up, but when he did, we removed the catheter and he was ready to go home.

Day 4
Today was large animal day! Yay! I was extra excited because I had never had any large animal experience before. We took the bus to the farms. We were driving down a highway and then we turned and took a dirt side road. The road was super hilly and bumpy so the bus couldn’t drive all the way there so we had to get out and walk. It was kind of far but luckily we were in the shade most of the time. The first farm was big, it had pigs, cattle, and horses. I worked mostly with calves, I got to inject them with Ivermectin and Fipronil. Even though most of my work was with calves I also injected cows and bulls. As most of you would expect, animals don’t really want you coming at them with a needle. Or, coming at them at all as a matter of fact. So it is not easy injecting a bull or a cow that is 10x your weight. The veterinarians and the owners of the animals had to tie them down. They used rope and a wooden post to tie the animals up. It was kind of scary watching this process because we were working in the pens with the animals and some of them had horns. While getting tied up the cows and bulls would get angry, kick and throw themselves around. If you are not careful while working with these animals you could easily get injured. Luckily, no one was injured while we were on the farm.
We visited several farms today and treated 149 animals total.

Day 5
Today we went to the beach. It was nice to have a day off to enjoy the weather and get a nice tan. The beach was beautiful. The water was clear and the sand was clean. There was mountains on either side of the beach creating a serene landscape. We all went swimming and played in the waves, then I went on a walk with some of the girls to look for sea shells. I found a few interesting sea shells, and a hermit crab. We had lunch on the beach and then got back on the bus to head to Granada. Granada was by far the most beautiful city we saw in Nicaragua. It had brick roads, spanish influenced buildings, and everyone was out and about. Our hotel was very nice too, with huge beds, stone floors and a swimming pool. At night we went to the disco teca. It was… Interesting, to say the least. We ordered a few drinks, and embarrassed ourselves dancing. It was a lot of fun and we made the natives laugh. We had dinner in Granada at an outdoor restaurant. The food was good and I really loved that we got to see Granada’s nightlife. There were parades, music, and dancing for us all to watch.

Day 6
Today we were able to go our and tour Granda on our own. We saw the cathedrals, took lots of pictures and bought a few souvenirs. My group, Jon, Meghan and I ventured out to a local market. It was interesting to see how they exchanged goods. After wondering around Granada, we headed to Masaya. We stopped along the way to go ziplining. I was both excited and nervous about ziplining. I had gone a few times before but never through a canopy! There were 13 platforms all at various heights in the trees. Some were higher, some lower and some went really fast! We had to brake ourselves by putting our hand on the rope. After going across the canopy a few times I got the hang of it and wanted to try the different tricks they were letting us do. I asked the people in charge if I could go upside down like everyone else was doing, and they let me. They strapped me in, lifted me up and sent me flying. It was so scary!! But also really fun!

After ziplining we arrived in Masaya and got to meet our host families. I shared my host family with Jaclyn and Audrey. My host family was very nice and they were the owners of the local cafe. They lived in America for 36 years so they were fluent in English. They have a son but he was away while we were there, a small dog named Shaggy and parrots that would scream and talk every morning to be fed. We stayed in cute little rooms at the back on their cafe.

Day 7:
Today was another clinic day. We worked about 15 minutes outside of Masaya. Gloria was my partner for the day. We saw lots of patients because we finally mastered all of our tasks and didn’t need to ask for assistance from the veterinarians so often. I was able to both assist and monitor in surgery. I didn’t like monitoring. We had to monitor anesthesia by hand, so every 5 minutes I had to record the dog’s temperature, heart rate, pulse, respiratory rate and capillary refill to make sure it was still under anesthesia and not feeling any pain.

Jon, got bit by a dog today. When I first heard that I needed to get a rabies shot for this program I thought it was silly because I didn’t think anyone would get bit on our trip. However, not all animals are cuddly and cute. Some of them are mean and nasty, especially when going to the vet is involved. Jon’s dog got loose and when he tried to grab its leash to restrain it, it bit his hand and took off running. The dog didn’t come back and Jon is ok. No rabies since he got his vaccines!

Day 8:
Another clinic day! We worked in Masaya again at a new clinic. I was surprised because this clinic was completely outside. Sarah was my partner today. I got to assist in a spay for the first time. Spays take a lot longer than neuters and are a lot more complicated. I got pooped and peed on today, which I was not used to but I guess that happens a lot in veterinary medicine. We had lots of aggressive dogs today and one dog that would not wake up from anesthesia. She was administered multiple doses of cocktail in surgery because spays take too long. We sent the dog home with the vets so they could keep an eye on her for the night.

Day 9:
Today was our last clinic day and the last day with the vets. At clinic, Jon and I had a dog that had a heart attack! It was so absurd!! She was bleeding from her nose which I have never seen before. We gave her antibiotics so she would be ok. We saw the most patients today, 88 in total. It was a very successful last day. At night, we had a farewell party in which we said goodbye to the host families and the vets. We exchanged gifts, I gave our host family a picture frame, kitchen towels, and a candle. Our host family gave me a Nicaragua shirt and a cute wallet keychain. I also gave the vets postcards from Chicago with a message thanking them for everything they taught me.

Day 10:
Today was our last day in Nicaragua. It was bittersweet because I missed home but didn’t want to end this amazing experience so soon. We spent our last day going to local vendors to buy souvenirs. I bought magnets, shot glasses, chocolate, and a beautiful vase for my mom. After shopping for a few hours, we went to a lagoon. The lagoon was marvelous. The water was so blue and we got closer to the volcanos. We were able to go swimming and try all the tropical drinks Nicaragua offered. I tried their national drink, the Macua, which was made with guava juice, lemon juice and rum. It was delicious. After the lagoon we had a pizza party by our hotel pool, and celebrated Jaime’s birthday.

-Alyssa Mistar


En Quito

Hello all! My name is Chelsea Kline and I am a Junior studying Human Development & Family Studies at UIUC! For the next 3 1/2 months I will be in Ecuador for the Minnesota Studies in International Development program. Through this program I will learn the fundamentals of international development and its consequences. In addition, I will be learning MUCHO about culture of Ecuador not only through class but also through living with my host family as well as improving my Spanish skills. What drew me most to this program was how unique it was. For the first 8 weeks I will be living in the capital, Quito and after I will either stay in Quito or move to a rural area somewhere else in Ecuador for an internship in Public Health!

I left Chicago on Monday January 27 and finally arrived in Quito yesterday morning at 2 am! After getting into Quito our group (about 15 people) stayed at the Savoy Inn, a hotel close to our school, CIMAS. It finally hit me that I was actually in Ecuador after waking up to the sound of a man yelling “PAPAS” and looking out my window to see the INCREDIBLE view of the city and mountains. Soon, our driver, Franklin, picked us up and we went to CIMAS, our school. After arriving at CIMAS, the rest of the day was a blur. We met all the faculty, went over the objectives and purpose of CIMAS and then had a traditional Ecuadorian meals consisting of a type of potato soup and fresh papayas and bananas. It was delicious! After the orientation we got to meet our host families! I have a host mother, a host brother (3 years old), and a host sister (22 years old). We then took a taxi to my new home! After trying my best to speak and understand as much Spanish as I could in that first day, I finally go to rest! It has been a whirlwind of emotions but I cannot wait for the months ahead!


Visiting the Midi-Pyrénées

As the United States is broken up into states and then counties, France is divided into regions and departements.  Toulouse is in the region Midi-Pyrénées and the department Haute-Garonne.  This past weekend I got the chance to visit neighboring departements Tarn and Areige in the Midi-Pyrénées. On Saturday, January 25th, I visited the cities of Albi, Cordes-sur-ciel, and Castelnau-de-Montmiral in the departement of Tarn with a tour group of students through the University of Toulouse.  Using the word city with the last two tour stops is quite the stretch, but both where thriving cities during the middle ages, particularly Cordes-sur-ciel. Cordes was built on the top of a steep hill in order to ward off attackers and had 5 different sets of wall built around it in the span of 100 years to support and protect its booming population.  Albi was particularly interesting as we visited the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and Albi’s Cathedral. Unfortunately we were rushed in both locations, especially the Cathedral where we only had 20 minutes to admire and learn about the building that is truly a work of art with the ceiling and walls beautifully painted with a delicately chiseled stone “chœur” in the center.  The fact that we were so rushed (as most sites are closed from 12-2) makes me want to return to these small cities at some point in time and hopefully in better weather as it rained for the most part of the day.Image

Sunday, January 26th I traveled by train at 7 in the morning 2 hours south of Toulouse to the ski station Ax-les-Thermes and spent the day skiing with fellow study abroad students from around the world: 2 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2 from Warsaw, Poland, and 2 from Nottingham, UK.  Unfortunately the ski station didn’t have the best skiing conditions and some of the lifts and runs were closed because of it, but none the less it was a beautiful and fun filled day (with a few falls along the way).Image


-Claire M.


Horticulture 298 – Guatemala and Costa Rica

Every night, the group had to speak about the things we learned while we were out studying in Guatemala and Costa Rica. This was my days posting.

“On January 13th, we went to a leatherleaf farm that was owned by an individual from Indiana, U.S. He took over the business for his father and created a middle sized company that exports to Europe and the U.S. He had two brand names in his company to avoid issues during exportation and also to be able to sell more product at a lower cost with a lesser known brand.

His assembly line for crop was interesting. He had people working the field and cutting ferns so they can be bundled later on. Once collected, the crop is washed with water and dipped in chlorine. Then they are given to one of nine people who bundle them. In this case, the more you bundle the more money you make. But these nine spots are only given to the best workers each week. Therefore, people work hard and fight for them. Once bundled, they are bagged and twenty to thirty bundles are placed in a box, stapled, and shipped to their locations.”

Really do miss the experience.


Week 3: Skiing and Hellas Verona


It’s weird to think that this was our last weekend in Verona for about five weeks!!! I think we made the most of it though. On Saturday we had a ski trip planned for the Alps so I was really excited. We boarded the bus with Claudio around 8am with a bunch of older men and women who seemed to belong to some sort of ski club. Claudio then dropped the bomb that he wouldn’t be coming on the trip with us that day, but not to worry because the bus driver and instructors (who we will be taking ski lessons with) speak fluent English. We were relieved for about 15 minutes until the instructors went up and down the aisle of the bus trying to take attendance but not knowing a single word of English. We were getting so frustrated, and I can’t imagine how frustrated they were getting with all of our blank stares. Thankfully, one of the girls in the ski club spoke English pretty well and volunteered to translate instructions and questions. She made it just in time for us to over hear her say “altitude sickness” and “pull over” to the bus driver. Soon after, we heard gagging and puking from a girl two seats behind us. All of the Americans (myself included) had to cover our ears/eyes/noses to shield our senses from the sickness and then yell to no one in particular “IS SHE OK” and “WHAT IS GOING ON”. We had to stop about four times for the girl to get off the bus to get sick. In the meantime people were whispering, “I don’t think I feel good” and “I feel like I have altitude sickness too.” Thankfully, we arrived in San Valentino, Italy before anyone’s hypochondriasis could kick in full force.

Once we were there and got all of our equipment on, the ski instructors gestured for us to start side-stepping up one of the hills with our skis on. Making us climb up this hill in full ski gear was either karma for acting as if the altitude-sickness-girl had the black plague, or for their own entertainment because devastating results ensued. Silently, we started shuffling sideways up the hill on our skis. As I looked around at the group, I saw multiple people falling and yelling. I also saw Greg slipping down the hill and quickly dragging one girl down with him. I don’t even want to dwell on this part of the trip because you can imagine that it was not pretty.

Other than the rough beginning of the lesson, the rest of the day went pretty smoothly. We got split up into skill-level groups and started “learning” how to go down the bigger hills. This was complicated though considering the only word our instructor knew how to say in English was “HELLO!!!!!!” So the teaching part basically consisted of charades on skis and 50+ “hellos” shouted at our group. It was a lot of fun though, and Bree and I got to end our lesson by trying out one of the bigger hills. The chair lift took about ten minutes to get up the hill and the trip down the hill took even longer. It was absolutely beautiful to see the mountains and landscape on such a clear day! I was sore for like two whole days when we got back to Verona, but it was definitely worth it.

On Sunday, most of the people in our program planned on going to the Hellas Verona vs. Rome soccer game around noon. Ellie decided that since we won’t be able to experience any Spring Blocks this semester in Champaign, we should have block before the soccer game. This idea was a hit. Alex, Ali, Lydia and I invited everyone over for Verona-Block and we had mimosas with the leftover champagne from Gabby’s going away party and some Red Lion inspired drinks for old times sake. After block, all of us made our way over to the stadium around noon, and it was not a surprise at all that we got lost and finally got to the stadium at halftime. Once we were there we found our seats pretty quickly and decided we were good luck charms because Verona scored ten minutes later!!!! The stadium went crazy and all the fans started singing this one victory song that we didn’t understand so we just cheered and woo-ed like the Americans we were. Even though Verona lost to Rome by one point, we all still had a blast and I would attend a Hellas Verona soccer game every Sunday for the rest of the semester if I could. Who knew I liked watching sports? Not me.

So that pretty much sums up my last weekend in Verona for a while – we leave for Dublin and Galway on Friday and I could not be more excited! Wish us luck!

 Ciao ~~


Post from January 13

First day of school was a success!! We started with Italian class from 9-11, our teacher (Elena) spoke no English to us. We had fun learning the basics of Italian and learning how to say a few more phrases that help us not look like such Americans- although we still do. We then had a long break and had Art History from 2-4 and Photography from 4-6. It was interesting getting done at 6 PM but had a nice break in between classes today and we were able to go on our first run in Verona. It was perfecting running weather and a great way to see more of the city. After class we had our first pizza in Verona. The waitress was frustrated but understanding when we asked for separate checks but dinner tonight taught us more about eating out and the culture here in Italy. It is difficult to go past a gelato place without getting any- so we tried out new flavors and now I think we are all addicted. We are slowly figuring out our way around the city and can’t wait to explore even more!


Bolzano and Mantova

Our first weekend trip was about a week ago with everyone from the Verona Program and our director, Claudio. We went to Bolzano and Mantova, Italy. Both were great!!

Our first stop in Bolzano was The Iceman Museum. Otzi, who is one of the world’s oldest mummies, is preserved here. The museum told the story of a married couple finding Otzi’s body in the mountains in 1991, the preservation of Otzi and other details of his life that they have studied. We actually got to see Otzi, but we weren’t allowed to take any pictures on that floor of the museum. Next we got to shop around in the little town and grab lunch. I bought my first souvenir- a green scarf from a little shop- I don’t remember what it was called, oops. We passed by an H&M so I bought a sweater from there. For lunch we stopped at a little stand selling typical German food of meat and pretzels with yummy mustard – delicious. Naturally we were craving chocolate (we’ve decided we have to try every single bakery we see….well, we didn’t decide that it just seems to happen) I tried my first macaroon and now I’m addicted.

Here’s a link to the Otzi museum for anyone who wants to read more about it:


Bolzano was absolutely beautiful despite the rainy day we had

Next we got back on the bus and stopped in Trento. Here we got a tour of a palace which had a spectacular view and so much history. Trento was a little cold and rainy unfortunately. Everyone keeps saying that we’re from Chicago so we should be fine with cold and we just laugh awkwardly, I still don’t like it. The tour guide showed us around Trento and we got to see the inside of the cathedral there- WOW. Pictures don’t do it justice at all. At this point we were all literally dying of starvation somehow and it was time for dinner at a brewery in Trento. I had the best tiramisu and pizza (pic below) I’ve ever had. The bus took us back to Verona and we were all ready for bed.