Student Blogs

Greece 2023

U of I students with Dr. Moran in Rhodes, Greece

Morgan Garrow

“Rhodes was amazing! One of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We had the opportunity to perform so many sterilization procedures on the huge stray cat population as well as shelter dogs. The first week of the trip we focused on spaying and neutering cats that were able to be trapped and released. During this time, we also had the chance to do outpatient appointments for the local residents. The second week, we spent most of our time at the main animal shelter on the island which housed over 400 dogs! We spent the week castrating and spaying as many dogs as we could. We also vaccinated and microchipped all of them. 

When we weren’t working, we were exploring the island, eating, eating, and eating. The food was absolutely amazing. We visited all of the local restaurants near the hotel, and also ate at the hotel itself. The owners of the hotel were such wonderful people and they truly made us feel like family. They cooked us family-style meals that were out of this world. We also had a few karaoke and pool party nights there, so much fun. On the weekend, we visited some historic sites and beaches. It was so educational to learn about the history of the island and the mythology surrounding it. 

It was overall such a great cultural and educational experience. I would highly recommend others to do it!”

Valentina Poggi

“My name is Valentina Poggi, and I am a member of the Class of 2024. In June of 2023, I had the opportunity to practice veterinary medicine abroad. I attended an international externship in Rhodes, Greece, for two weeks. This experience was primarily focused on shelter medicine. During the first week, I spent the majority of my time in the clinic under the supervision of a Board Certified Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgeon, Dr. Clara Moran, and a Board Certified Shelter Veterinarian, Dr. Loukia Agapis. My team and I were able to spay and neuter nearly 60 feral cats brought to us through the local capture and release program during our first week in Greece. In addition to fine-tuning my surgical skills, I also had the opportunity to learn about the miller’s knot, and I was also able to incorporate it into my routine spay procedures. In addition to the feral feline spays and neuters, I was also able to see and help with a lip commissure to eyelid transposition for repair of a feline eyelid agenesis, a canine cystotomy, a kitten evisceration repair, a chicken cloacal prolapse, and even a brachiocephalic obstructive airway surgery. The caseload of surgeries I was able to witness and help with on this international experience was incredible.

In addition to improving my surgical technique, I also had the opportunity to help with a suspected parvo case. This experience increased my confidence in my skills and also allowed me an opportunity to grow as a doctor. Additionally, in this experience, I was forced to learn how to practice veterinary medicine in a different country with different expectations, language barriers, cultural customs, and supplies. Learning about the supply constraints in Greece and working with financial constraints associated with shelter medicine was something I had not been exposed to yet.

Despite being extremely busy during the week with a heavy caseload, our team still had the opportunity to explore Rhodes. We were able to see the Palace of Rhodes, visit Lindos, go to the beach, and check out the beautiful Kallithea Springs. Each night as a team, we went out to eat and enjoyed wonderful Greek cuisine ranging from stuffed tomatoes to my personal favorite, moussaka. I would most definitely recommend this international externship opportunity.

We spent the second week of this externship at the Rhodes Animal Welfare Municipal Shelter. In addition to having a large stray feline population, Greece also has a large stay dog population. To give you an idea of the extent, the shelter we visited was originally created to house 70 dogs, but currently, the shelter has nearly 300 dogs. This shelter is attempting to accommodate as many dogs as possible to help alleviate any potential animal suffering. At the shelter, we learned the importance of shelter rounds and how to appropriately screen both the dogs and their environment effectively and efficiently. As veterinarians, we take an oath – “Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.” This international experience reminded me of the oath I will shortly be taking this coming May. It reminded me that regardless of what country we as veterinarians practice in, we all must live this oath. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that there is more than one way to practice veterinary medicine and reminded me how important giving back to the local community is.”

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Brittany Handley

“I had a great experience studying abroad in Rhodes. Every day was busy with new learning experiences, whether touring the old city of Rhodes, helping at the local shelter, or practicing my clinical and surgical skills. During the week, we got to perform routine spays and neuters on the local stray animal population as well as assist Dr. Agapis with her appointments during the day. We got to visit the Municipal Shelter, learn about shelter management strategies, and discuss what we learned with the local government. Dr. Agapis was also wonderful to work with. She always had a positive attitude, was willing to answer our questions, and showed us her favorite spots to eat in town. Getting to interact with the community and make a positive impact was worth the journey!”

Find out more about Illinois students’ international experiences.