MURRAY, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2017) — Two Murray State University students, Samantha Casteel and Elizabeth Remming, spent the summer in Africa completing international internships and gaining valuable experience in their fields.
Casteel, a sophomore from Clayton, Mo. majoring in pre-veterinary medicine, spent seven weeks in South Africa partaking in a veterinary experience internship at the Kwanta Game Reserve.
During her time there, she shadowed veterinarian Dr. Thys Potgieter, working hands-on with various animals at the reserve, the predator center and the petting zoo while using practical applications within the veterinary field.
“I learned a lot more than I expected to,” said Casteel. “Not only did my knowledge about animals, their behavior, anatomy, diseases and pharmaceuticals grow, but my knowledge of other culture and their values, traditions, practices and attitudes did as well.”
Casteel had the unique opportunity of working with the Big Five of lions, elephants, water or cape buffalo, rhinoceroses and leopards that are either nearly extinct or endangered due to sport hunting.
She learned to properly sedate animals, specifically antelope and adult lions. She also worked with animals ranging from ostriches, sheep and ponies to giraffes, cheetahs, tigers and zebras.
“The whole experience was truly life-altering,” said Casteel. “It was a test of my preparedness to truly have what it takes to make it in this field, and I believe I proved to myself that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.”
Casteel said her studies at Murray State prepared her for working so closely with the veterinarians, but moving to Murray aided in her independence in the international program.
“Living away from home and my support line, as well as having to be responsible for myself completely, fully prepared me for the responsibility thrust upon me in having to be fully self-sufficient in Africa,” said Casteel.
She is currently on track to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science. After graduation, she plans on attending a four-year veterinary school, completing an externship and residency at an accredited zoo and obtaining board certification in zoological medicine.
Ultimately, she plans to relocate to Zimbabwe, Africa and work as a wildlife veterinarian aiding in repopulating endangered species. She also hopes to participate in more international internships before veterinary school.
Remming, a senior zoological conservation major from St. Louis, Missouri, spent her summer as an international intern at the Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe. The organization is a privately owned company that works to rehabilitate and release lions back into the wild and is run through African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT).
“Lion populations are declining drastically, so their goal is to get these numbers back up by rescue, rehab and release all in different stages,” said Remming.
Remming found the opportunity through her roommate, who knew Remming had a passion for big cats. Within five days of applying for the internship in animal management, she was accepted.
“I honestly had never thought about doing international work,” continued Remming. “My parents always pushed for me to travel more and work in another country, but I honestly never thought that I would get the opportunity. However, after my experience this summer, I am ready to go back!”
Remming was able to experience hands-on work with the lions. She attributes one of her favorite memories to playing with the lion cubs in the African bush and interacting with the older lions through the fences.
She went on to explain that the summer affected her more than expected and developed a completely different view of the world.
“Seeing the culture and interacting with the locals there helped me appreciate more what I have here in the States, as well as giving me an appreciation for such a different culture,” said Remming.
Remming hopes to get a job through ALERT at the Antelope Park where she interned or at a zoo or exotic animal sanctuary in other parts of Africa or the United States. She also plans on either getting a Ph.D. in animal behavior or attending veterinary school with an emphasis in exotic animals.
When asked if she could give any advice for students wanting to work internationally, Remming said “do it!” She added, “You will not regret it, and you never know when an opportunity like that will happen again.”