The power of Internet is amazing, isn’t it? It allows you to search random keywords in hopes you’ll find what you are looking for. For one person in particular, a simple search for study abroad opportunities led her to an array of good fortune.
Shawn Flottmeyer, a Pierre, S.D. native and Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate student grew up on a small acreage raising horses. She participated in 4-H and high school rodeo during her youth. She says she didn’t grow up on a farm but received some of her agriculture background with the help of her uncle and grandpa working cattle on their ranch south of Harrold, S.D.
Flottmeyer continued to pursue her agriculture passion by attending South Dakota State University studying animal science and was an active member of the SDSU rodeo team. While there, she heard about a friend’s Australia global experience she went on through the university. Flottmeyer says after her friend told her about the trip, she wanted to have her own experiences traveling the world.
Her search began in 2008 by visiting the popular search engine Google and the right keywords lead her to the World Vets website. World Vets is a non-government organization providing veterinary aid around the globe in collaboration with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, U.S. and foreign military groups and veterinary professionals abroad.
“Initially I wanted to see the world, but once I got the hands on experience and saw the difference we were making, I wanted to keep going back,” she says of why it was important for her take part in the World Vets program. “It’s captivating to work with other veterinarians and to travel the world helping animals and educating the public.”
Flottmeyer traveled to Peru August 6-15, but before her recent trip, she had been to Belize and Nicaragua through the World Vets organization.
She explains while she was in Peru, they set up temporary clinics for three days. “During that time, we spayed and neutered 154 cats and dogs and did about 50 consultations. As student volunteers, we had some hands on opportunities–prepping for surgery, assisting with animal handling, placing IV catheters, learning surgery skills and monitoring the animals during recovery,” says Flottmeyer.
Some countries receive a bad reputation for their animal care based on their poverty level. Flottmeyer justifies that it depends on the location. She says some street dogs had parasites and skin conditions because the owners weren’t given the correct preventive tips and didn’t have access to treatment and control medications. In all, “the animals were loved and the owners were doing their best to care for them,” says Flottmeyer.
After completion of graduate school from Iowa State University in 2014, Flottmeyer hopes to come back to South Dakota and work in a rural veterinary mixed practice. She says she plans to take one trip a year through World Vets.
When asked about her choice to pursue veterinary medicine, she says, “The easy answer to say is I love animals, but to get right down to it the real reason is I need a job where I will be challenged every day and experience something new. You never know what kind of farm call you’ll get,” she says. “It’s a chance for me to make a difference in a small community to help farmers and ranchers to have a successful operation.”
Next summer Flottmeyer is going to continue her World Vets tour by visiting Nicaragua for a second time. “I went once and now I want to fill my passport,” she says.