Costa Rica Bound

Two weeks in Costa Rica was Hannah Burrow’s first study abroad experience.

The same could be said for her fellow second-year veterinary classmate Chelsea Harris. In fact, Harris had never been on a plane until she traveled to the Central America country to work at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center.

Both Iowa State veterinary students said the two weeks in Costa Rica was unbelievable.

“The experience was amazing,” Harris said. “From performing sutures, to rehabilitating sloths, to releasing macaws back into their homes, and neutering cats, it was an experience of a lifetime.”

Burrows and Harris spent their days working with a local veterinarian in the rescue center, whose population consisted of two and three toed sloths, red and blue macaws, parakeets, kinkajous, coatis, peccaries, white-tailed deer, capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, and howler monkeys.

Not the typical clientele veterinarians typically see in Iowa.

That’s just one of the reasons, why the pair decided to journey to Costa Rica.

“I wanted to experience veterinary medicine in a different country,” Burrows said. “I was curious about the differences and if there was anything different, I could learn and bring back with me.”

On a daily basis, the two feed baby sloths, cleaned cages, prepared fresh diets for the animals while ensuring the patients received the physical therapy and treatments they were prescribed.

Even after the daily chores were completed, the work continued.

“We would take an injured sloth out to walk across a branch or perform hydrotherapy because she was partially paralyzed in her hind legs,” Harris said. “Learning how to care for the wildlife was a major portion of our job.”

“The whole facility and individuals were extremely welcoming, and I learned so much about the differences in veterinary medicine along with exotic animal medicine,” Burrows said.

Burrows and Harris were just two of the student veterinarians at the Costa Rica outpost. They were joined by volunteers from Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, and Australia. The interactions they had with the volunteers were in many ways, just as valuable as they veterinary experience.

“It was a unique experience to share stories and talk about the different lifestyles with everyone from these places,” Burrows said. “This experience broadens my thinking and furthered my consideration for individuals from different backgrounds.”

To learn more about the College of Veterinary Medicine’s international program opportunities go online to Information is also available on the Costa Rica trip at

March 2023