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Testimonial from

I graduated from Austin College in May of 2016 with majors in Biology and Spanish; at the time of my enrollment in the GVI Chiang Mai program, I was in the beginning stages of developing strong interests for international conservation. I had already participated in two international projects, and I was hopefully searching for a third to solidify my interests before applying to a graduate program. I worked for 6 weeks in Huay Pakoot, Thailand as a Short-Term Leadership Intern in the Asian Elephant reintroduction program – and I am so grateful for every moment of it! Life in the village was pleasantly simple. If cold showers, bugs in your bedroom, or dirt on most of your clothes sounds undesirable– I wouldn’t recommend this opportunity. I, however, found it to be a special kind of paradise. I lived with a wonderful family. They helped me learn more about the local culture and language, but, most importantly, their friendship was simply a comforting and unforgettable highlight of my time in Thailand. We always greeted each other with warm smiles, and as often as possible, my host mom would let me help her cook dinner. Additionally, I was able to meet, observe, and work closely with a small family of cheerful elephants. We spent week days tracking the elephants to perform health checks, collect data for various projects, or simply enjoy a day in their company. Our hikes ranged from 2 to 9 miles and always included some combination of the following: mud, sweat, monkeys, interesting insects, laughter, elephants, trips and falls, hot tea, great conversation, silence, rain, lunch breaks, sling-shot practice, fresh fruit, and other special treats. On most days, I also helped with a small-scale butterfly abundance/diversity study. I was deeply inspired by the other volunteers, staff members, and community members; we became great friends in a matter of weeks, and several taught me lessons and shared with me memories that I will carry near to my heart for many years to come. Some of my internship assignments included an informal conservation-related presentation, a project to involve other volunteers, and a wide range of other various leadership activities and lessons. One of my leadership projects was a letter campaign – an attempt at creative spread of knowledge and a way for volunteers to individually support the project’s ability to reach and educate a distant audience.