For some college students, the classroom extends far beyond the walls of a building or campus boundaries.
Although many study abroad programs were put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many were able to resume this year.
One local student had the opportunity to study abroad over the summer.
Walker Hyche, the son of Dwight and Laura Hyche of Meridian, entered the third year of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine in May.
His studies included a trip to a “global classroom” in Africa, where he completed a course in Tropical Veterinary Medicine & One Health in Uganda.
According to the program description on the Mississippi State Office of Study Abroad website, the program, which is held in conjunction with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, “focuses on One Health, international animal production and health management, disease surveillance, public health systems, food safety and security, and multi-national cultural exposure.”
Hyche said the trip is normally available to vet students that are transitioning from first year to second year as well as undergraduates. However, since the trip was placed on hold last year due to the pandemic, Hyche was able to make the trip this year as a third-year student.
His group, which departed on June 3 and returned July 3, consisted of three undergraduate students, four second-year veterinary students, and two faculty members.
Hyche explained that his group was able to interact with veterinary students at Makerere University in order to better understand the challenges veterinarians face in other countries.
“We really learn the same things,” he said, adding, “However, some diseases hold more importance over there than they do here for various reasons. It was really interesting to see what they have problems with and are trying to control.”
“We were exposed to local livestock such as cattle and goats and we also did a lot with their fish production systems,” said Hyche.
The also spent time assisting with health checks at a local zoo, and visited four national parks to learn about disease surveillance practices and conservation measures.
Hyche said one of his favorites was a side trip that he and three other students took to one of the national parks to view mountain gorillas.
“We hiked up into the jungle and were able to observe a family of gorillas for about an hour,” he said. “We were probably about 20 feet from them. It was a crazy experience.”
Hyche said he left Africa with an even greater appreciation for his chosen vocation, veterinary practices here at home, and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State.
“It opened my eyes to how much we have here and how great the vet clinics we have here are,” he said. Hyche went on to add that, “It really makes me appreciate Mississippi State and all the great facilities and faculty that we have. It was a really good experience to see how things work in a different country and how great we have it here.”
Hyche started his first year of clinical education on July 26, beginning with the community veterinary service rotation which involves a six week rotation in the small animal clinic housed at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University.
“I’m so grateful to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State for this opportunity,” Hyche said about his journey. “This was a great trip.”