Anna Thomson - Combined Veterinary Medicine & Animal Care in Argentina
From Inverness to London Gatwick, to Madrid to Buenos Aires, and finally to Cordoba (never mind a split open rucksack, many delayed flights and a language barrier), I finally arrived in South America! Argentina was four hours behind the UK, which I still haven’t gotten used to since being back at home. My trip was quite daunting at first and everything was very different from what I was used to at home.
I was picked up from the airport by a Projects Abroad staff member and taken to my host family to settle in. I was welcomed at the door by my host mum, Maria, who showed my around the house and told me basic information, like how to work the shower and how to use the house keys. I then met three of the other volunteers I was going to be sharing accommodation with. They were all 21 and I was 17; I was the baby of the household! Steph from Puerto Rico was doing Equine Therapy, Tom from Liverpool was doing Human Rights and Bobby from Chicago was doing Medicine. The volunteers were amazing and I miss them all so much! I felt at home straight away.
My Veterinary Medicine placement
I was introduced to Armando and Cecilia, the two vets who work together in the local veterinary clinic in Cordoba. At the veterinary clinic, I observed consultations and surgeries. I would also participate in consultations when I was feeling up to it. One of the first things they showed me was how the vets make their own needles for surgeries, as buying them new can be expensive. I was then shown how to stitch up the correct way to make sure the stitches heal.
I saw a lot of different conditions in the clinic. I have seen everything from castrations and tumours to new-born puppies and teeth polishing. I learnt so much and it was such an experience. The vets were very helpful, even though Armando spoke no English and Cecilia spoke very little English. It was amazing!
My Animal Care placement
For Animal Care at the dog shelter, I had to travel 40 minutes by bus and then take a short taxi ride. It was far out of Cordoba in a small town called Villa Allende. It was well and truly an eye-opener. There were 400 previously abused or abandoned dogs all in one place, with only the ground and crates as their beds. I was so emotional after a box with three little puppies inside was left at the side of the road. It destroyed me. It shows how much volunteers are needed, with only four people working there. Having me there to care for, feed and walk the dogs really made a difference.
My free time
Make the most of your weekends, as there is plenty to do! I will name just some of the places I went to, because I did so much. I would recommend walking around the centre (Patio Olmos and Plaza San Martin), visiting the Cathedral of Cordoba, finding out about the local history, going to a symptomatic orchestra at the theatre (if it’s on when you’re there), going to the flea market on a Sunday night, trying the Argentinian dishes, which are amazing, going out and meeting other volunteers, visiting the Parque Sarmiento, going for a merienda and visiting the Museum of Fine Arts.
Tips for future volunteers
- Ask questions, get involved, go out and socialise! It will make the experience so much more worthwhile.
- Try to learn some Spanish. It will make your time there so much easier. I struggled a bit with the language barrier, especially with my host mum. I wish I could have spoken to her more.
- If you’re doing an Animal Care Project, prepare yourself for the conditions you will see. It is not a clean or comfortable animal shelter, but it is better than the animals being on the streets.
- Never travel alone at night (especially for females!) If you have no choice, get a taxi or walk on well-lit streets that aren’t empty.
- Don’t have your phone out too much in public. It’s not worth it, especially if its stolen or you’re mugged. Stay aware of your surroundings when you’re out and about.
- Definitely try the typical dishes! Especially dulche de leche, milanesa and mate.
I hope you have the best time! I want to return so badly. If you get my host mum, you're so lucky. It was the best experience. I will be returning soon!