Overseas experiences inspire vet hopeful
By Alicia Rode
Photo by Alicia Rode
Alexis Zobel, a senior biochemistry major from Waldron, Ind., poses by Continuum, a sculpture in front of Lynn Hall, which is home to the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine. Full-size image (192 KB)
Find out more
Alexis Zobel loves traveling and caring for animals. The senior biochemistry major from Waldron, Ind., has been able to pursue both passions at Purdue through study abroad programs.
"When I was in high school I wanted to see the world and work with animals," Zobel said. "Programs and experiences at Purdue are helping me live my dream."
Last summer, pursuing her dream took her to France. The aspiring large-animal veterinarian worked with veterinarians and goat farmers on a program that developed vaccines for goat diseases.
"During the summer, the goats had sores in their mouths, making it painful for them to eat, which resulted in low milk production," Zobel said. "Veterinarians in France are working on developing vaccines for the seasonal diseases affecting goats in France."
While in France, Zobel lived with a French family on a dairy goat farm. She helped care for about 100 milking does, made goat cheese and embraced French culture.
Food is a huge part of that culture, and Zobel got to participate in it when she sold the goat cheese she made at a French market.
"Buying food locally is preferred in France," Zobel said.
Her trip to France was her second time outside the United States. She traveled across the rolling hills of Ireland visiting small farms on a spring break experience. There, she learned about cattle breeding programs on an island with harsh weather conditions.
"In Ireland there are more cows than people," Zobel said. "Ireland has close to 7 million cows and 5.5 million people."
Instead of importing more cows, Irish farmers and veterinarians are concentrating their efforts on breeding more hardy animals that can survive the harsh conditions. The trip piqued her interest even though she did not have much experience with cattle. However, Zobel is familiar with large animals and farms.
"Growing up with horses in a rural area, I was the one who took care of the injuries my horses had," Zobel said. "In rural areas it is easier for the veterinarian to come to the farm than for the farmer to haul the animals to the veterinarian."
That first trip to Ireland was the first time Zobel had been on an airplane, not to mention her first time abroad. But leaving the country has given Zobel some perspective on her life goals.
"Traveling abroad has helped me to live life to the fullest and take advantage of every opportunity," Zobel said. "I tried so many new foods, rode on subways, and I even went down a waterfall in France. These are things I could not imagine myself doing before I came to Purdue."
Travel has also helped her adapt to new surroundings and embrace new experiences.
"Being in different environments, I had to be willing to try new things," Zobel said. "I will always try something once."
Travel has given her the ability to work better with people.
"I have become more open-minded and accepting of people," Zobel said. "Studying abroad has helped me develop better communication skills."
Travel will continue to be important in her life, even after she accomplishes her goal of opening a large-animal veterinary practice to help farmers.
"I want to travel globally and stay connected to the latest methods in animal production all over the world," Zobel said. "I would like to be involved in animal production on a global scale, if the opportunity should arise."
"I have wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember," Zobel said. "All of my travel and animal experiences are helping me get to where I want to be."