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Pre-vet student ready for wild African internship

May  21, 2014

Imagine hand-rearing rhino calves as part of your summer internship. Add to that community veterinary service for local tribesmen, such as diagnosing diseases and taking care of injured or sick animals. This is what Danielle Schneider ’16 is looking forward to as part of a two-week summer internship in South Africa — a dream come true for Schneider.

The native of Island Lake, Ill., applied for a Shimongwe Limpopo Veterinary Experience internship as part of the requirements for her first-year biology class. Even after putting in the work on her personal statement and the application, Schneider did not expect to be accepted to this selective program that usually takes only veterinarians or veterinary students to work alongside experienced wildlife veterinarians in the field.

danielle schneider

But a miracle happened.

“I got a call about a week after my phone interview,” Schneider said. “I was told I had done such a good job presenting my animal experience that even though I was only a pre-vet student, I would make a great addition to the program.”

The experience will be funded in part by $2,000 from Augie Choice.

Schneider has prepared for her trip for the past five months. The June weather in South Africa is one of the biggest challenges, as the temperature can exceed 100 degrees during the day and drop to 32 at night. Her choice of clothing, including colors and fabrics, had to be planned carefully. Working in the middle of the Limpopo region of South Africa also exposes Schneider to the threat of attacks by wildlife.

“My personal favorite on the kit list was snake-proof boots that go up to about the knee,” Schneider said. “They were really hard to find because you can only get those from hunting stores down south where they have to worry about venomous snakes.”

The list of preparations for her trip also featured 10 vaccinations, including a rabies shot.

During the internship, Schneider will live part of the time in a thatched cottage with two other interns, who will work with domesticated animals at the veterinarian clinic in town. For the rest of the time, she will stay in the bush on the wildlife reserves to work on breeding projects.

The animals Schneider will have an opportunity to work with include roan and sable antelope, buffalo, giraffe, lion, elephant, rhino and eland.

“Working with wildlife means there is never a set schedule or guarantee of what will go on,” Schneider said. “Some previous interns told me about helping with a Cesarean section on a water buffalo and a dental procedure on a lion during their internships.”

Regardless of what awaits her, Schneider is ready to leave her comfort zone.

“I expect the two weeks to be filled with long days and lots of hard work,” she said. “But I feel that all of this will be worth the knowledge I will gain.”

The biology major also has prepared herself mentally for the trip, practicing quick thinking and improvisation when she does not have proper materials, modern technology or electricity.

Schneider hopes the internship will advance her skills and enable her to confirm her desired veterinary specialty.

“Because we gain little hands-on experience in class, I catch myself doubting my ability to take knowledge and turn it into action when it comes to time to do something,” she said. “This trip will give the confidence I need to believe in myself.”

Dr. Kimberly Murphy, assistant professor in biology, has no doubt Schneider will make a significant contribution to the program in South Africa.

“Danielle is a good fit for this program based on her well-rounded liberal arts education and her experiences outside of the classroom while at Augustana,” Dr. Murphy said. “She is excited to use her skills and knowledge as well as learn more.”

Schneider’s first two years at Augustana have been exciting. Not only was she accepted into the Shimongwe Limpopo Veterinary Experience program, she was accepted into Augustana’s Pre-veterinary 3-4 Coordinated Degree Program. This will allow Schneider to complete her pre-veterinary coursework at Augustana in three years and start veterinary school her senior year at the University of Illinois.

But first, Africa.

— Daisy Hoang '14