Nine students and one faculty member from Mayville State University traveled to Punta Gorda, Belize for a study abroad experience May 14 through 28, 2017. Given the opportunity to live with local families, the students learned about and enjoyed the Belizean culture first-hand. With majors of nursing and biology, the students were able to each contribute their knowledge while in Belize. The nursing students ranged from those just starting nursing school to students who are already working as RNs and who are continuing their education to earn bachelor’s degrees.
The students prepared health education projects before the trip. Each student’s prepared health education project was presented multiple times throughout different health education days conducted in community and school classroom settings.
Incorporating a variety of interactive and application based approaches, Belizean students, parents, and community members were educated on topics including composting, recycling, environmental concerns with Styrofoam products, plant nurseries, planting trees, and the benefits of organic instead of processed foods.
In addition, the group provided health screenings and education related to diabetes, hypertension, foot care, and vision/visual acuity. The group also participated in a foot care clinic, providing nail care, health education, and screenings to many older adults in need.
The Mayville State University group also had the opportunity to provide community service in the form of building a seedling house for the San Pedro Columbia School. The extreme temperature changes of the climate in Belize presented unique challenges during the days of construction, but the group pulled together and worked hard in spite of the heat. They completed the project in just two days.
The seedling house will provide an ongoing environment free of insects and excess sun. Seedlings will receive appropriate water amounts in which they may grow and then be transplanted into the school gardens. The children in the schools will continue to support the gardens and this seedling house will be essential to ensure growth of the garden plants.
The group also participated in a variety of educational, cultural, and adventure activities during their time in Belize. They learned about the culture and history of Belize and about how chocolate is made from the cacao bean. They hiked in the jungle and learned about the soil, trees, plants, and insects. They also learned about plant medicine from a traditional Garifuna healer. The group also spent two days in the jungle at an ecological conservation center learning about rainforest biology and biodiversity, organic agriculture, music, and art. In addition, they participated in Creole drum lessons and enjoyed swimming in a cave and snorkeling about the Belize Barrier Reef. They experienced a variety of amazing Belizean foods.
Overall, everyone who participated in this experience felt as though this was an experience of a lifetime.
“Not only did we get to see the Caribbean way of life, but we got to interact and work with the people, spreading our knowledge and care to them. Every student went to Belize with an open mind and left with a touched heart and a new culture experience,” said study abroad participant Megan Knudsvig.
Another study abroad participant, Emily Vaagene, shared, “Experiences like these can challenge us to adapt to the new surroundings, but it is an eye opener to what it is really like in the world. I would highly recommend this experience to others.”
Mayville State University faculty and administration look forward to offering future study abroad experiences in Belize. Plans are to do so annually. Students earn college credit while studying abroad. For additional information about this experience, contact Tami Such, Program Director and Associate Professor of Nursing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo caption: These students and their faculty advisor spent two weeks in Belize the end of May. Pictured in the front row (l-r) are Megan Knudsvig, Emily Vaagene, and Tami Such. Kyle O’Brien, Taylor Maya, Eric Leedahl, Jocelyn Klein, Kortney Petermann, Jordan Burgau, and Brittney Slater are in the back.