This trip exceeded my expectations in every way. Before I left I was concerned about group dynamics and making friends, and worried I might get bored of snorkeling. Neither of these concerns were realized as I enjoyed and got along well with our group and snorkeling never got old. I took every opportunity for the optional snorkels and was always one of the last to get back in the boat. My research team was one of the best. Other groups had trouble staying focused and motivated or had a few team members do all the work, but everyone on our team was enthusiastic and reliable; despite the large amount of data we collected. I was happy with how our final presentation turned out and hope to use it for the undergraduate research competition later this year.
Looking back my favorite leg of the trip was Lime Caye. It was my first island experience and it’s hard to imagine a better one. The fact that it was smaller, had no internet, and had worse rooms, than other islands we visited might seem like negatives, but I think each actually added to the experience. The smaller island forced our group together and it meant we had the whole caye to ourselves. Our cabin had ants, but I got to sleep outside in a hammock by the ocean. The lack of internet gave me time to read and ID lots of fish.
The mainland of Belize was a very different environment than the cayes. The rainforest was dense, humid, and had a lot more bugs than the islands. We fit as much as we could into the few days we had, which may have been why it felt a little rushed. Highlights of the mainland were cliff jumping at a waterfall and touring a rainforest farm where we could pick various fruit off the trees and eat while we walked. Seeing Mayan ruins and the chocolate-making process was a unique and interesting addition to the trip.
South Water Caye was the most fun part of the trip and had the most to do. This island felt more like a vacation than a course. There was lots of free time to explore the caye or sit in the sun. I especially appreciated having air conditioning in our room after the hot nights on Lime Caye and the mainland. By this point in the trip, we knew each other pretty and playing cards, swimming with rays off the dock, and stargazing were important parts of the trip to me. I hope to stay in touch with the people I met and see them around campus in the fall.
This trip was a wonderful new experience. Belize is the farthest I’ve ever traveled from home, and rainforest/reef environments were things I’ve never seen. I feel I have a broader perspective and have learned a lot during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I would highly recommend this course to anyone considering studying abroad.
Sunrise on South Water Caye