As I finish up packing for my faculty-led trip to Belize, I’m taking a minute to write this post. Back in around February this year (I know, last minute planner), I saw an email for a faculty-led research opportunity in Belize. It stuck out to me because the email mentioned that the trip counted as credit towards an engineering elective, which I’d found to be rare. As a mechanical engineering student who was previously deeply disappointed at the lack of major-useful study abroad opportunities I initially saw, this immediately grabbed my attention. On top of this, it was an opportunity to conduct research on one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef. I knew immediately I had to jump on this.

Though this is not my first time out of the country, I could not be more excited. I LOVE traveling and plan on doing as much of it as I can in my lifetime. Experiencing just how diverse the planet is both culturally and geographically is eye opening and can even inspire you to make changes in the way you live your own life back at home. I believe that exploring an ecosystem so diverse and yet so fragile will strengthen my respect for nature and its processes. I’m also eager to learn about the daily lives of the locals who we will be touring with. When I am back home in my daily routine, I like to think about what the people I’ve met while traveling might doing right now. Traveling truly does expand one’s outlook on the world in a way nothing else can.

As a repeat traveler, I am not nervous about my upcoming trip. The only thoughts I have are of excitement and eagerness to be in Belize. To feel the tropical weather, explore the vast and colorful reefs, observe the unique wildlife, and begin to grasp the cultures and traditions of the local Mayan people. When it comes to culture and geographical diversity, Belize is one of the richest nations in the world, yet I think it goes unnoticed by many. I am grateful to be one of the few people who has an opportunity to travel to a place like Belize (and gain credit for it!).