What really set this study abroad apart from others and from studying on campus or just traveling in general was our participation with the local schools in San Ignacio. There I was able to shadow a social studies class at the local High School and view how the educational system and students were different.
I was able to help many kids with their reading and pronunciation, preparation for a national test, and their writing throughout my time in Belize.
I was assigned to a middle school called Faith Nazareen Elementary School. The kids at this school do not get one on one teaching, so we were there to give them that.
After having their way of life attacked in Canada and Mexico, the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout came to Belize with what little they could fit in two trucks and full of hope for the future. To get to where they are today, the community had to clear jungle land in order to build roads, homes, schools, and churches.
Although we had our struggles getting through the rigorous jungle hikes, cave explorations, and canoeing excursions, we could not have possibly had the same incredible experience without the support and kindness provided by our Belizean friends.
In addition to the fieldwork we participated in during the week, on weekends we were able to travel to different cities in Belize and visit some of the larger Maya ruins. During these trips the fieldschool staff made sure we were able to try local cuisine and meet people from the local community or the archaeologists working at the sites we visited.
To the left, I would find the surface site Tipan Chen Uitz, a Maya center with huge, collapsed buildings over one thousand years old. To the right, I would end up at the cave Actun Kabul where the Maya left ceramics in the many chambers and the bones of their ancestors in the upper, less accessible chambers.
For one day we were able to go into what we called, “the Upper Chambers,” and in these chambers, the floor was completely covered in skeletal remains and being interested in physical anthropology, I was speechless when I saw this, it had to have been one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
While I eventually grew accustomed to the work, Belize continued to surprise (and delight) me until the day I left for home. The way they cook their eggs, the way Diet Coke is called “Coca-Light”, and the absolute hospitability of the people.
The moment I entered that jungle, I was an archaeologist. Breakfast was at six, and by seven we would be head out to that verdant green rainforest, rife with the chirps, screeches, and buzzing of the local wildlife.
Seeing the different farms in Belize has given me a clearer perspective on international agriculture and has opened me up to the possibility of doing long-term international work in the field.
I took a lot out of my travels to Belize and it has opened my mind to different aspects in life. It also spiked my interest in international travel in learning about different cultures around the world.
Throughout my time in Belize, I got the opportunity to experience several outdoor activities that I would have never gotten to try in the United States including cave tubing, cave exploring and snorkeling.