Belize participants 2018-web.jpgMay 30, 2018

Excitement can be contagious. Imagine stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping into another country. Imagine being equipped to provide relevant health education, health screenings, and community service to an emerging country. 

“I cannot speak highly enough of the experiences I got to partake in,” states Eric Leedahl, who is a Mayville State University nursing student who participated in the Belize study abroad experience in 2017 and also in 2018.  

Students who enrolled in the course International Perspectives in Health I at Mayville State University in the spring semester of 2018 learned about social determinants of health and health disparities in various countries. They were given the opportunity to take the next step and enroll in the summer 2018 course, International Perspectives in Health II, and spend two weeks studying abroad in the country of Belize during the month of May.

Cheyenne Durant, a graduate student who is studying wetland restoration, headed to Belize and was “excited to explore Belize with everyone and gain an understanding on how societies within tropical ecosystems handle outbreaks, as well as how cultural practices influence the spread and containment of diseases.” 

Another participant in the Belize study abroad trip in May 2018, Karisa Barthorpe, looked forward to expanding her horizons and becoming more culturally aware of how people outside of the United States live. She said, “I have never traveled outside of the country and am excited to see what this experience has to offer!”

Formerly known as the colony of British Honduras, Belize became an independent member of the British Commonwealth in 1981. Belize is the second-smallest country in Central America and the population is largely rural. With Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east, tourism is a big part of the Belizean economy. With coastal resorts and vacation destinations near the Great Barrier Reef of Belize, the study abroad experience is quite different from a traditional study abroad trip.

In mid-May, students flew into Belize City and took a three-hour bus ride to Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society(TREES) and spent the night as they were introduced to medicinal plants in the jungle and the tropical climate. The next day, another three hours on the bus brought them to Punta Gorda where they met their homestays. Students lived with families and experienced as much of the culture as possible in a two-week time period. 

Students created health education projects to share in an elementary school. They also assisted with a health fair, providing health screenings, including a day at Eldercare in which foot care, blood pressure screenings, and blood glucose screenings took place. Community service was also a component of the trip. Students learned how to plant pineapple trees and completed some small building projects. Along with work days, the students engaged in culture and adventure activities and learned every step of the making of chocolate, toured a local cacao farm, and got a glimpse of Maya culture as they toured the local Maya ruins of Lubaantun. At the end of the study abroad, the students were able to take a break from working in the extreme heat and stay in Caye Caulker, where they could go cave swimming, zip-lining, and snorkeling, and just relax. 

The study abroad team is grateful for the support and supply donations that enabled them to provide for needs in the local communities of Belize. Donors included Mayville State University; Rosewood on Broadway, Fargo, N.D,; Thrivent, Minneapolis, Minn.; Sanford Medical Center, Fargo, N.D.; Hope Lutheran South, Fargo, N.D.; Michelle Moser; Tronsgard & Sullivan Dentistry, Fargo, N.D.; Pediatric Dentistry, Fargo, N.D.; Wendy Krank with Crest; Saving Smiles Dentistry, Fargo, N.D.; Carl A. Trout Dentistry, Fargo, N.D.; Friendly Smiles Cosmetic Dentistry, Fargo, N.D.; 19th Ave. South Fargo McDonald’s; and South University Fargo McDonald’s.

Photo caption: Pictured above are the seven students and two faculty advisers who made the Mayville State University study abroad trip to Belize in May. In the front (l-r) are Cherokee Durant, Cheyenne Durant, Emily Christoffers, and Linnea Tracy. In the back are faculty adviser Collette Christoffers, Eric Leedahl, faculty advisor Tami Such, Hattie Idalski, and Karisa Barthorpe.