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Students Study In Belize During Spring Break

Twenty-two students from UW-River Falls spent March 13-23 in Belize as part of the Belize International Study Tour, a three-credit course to increase students' appreciation of the value of conserving cultural and biological diversity. The course included weekly class meetings throughout spring semester and 10 days in Belize over spring break.

Sociology Professor Ed Robins, who led the tour, said that one of the most important lessons of this experience was how easy it is to appreciate other people, their cultures and their concerns.

"Our students found Belizeans open, gracious, and fun, and they responded in kind," Robins said. "Students visited a village school, joined in basketball and soccer games, and were invited to homes, all unplanned and unorchestrated. These were occasions improvised by students and Belizeans together, and demonstrated how successfully one can cross cultural divides with goodwill, initiative, and the spirit of brotherhood."

The group also ventured out on study trips led by Mayan guides, touring Mayan temples, visiting jungles and natural reserves.

Carrie Johnson, a senior majoring in psychology from Bloomington, Minn., went on the trip to experience a study abroad trip before completing her undergraduate studies.

"I learned so many things about the conservation of Belize, the people of Belize, the wildlife of Belize, the Maya and their civilization; this list could go on and on," Johnson said.

Lindsey Becker, a senior from Appleton majoring in biology, said, "I learned about the vegetation in Belize and the medicinal importance of certain plants in the rainforest. I'm also a deaf student, so I really got an inside feel for the Belizean and Guatemalan views of people with disabilities."

The Belize International Study Tour will be offered again during spring break of 2004, and Robins hopes to have a summer component up and running by the summer of 2004.

"The summer activity could be another study tour, but we are hoping also to offer internships and service learning opportunities for our students," Robins said.


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