Back from Belize, Changed…student reflections on the UCF GIS study abroad experience.

Back from Belize, Changed.

“There ain’t no journey what don’t change you some,” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

It’s the Monday morning after our UCF GIS Belize study abroad experience. Now we’re back in the United States and working hard on finalizing the Belize mapping projects. Our hearts are also heavy for the victims of this past weekend’s Orlando tragedy.

UCF students at Xunantunich

UCF students at Xunantunich

Here are some short reflections from each student on the trip answering the prompt: what the Belize study abroad experience has meant to me. What an inspiring group. All of the these students have an incredibly bright future ahead of them. It was a pleasure to share the journey with them, and to see where the journeys take each of them.

Deven Gray, Upcoming Masters student, Anthropology.

This study abroad experience has shaped my perceptions of what it means to be a researcher. Coming into this trip I never really questioned my ‘holistic perspective’ instilled by anthropology, I was well rounded and ready for graduate school, or so I thought. Interacting with my friends forged in the fiery sun of Belize and the amazing locals we have tried to help along the way, I have come to realize that I have been very narrow in focus. The students on this trip have been so unique and there have been challenges but we seem to have gotten through the trials and tribulations that comes with working alongside others and came out the better for it.

Betty Pierre, Senior Undergraduate, Sociology.

This study abroad experience has thought me a lot about fieldwork research and about myself. This experience was nothing like I have done before. I now have the knowledge to help communities internationally and within my own community. This study abroad experience meant new friendship, adventure, and growth to me.

Rhena South, 2nd year M.A. Student Applied Sociology, University of Central Florida

Words cannot fully express what Belize means to me. I was (and am) challenged to think positively, challenge my own positionality, and what it means for me as a researcher and as an individual. Belize is 40% hard work, 30% communication, 20% sweat, and 10% technology. It taught me that at the end of the day, people have the sole capability to change the world one day at a time. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you came from, at the end of the day, this is what shapes you. Belize is most definitely a defining moment in my life. The friendships, experiences, and the support system that was built will stand strong long after Belize. People, not the technology, are the most important part in any circumstance (research or not). That, to me, is what I find to be the greatest result of Belize Study Abroad.

Briana Robinson, Junior Undergraduate, Sociology

The experience I had in Belize is actually my first study abroad. I did not expect us to work so hard and bond so closely. I gained some new friendships and skills I can use in the work place. I learned a lot about myself and this experience has humbled me in many ways. This experience has been priceless and I would do it again with the same group of peers!

Randalee Byfield, Senior Undergraduate, Sociology

The GIS study abroad experience in Belize meant adventure, knowledge and friendships. I tried things in Belize that I never thought I would try in a million years like kayaking. I also learned the basics of GIS and how it can be applied in the real world. Last but certainly not least I gained a very diverse and nice group of friends. I would not trade this experience for the world. I am grateful for every bit of the trip.

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Mandi Barringer, Second year PhD student in sociology.

The GIS study abroad class in Belize is one of the most challenging and unique experiences I have ever participated in. This class allows students to engage in a community focused, hands-on learning environment in applying GIS research methods. Overall, this class forced me to step outside my comfort zone and experience a new culture. And in the end, I gained new friends, a deeper understanding in how to apply GIS across disciplines, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Alexis Yohros, Masters Student Sociology.

This GIS study abroad trip to me has meant perspective in various ways. For one, I have gained different perspectives from people on my trip. I have realized that people come from different backgrounds and experiences that shape who they are and how they perceive the world. I say the same of the locals we have met in Belize. They have shared their unique way of looking at the world and ideas about how to fix some of the problems the country faces today. Even further, I have gained perspective on how fortunate I am to live in the United States and how privileged I am to receive a higher education that allows me to find once in a lifetime opportunities like this one. Finally, as a researcher, Belize has provided perspective on what it’s like to collect and analyze data. I will never look at a map or data the same now that I now the hard work that goes into it.

Emily Clark, first year undergraduate student, social work

The GIS study abroad experience meant stepping out of my comfort zone. I had never done field work before and I learned what GIS stood for about a week before we left. The learning experience, from the labs before to the field work, to the project after has been great at teaching me how to really apply the information instead of just inputting things onto a screen for a grade.

Taylor Hanus, first year undergraduate student, business and legal studies

This study abroad experience has meant more to me than I could have ever imagined. Not only have I learned about a new technology and how to conduct field work, but I’ve truly stepped out of my comfort zone. I’ve been a part of many new experiences and cultures which have shaped my perception of myself and the world. Going on this trip is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity.

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