In January 2014 seven students from Minnesota State University Mankato Speech/Language Pathology Department, traveled to San Pedro, Belize. This was our 2nd Study Abroad trip to Belize. They spent two weeks providing screenings and assessments to children in the local schools. Below are some thoughts the students had about what a life changing experience this trip was.
• One thing that always brought a smile to my face was seeing all of the children laughing and playing. I absolutely loved working in the schools and interacting with all of the children!
•Words cannot describe how much I have learned and gained from this experience. Getting the hands on experience with the screeners, evaluations, and interacting with the different populations has prepared me for future clinical work and has expanded my knowledge beyond what a textbook or lecture could provide. I feel honored to have been chosen, as an undergraduate, for this incredible experience.
•Our group kept saying that moving into our apartment was like that of the Real World show. We had spent some of the semester getting to know each other via the Belize meetings but staying together was really going to transcend our relationships to another level. I thought the living space was perfect. I appreciated the fact that there was a full kitchen, two bathrooms, comfortable beds and air conditioning. The staff was really accommodating and helpful to us as well. It was centrally located to all the perfect areas.
•Traveling to Belize provided opportunities every day to learn and grow professionally and personally. As future speech language pathologists and audiologists, the cliental we will serve includes a diverse mix of people and cultures. The more opportunities we have as clinicians to immerse ourselves in another culture, the more understanding and open we will be when communicating and developing plans to effectively improve one’s communication. Belize appears to act as a melting-pot of several cultures in Central America. The fact that the national language is English allows us to engage in the differences and similarities of many cultures while still being able to provide services and make connections. While I love to experience the joys in differences between cultures that makes each one unique, part of me most enjoys noticing the similarities between cultures. I love seeing the span of emotions that connects us as humans from the joy a child has in accomplishing a challenging task to the apprehensiveness one may feel when facing something new to the pride people have in their nationality and country. It is an unbelievable blessing to be able to exchange and share in the experiences that connect us as human beings.
Being in the schools and working with kids on speech and language skills has further fueled my passion for speech language pathology. It also has helped me identify my areas of strength and areas that I will continue to work on.
Outside of the school, the excursions we participated in also provided the chance to improve my self-confidence and gain a better understanding for the Belizean culture. For example, I was looking up at the High Temple Mayan ruin in Lamanai and hesitated for a moment wondering if I could climb to the top. I took a deep breath and moved up the ruin step by step. I made it to the awe-inspiring top. Not only was I able to move past a moment of uncertainty in myself, I also was able to look at the beauty around me and be in awe of the abilities of an ancient culture. Remembering to believe in myself and cherish the beauty of the world are values that impact all areas of my life.I am so thankful I had the chance to travel to Belize with seven amazing people.
As students, all of us with very different personalities learned to work and live together for two weeks, and we created lasting friendships and professional connections. It also allowed us to get to know our professors on a different level and see how their passion drives their actions.I can be confident in sharing with others what I learned in Belize and how it will impact my life moving forward.
My experience can be summed by the following words: to serve was our focus, to learn and grow was a blessing, and to be with wonderful people in a beautiful place was more than anyone could ask for.