Travel Abroad to Belize

Travel abroad opportunities just don’t happen very often at a community college. However, with globalization on the rise, more employers are now seeking diverse candidates with global experience to fill their company ranks. Scott Newbold and Julie Rieder, Life Science instructors at Sheridan College, have travelled extensively and wanted to share these life-changing experiences with their students. In order to make this trip more affordable for their students, both instructors applied for and were granted funds from the Sheridan College Foundation to help offset the costs of the trip.

Six students from the Tropical Biology Course travelled to Belize with Newbold and Rieder to study three distinct ecosystems: mountain pine forest, tropical lowland forest, and barrier reef ecosystems. They made comparisons between these tropical ecosystems and those in Wyoming (lodgepole pine forest, foothill mixed shrublands), and conducted small group investigations sparked by student interest.

Rieder explained, “Our goal was to transform book knowledge gathered from reading and discussions into living knowledge through hands-on experiences in Belize. This trip reinforced and made tangible so much of what we had studied during the semester. More personally for the students, we hoped to fulfill the wishes of many of our students: to expand experiences and therefore opportunities and clarity for future study and career goals.”

The rewards for the students were many. Newbold stated, “International travel is a transformational experience. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer having served 2 years in Botswana, there is no substitute for the cultural, emotional, developmental, and intellectual opportunities that come with travel and living abroad!”

Newbold and Rieder were impressed with the six students who traveled to Belize during the field excursion. “They were stellar. Curious, flexible, open-minded, culturally sensitive, and hungry to see and learn, this group of individuals soaked up everything about the tropical ecosystems we explored.”

One of the students, Rebecka Hurley, said of the trip, “Being able to see just how large and beautiful our world is by traveling outside of our little home bubble was extremely humbling. The experiences were nothing short of life-changing and I will carry those memories with me forever. Sometimes I close my eyes and can still see the barrier reef and the broadleaf forest. I am incredibly grateful that Sheridan College and Scott and Julie were able to provide us with this opportunity.”

Rieder concluded, “Each student now has 12 days of memories and learning that they will carry with them for decades. I still carry my own from my time as a college student on a very similar trip; my first time on a plane, my first time out of the country, my first time seeing the tropics. I can play that experience back vividly in little memory reels! Thanks so much to the donors of the SC Foundation grants for giving these students the chance for this experience, and greatly offsetting the financial challenge of a trip like this!”