For the fifth straight summer, HCC participated in an international study program to the Central American nation of Belize. Lead faculty on the trip, Tom Klee, was joined by his colleague, Dustin Lemke, nine HCC students and a sign language interpreter. The focus of the 11-day trip, which ran from June 19 to June 29, was to study the tropical rainforest and aquatic coral reef ecosystems. In addition, students were able to visit Mayan archaeological sites and experience Belizean culture, traditions, and foods.
The group spent the first five days of the trip in cabanas powered by solar electricity at the Hillbank facility operated by Programme for Belize. They filled their days with hikes through the rain forest while studying the ecosystem and familiarizing themselves with the numerous animals, birds, and insects that they encountered. They also learned more about the impact human development has on the environment. During the final days of their stay in Belize, the group enjoyed snorkeling the second largest coral reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef. Also called the Meso-Americas reef, it extends along the Caribbean coastline of Belize.
One of the most memorable moments included the hatching of about 50 baby Loggerhead turtles during the first night the HCC group stayed on South Water Caye Island. This year’s journey to Belize also marked the first time that a hearing impaired student joined an HCC study abroad program, and it turned out to be an all-around success.
“Before we left we were not quite sure how communication would work when we were treading water while snorkeling, but it never was a problem,” Tom Klee commented. He believes the hearing impaired student got as much out of the experience as all the other students on the trip. The student and the sign language interpreter even had a chance to meet native Belizeans who were hearing impaired.
All trip participants thoroughly enjoyed their Belizean adventure, and a few have already looked into taking another HCC trip in summer 2013. Under the leadership of Michael Brennan, the Center for International Education (CIE) will again be offering financial assistance for students interested in studying abroad. Students can contact Tom Klee at DSCI 241 or Stella Munday at the CIE office at DSSC 322 on the Dale Mabry Campus for more information.
HCC students and faculty get friendly with a jaguar at the Belize Zoo.
The ladies of the 2012 Belize student group pose on top of a Mayan ruin at the Lamanai Archaeological Site. (Goodrich 10)
Students prepare to observe at the Hillbank Field Station. (Easter 2)