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Plenty of time to explore

Our program was perfect, not too long, not too short.

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Published: Friday, 03 May 2024 Author: Summer Groenke

Summer holding Spartan flag atop Mayan ruinsReceiving the opportunity to study abroad brought many new insights and ideas to my academic pursuits and career goals. Being a film studies major, I try to use my skills and abilities to create and share different perspectives and realities with the world. While in Belize I was able to film and photograph everything happening. From cultural experiences to service learning, I collected memories for years to come while also opening an outlet for those who might be interested in learning how to use film to change the world.

There were many things to learn from our host culture. It was interesting to see how the connections between community members extended everywhere. For the population, it seemed like everyone knew each other. We were given the opportunity to learn about the long Mayan history in the area - the Mayan chocolate, Xunantunich ruins. and the woman's co-op. Each one was a unique experience, whether it was climbing 130 feet to the top of the ruins, or learning how the Mayans made their bitter dark chocolate, or even learning to make fresh corn tortillas, pottery, and embroidery. Each day was something different, immersing you even deeper into a beautiful culture.

One ‘myth’ I would bust is the idea of students being too busy or Summer taking a selfie atop a Mayan ruintired to appreciate what's around them or having time to explore. When I have talked to previous students about traveling, I always heard mixed reviews on downtime. Some were always too busy to explore, or they were pushed hard that day and were very tired. Our program was perfect, not too long, not too short. Each day we learned, created, talked, and were given the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Belizean culture. Having the freedom to choose our own path pushed us to learn new things. Many people assume when traveling abroad, you are limited and stuck to a specific schedule. I would love to bust this ‘myth’ for anyone interested in traveling abroad.

Being a first-generation college student who comes from a low-income family, I have my own perspective on education abroad. Growing up I had always dreamed of traveling abroad. Summer holding an iguana on her shoulder in BelizeMSU had always been my top choice college when I was a kid. However, the expansive selection and opportunities offered helped solidify my decision. Coming from a low-income family, I never knew if I would be able to attain my goal. These experiences can surpass the feasible income of a college student, limiting the chances of completing a program. I unfortunately was unable to attend an education abroad program, until this past spring break. However; If I had the opportunity to go earlier, I would have made it a goal to attend more than one.

I am grateful for the scholarship I was given. This made a huge difference in my life.

Name: Summer Groenke
Status: Senior
Major: Film Studies
Hometown: Fremont, Michigan
Program: Community Engagement, Society and Culture in Belize