June 29, 2017
West Chester University rising seniors Sara Nyholm and Sierra Annand were two of the 24 Honors students who joined this year’s Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Honors student study abroad trip to Belize in Central America.
During a visit to a local school there, education major Nyholm compared the similarities between the Belizean teachers and students to what she’s observed in U.S. schools. “It felt so familiar and foreign all at once. For me, the experience reaffirmed the importance of education and its value to families and communities.”
Every summer, one of the 14 state system universities organizes a trip abroad exclusively for honors students. In the past, the West Chester trip was to South Africa. This year, two Mansfield University political science professors, Jeff Bosworth and Jonathan Rothermel, who have led short-term study abroad programs in Belize for the last three years, guided the students. Prior to every trip, participants spend several days at the host institution in intensive academic preparation, this year on aspects of Belize’s history, politics, economics, and culture.
The course promoted field research through interviews and direct observations in support of four broad research questions related to globalization, economic development, politics, and multiculturalism. Students met with business and political leaders, representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, University of Belize professors, and NGO representatives. The professors organized group interviews and students engaged directly with Belizeans — interactions made easier by the fact that English is the primary language spoken in Belize.