Sommer Hayden--Belize

Sommer Hayden
Summer 2008

I participated in the Tropical Biology course through Western Michigan University study abroad, during the 2008 Summer I semester. I traveled to Belize for two weeks to study the natural processes of ecology in an environmentally diverse location.

BelizeBelize, a country with both terrestrial and marine wildlife diversity, was the perfect location to explore a new habitat and get familiar with a new culture. I learned to appreciate natural resources made available by preservation of rainforests, as well as the processes that transpire during ecological development. I benefited from hands-on exposure gained during this science excursion. I have come to value ecology and cultural diversity on a whole new scale.

I explored the Neotropical rainforest and the Barrier reef. Discovering the interaction of organisms in their natural habitat was what I enjoyed most. I believe that studying abroad encouraged me to stretch to new limits that I did not know to be possible. While scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea, I saw many wondrous creatures that I had only previously seen on TV. I never anticipated having the chance to watch a group of opalescent squid wander in the shallows of the ocean, or having the courage to swim after an enormous sting ray to catch a better look. Hiking through the rainforest and seeing the various mammals, reptiles, and insects was an adventure. Studying abroad enabled me to satisfy my ever-growing curiosity to the extent of my own, personal comfort level. It was a very rewarding experience.


I connected with my peers, instructors, and host country’s natives in a manner that cannot be recreated in a normal classroom setting. This direct exposure has sparked an interest to discover more about the world in which we live and in the preservation of such a valuable portion of the biosphere. Studying abroad was a safe, effective outlet for learning new things in the best way possible: first hand!