Communication Connection

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Opportunities in COM

Communication Studies in Belize

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

By Emily Soppe

For the second time, the Department of Communication Studies held its annual study abroad program in Belize. Program organizers, Kara Inman and Dr. Bill Bolduc, picked this spring break destination once again for a few reasons. “We chose Belize as a destination due to the fact that it was English speaking so that students could interact with locals and really engage in the culture,” says Mrs. Inman. More than ten students participated, with roughly half from Mrs. Inman’s intercultural class section and the other half from Dr. Bolduc’s media production class section. “What we’re really focusing on is all the different cultures of Belize,” says Inman to explain her class section. “That’s why we spend some time in a Mopan Mayan community, we visit a Garifuna community down in Dangriga, we get to hear a little bit about the Mennonite population and so what we’re really looking at is how communication is different [for] interpersonal communication, marketing, the use of media and how all of those things are different here in Belize than they are in the U.S.”

The main difference between the two class sections was their end products. Within the intercultural class section, each student wrote a paper about an intercultural communication aspect of Belize. The media production students had free range to choose some type of media product to represent their Belizean experience. “I want everybody in my section to somehow document their trip using some form of media,” explains Dr. Bolduc. “That could mean anything from keeping a blog, maybe doing a video documentary, maybe doing an audio and still photograph slide show, there’s a lot of different ways of doing that.” By being in either class section, the students received one credit hour and have also fulfilled the “Explorations Beyond the Classroom” university studies requirement for graduation.

Despite the multiple class sections, throughout the trip the students experienced and did everything together as they traveled to three different regions within Belize. Landing in Belize City, they got to observe La Ruta Maya Belize river challenge, the famous Belizean canoe race that spans several days. In the next location, the Maya Center, students interacted with the local Mayan culture by both engaging with the modern Mayan people and visiting the ancient Mayan temples and the underworld city Xibalba that they explored by spelunking through deep caves. “I really had to push myself,” says senior Communication Studies major June Wilkinson about the caves, where the water was deep enough in areas they had to swim, and the passages so narrow they had to squeeze through.

Continuing with a very adventurous Indiana Jones-esque theme, the COM Studies team went zip lining through the dense Belizean jungle, snorkeling with sharks and climbed up Victoria’s Peak, the second highest point in Belize, to find the natural waterfalls hidden within the mountain. The students were all enamored with the enthusiastic tour guide Ivar, who participated in all the excursions with the students and whose passion for wildlife and exploration inspired them. “What I love is when [the students] are awed by what they’re seeing. I like when they appreciate what my country has to offer. That’s what I enjoy,” Ivar says of the Communication Studies group. Ivar also happened to be well versed in many animal calls, as he riled up the jungle animals and taught the students an unexpected lesson in communication. The last couple days of the trip the students visited Caye Caulker, a more relaxing beach scene where they could lay out under the sun after the physically intense first half of the trip. “It was definitely the most touristy place we went,” admits June. “We got to lay out and go shopping. It was probably my favorite place.”

There are many benefits to the Communication Studies Belize trip other than getting to learn in a warm foreign country. In just a week the trip gives students the opportunity to study abroad without committing an entire semester.  “I really believe international experience is a phenomenal thing to open people’s eyes to what the world has to offer,” expands Dr. Bolduc. “No matter where you are, if you’re open to the experience you will benefit from it… If you can go somewhere with an open mind and really appreciate what that culture has, it makes the world a smaller place.”

Find more information on study abroad with COM Studies at https://www.uncw.edu/com/studyabroad.html or learn more about UNCW’s international programs at https://uncw.edu/international/abroad/index.html