By Theresa Yunger
Virginia Wesleyan College students were busy during winter session studying abroad in Belize and London.
Students interested in studying Topics in Tropical Ecology headed to Belize, which is located in Central America. The class consisted of two teachers, a teacher’s assistant, and 23 Wesleyan students. Junior Biology majors Megan Gerhart and Brittany Wentzel were two students who made the trip to Belize.
Wentzel and Gerhart were also among the 24 Wesleyan people who ended up contracting a virus in
the first days of the trip.
“It was said to have been the worst virus at Trek, which is where we stayed,” Wentzel said.
Wentzel and other students were sent to the hospital where they were hooked up to an IV. “I was taken to what looked like a clinic in a golf cart,” Wentzel said.
When the class first got sick on Friday, a local doctor came to examine them and give them a shot to help get rid of the virus.
“The doctor walked in with what looked like a tackle box full of medical stuff,” Gerhart said.
By Sunday, everyone who had contracted the virus was healthy. Wentzel and Gerhart said the virus did not ruin their time in Belize, however.
Wentzel said her favorite part of the trip was snorkeling at Turtle Rock. “Getting to feed the sea turtles and have the stingrays come right up to your legs was amazing,” Wentzel said.
Gerhart said she really liked cave tubing and going to the Mayan Ruins in Guatemala. “Going to the ruins and seeing stuff they built without tools was truly amazing,” Gerhart said.
When on the mainland, the students stayed in huts with palm tree leaf roofing for five days. The hut consisted of a bathroom connected to a room with four beds in it. The students said this was an experience in itself.
Wentzel and Gerhart said they used Wi-Fi and texting applications to talk to their families while on the trip, but they were doing so much that there was not a lot of down time for them to be on their phones.
Gerhart said that studying in Belize opened her eyes to a whole new culture. “The beauty of the coral wreath was amazing, and being able to see a culture that preserves its natural habitat was really interesting,” Gerhart said.
Wentzel and Gerhart said they would return to Belize in a heartbeat.
Although the students got sick at the beginning of their trip, it did not ruin their experiences. They said they made memories they will cherish deeply forever.
Senior Business major Ben Fletcher was one of the students that got the opportunity to study abroad in London for the 2016 winter session business course, Independent Study of Management.
Students who took the business course got the opportunity to see theatrical plays and go on a lot of tours of London, where they would have discussions afterwards on what they learned. These discussions took the place of formal lectures while on the trip.
Ben Fletcher said his time in London was an amazing experience. “Although it was short, I learned more about the culture and the people of London than any textbook could teach me.”
Ben said he liked the winter session study abroad opportunity over taking a full semester to study abroad. The winter session opportunity allows athletes who play in the fall and spring to study abroad without having to miss anything for their sports.
“Traveling is something everyone should do. It’s great to talk to different people and experience different things,” Fletcher said.