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Student dispatches from Belize

An exotic Belizean escape from the United States’ hustle and bustle presents senior public relations major Nick Hemming `13 with countless adventures as he studies abroad this fall. As Hemming dives into the culture-rich Belizean lifestyle (and the natural waterfall, Monkey Falls), he is studying sustainability and reconciliation, primarily through the relationship between God and man/creation, while learning ways to serve the land instead of recklessly mastering it.

Hemming’s Belizean adventure began five weeks ago, when he and 17 students from various colleges departed with a program run through the Creation Care Studies Program, promoting environmental stewardship and creation care. Under program director and ’09 Messiah graduate Jeff Fisher’s leadership, the students take classes in Santa Elena. About the campus location, Hemming said, “When we pulled up, it felt as though I was on a Disney safari ride. Our ¼-mile-long driveway is covered in broom trees and tropical plants, as well as geckos and other native creatures. The campus itself houses jungle hiking trails, a stretch of the Macal River, and the perfect scenery for birding. I haven’t gotten into the ‘sport’ quite yet, but I have a feeling this place will pull it out of me sooner or later.”

Alongside the every-day learning experiences studying abroad offers, Hemming will apply his public relations skills through a two-week internship experience in November, probably with a farmer’s union seeking fair trade for cacao beans. He noted, “It sounds like an incredible opportunity to take my classroom knowledge, my professional experience, and my knowledge of the developing world into a professional organization.”

Soon, Hemming will live with a Belizean family. “As homestays draw closer, I cannot help but find excitement in digging into the culture through the ideal source—its people,” Hemming continued. “During my time here, I’ve noticed that Belize truly represents a diversity of cultures; in just three weeks, I have interacted with Mayans, local Belizeans, Asians, Mennonites, Americans and Europeans.” Later in the semester, Hemming will experience a Mennonite homestay, working on their farms, and acclimating himself to the Mennonite culture.

Along with the diverse people, Hemming daily experiences the Belize’s splendid culture through the hand-prepared Belizean foods he eats, and his excursions. He noted, “So far, we have tubed down the Macal River (through the jungle), and visited the coveted Belize Botanical Gardens and the Belize Zoo (where we saw jaguars, ocelots, and tapirs in their natural environment). We spend many of our afternoons in San Ignacio, a town with little Central American Cafés and shops, and a bustling market on the weekends. …A bunch of us traveled to an island called Caye Caulker…We rented a hotel room on the water, went kayaking in the Caribbean, ate freshly cooked meals on the beach. For a moment, I think we forgot where we were—it seemed like something out of a movie or travel brochure.”

But life in Belize is not simply all play and no work. Hemming takes class from 9 a.m.-12 noon and 7 p.m.-9 p.m. He says, “I am most looking forward to Marine Ecology. We will be traveling to a remote island to live in a tiki hut that floats on the water. During class, our professor will brief us on certain sea creatures and plants to search for, and we will spend the rest of the morning searching for them. Apparently, this stretch of the Caribbean contains the second-largest collection of sea horses in the world—a thought I cannot even wrap my mind around.”
Hemming will return to the States on December 7.

Messiah College is ranked 15th in the nation for the number of students who study abroad each year. Last year more than 400 Messiah students studied abroad in more than 40 different countries.

Story written by Katie Johnston `15 and first published in the September 2012 issue of Commraderie, the Department of Communication’s newsletter.

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