In this day and age, students are looking for a special leg up or advantage to help strengthen their life skills and build their experience in order to give them a competitive edge once they enter the workforce. At Cochise College, students are finding that traveling abroad brings just that, an upper hand in a competitive workforce along with life-long lessons that won’t be found in a textbook.
Traveling abroad gives students the opportunity to experience different cultures, learn about different histories and build relationships.
Over the past few years, Cochise College has provided students with opportunities to study abroad including one trip to Costa Rica last summer and a trip to Sonora, Mexico, this past spring.
In one of their most recent trips, Cochise College students flew from Arizona to Florida and then nearly 2,000 miles south for a week-long stay in Belize. The small nation is a country located on the eastern coast of Central America with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and thick jungles to the west.
The trip was coordinated by the science department and was led by Edmund Priddis, a Cochise College science instructor.
“It was a chance to experience a new climate, culture and landscape. I loved seeing the students as they interacted with people and the environment and that I got to experience it with them,” said Priddis.
Students who went on the trip got to know many of the cultures and people who live in Belize like the Maya, which are people descended from Kriol, and Mestizo, a group of people mixed with a Spanish and Native American heritage.
“Our eyes were opened and our perspectives broadened through this trip. Belize is such an interesting mix of many different cultures and a unique environment with beautiful (plant life and animals). The students loved it, and I would go again in a heartbeat,” said Priddis.
Gaia Schrimpsher is a sophomore at Cochise College who went on the trip to Belize. She is majoring in biology to eventually become a pharmacist. She has lived in Sierra Vista most of her life, and she has visited Mexico, Canada, Germany and Switzerland.
Schrimpsher found that visiting the native tribes in Belize gave her a new perspective in the world of pharmaceuticals.
“Some of the people there live in unique environments. Their houses have mud floors, wood ovens and thatched roofs. They provide for themselves by hunting and farming,” said Schrimpsher. “They don’t use what we would consider top-of-the-line medication. For example, they use soursop, which is a fruit, and it’s really delicious. This fruit is used to help treat cancer there. Seeing how they live actually solidified the fact that I want to be a pharmacist,” said Schrimpsher.
Lindsay Romo, another student who went on the trip to Belize, was also raised in Sierra Vista, and during her time at Cochise College, she double majored in philosophy and psychology. Romo recently completed both her degrees at Cochise College and walked with the Class of 2017 this May. She said her trip to Belize was eye opening.
“Traveling to Belize was my first experience outside of the country. Our main tour guide showed us the ins and outs of Belize since he has lived there his entire life,” said Romo. “We had a Mayan tour guide who showed us what a cacao tree is, and what it looked like and how to make chocolate by hand using a modern mono and a metate. We had tour guides take us on a jungle hike and show us how to survive in the jungle by making a shelter to sleep in and how to find water in the vines to drink. Our cave tour guide was able to tell us about the (plant life and animals).”
Romo said she was excited to be able to apply what she had learned in the classroom to what she saw in Belize.
“…this trip has made me a better student,” Romo continued. “Instead of sitting in the classroom going over theories, I was able to be out in the real world, experiencing the very things that were being taught in my classes. Now that I have my undergraduate degrees in philosophy and psychology, I plan on going into criminal law to eventually, one day, become a judge, and I think that this trip has expanded my understanding of how different life can be in other parts of the world and will only help me achieve my future goals.”