2023 EF Academy New York and Pasadena Belize trip recap
When Spring Break rolls around, so does our annual EF Academy Belize trip. Every year, an intimate group of students and their teachers travel almost 2,000 miles (3000+ kilometers) from our quiet campus tucked away in Thornwood, New York, to the enchanting country of Belize.
Most years, our Belize trip is filled withthe same fun and exciting activities. However, this trip had a few surprises! Not only did we host our students inland for a portion of the trip, but we were also joined by some students from our Pasadena campus! Students had an opportunity to both learn about the culture of a unique country and meet fellow classmates from another campus.
This was the first time we took students inland during the Belize trip – and we were only a few miles from the Guatemalan border! The inland experience was only part one of this adventure.
During our time inland, we spent most of our time at Clarissa Falls, a family-owned resort with thatched huts and loads of excursions from canoeing to hiking and everything in between. While being an active resort for adventurous explorers, the Clarissa Falls Resort is also performing a crucial service to the planet: they are working to reforest their resort’s farmland back into a rainforest, in the hopes to regain natural vegetation and give local animals their habitat back. This honorable project is something we hope to involve our students in more closely in the coming years.
An important goal of the Belizeans is to share their culture with visitors and inform them on how they can save it for future generations. A critical activity we did while inland was hiking the Mayan ruins. After our hike, in a small village outside the town of San Ignacio, we met a group of women who devoted themselves to promoting Mayan heritage through traditional cooking techniques and pottery making. Our students were able to assist in preserving this culture by making delicious tortillas and Belizean-style pottery with their own two hands.
While on this journey, our community bumped into another preservation group who explained why chocolate is important to Mayan culture. Students made chocolate from scratch with this group using cocoa beans and had the chance to see how you can start with only a few simple ingredients to make something remarkable.
Our students were always on their toes while inland. While here, we took two cave trips, one in which we canoed keep into the cave systems, and another where we hiked from one cave to another in rock climbing fashion! At the end of every day, we were sure to relax, hanging out in the river at the bottom of Clarissa Falls, enjoying the warm water and beautiful sunsets.
The second part of our Spring Break trip is something familiar to us: spending time at in TREC (Tropical Research and Education Center) in San Pedro, Belize. As always, our students suddenly became aquatic vertebrates, and spent most of their time in the water, snorkeling and examining tropical fish. During this experiential adventure, students did not cease taking pictures and asking questions. Eventually, the students even had the opportunity to go night snorkeling, where they played with octopi and other marine life. At one point, all the students turned off all their flashlights, and became entranced by the bioluminescence. It’s this type of hands-on education that keeps us coming back to our home-away-from-home at TREC.
For many students, this was their first time. First time: in Belize, hiking in ruins, swimming in rivers, eating exotic foods like termites, and snorkeling in a coral reef. To start, many students were hesitant, and had large feelings of “I can’t do this.” Over two weeks, we watched our students grow and become scientists. What they once thought they couldn’t do only days ago, they ended up leading themselves. These trips are important for experiential learning, but more important for self-growth. Here in Belize, our students become the best versions of themselves.