Georgia Tech's Alternative Service Breaks - Serving Across Cultures

February 18, 2019

Considering an Alternative Service Break?  Read about one student's experience traveling to Belize to build a community health center.

The first week of my summer was one of the most transformative of my life.  I never would have guessed that the best week of my summer would be spent on a service trip with a group of Georgia Tech students I had never met before.  Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, the world’s only jaguar preserve, wonderful people, and a host of magical memories.  Spending a week doing service in Belize taught me not only about the culture of the Mayan people we lived with, but also a lot of new things about myself.

Everyday was a new adventure for us.  We spent the first few days mostly working on a community health center, with some people from the village where we stayed.  After we had worked for a few hours, we would enjoy a meal and a cultural lesson or activity from members of the community.  Every activity we participated in was really interesting and very different from anything I might find to do at home.  My favorite activity was definitely making (and then eating) tortillas from scratch.  A woman from the village women’s group taught us how to properly grind up the corn and roll it into a proper tortilla...Although I still managed to ruin mine.  The great times (like this one) that I enjoyed on the trip will stick with me forever. 

Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar preserve.  After a grueling hike up one of the preserve’s more difficult trails, we saw what is surely one of the most beautiful sights on the planet.  We rested at a majestic area with the first waterfall I had ever seen.  And then we actually swam in the pool of water beneath it!  This was one of my favorite experiences ever, although it was only my second favorite swimming experience on the trip. My favorite memory from the trip was something I may never get to do again—snorkeling above the world’s second largest barrier reef.  It was a struggle for me at first, since it was my first time snorkeling, but once I got into it, I really appreciated it.  The water was an even more beautiful shade of blue than the sky.  I was almost overwhelmed by the number of different fish and underwater plant life we saw.  And after we swam for a while and grew tired, we rode in a boat to a small island owned by the snorkeling company and I feasted on the sweetest pineapple I had ever tasted. 

Traveling to Belize with Alternative Service Breaks was an incredibly enriching experience.  I was able to help amazing people build a community health center, and they were able to teach me some of their history and a different way of seeing the world around me.   I can’t wait to see what trips Alternative Service Breaks plan next!