Spring Break is a time that most students use to relax and celebrate in the sun, but Iowa State gives students opportunities to spend their week off changing the world.

This year, Iowa State's study abroad shorts took a group of students to Belize for a service-learning trip. Laurie Fiegel, administrative director of the Honors Program, took about 18 students on this trip.

Fiegel said the purpose of this trip was to encourage students to use language skills and to understand and learn in a more experiential environment. 

Fiegel said she wanted students to see how different cultures perceive life differently than we do in America. "Each person gets something different out of this trip," she said.

Ciara McCarty, freshman in kinesiology, attended the trip to Belize.

"It was very eye-opening; they tried preparing us about the difference in culture, but you had to experience it to really learn," McCarty said. 

McCarty said she learned that Belize is not the starving, poor country that many may believe it is. She says it is very fun-loving and the people there don't feel deprived, but are grateful for the help they are receiving.

Not only did the students get to learn about culture, but they also got to provide services to the people of Belize. Fiegel said she wanted students to understand the impact of what service means and why it is needed.

McCarty said one of the services they provided while on the trip was building wood-burning stoves in houses. They built solar-powered latrines and solar dryers to dry fruit and seeds during the wet season.

Everything the students used to build their projects could be found just outside of the citizens' homes, McCarty said. They used clay and lumber and did everything by hand.

Fiegel said even though the trip required a lot of hard work, students still had the opportunity to enjoy the environment. They went snorkeling, hiking and enjoyed some of Belize's traditional foods.

"To truly appreciate life here and get an idea of life elsewhere, you cannot get that unless you go and experience it yourself," McCarty said.

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