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NMSU Belize Field School launches blog prior to spring break classes

A group of thirty-eight students and four professors will blog their progress, insights and adventures during a spring break excursion to Belize where they will conduct a variety of fieldwork and community service projects through the New Mexico State University study abroad program.

This blog is a first for the program and a way for friends, family and the community to track each of the groups' progress from the time they leave the El Paso airport on March 20 to their return on March 29. Students and faculty will post text summary updates along with photos and video clips as time and internet capabilities allow.

"We're excited to incorporate this kind of technology into the Belize Field School program so the community, friends and family at home can stay connected," said program director Kristi Drexler. "This will be a great asset get NMSU students excited about pursuing international experiences and help promote the study abroad program."

Updates will officially begin on Monday, March 23, and the group will continue to update the blog upon their return as they reflect on their time and experiences abroad. To visit the blog go to http://neelix.nmsu.edu/nmsubelize/

A sampling of video clips from the trip will be posted on the NMSU YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/newmexicostateu and these videos can be found by browsing the keyword "Belize."

Belize is an English-speaking country on the Central American coast between Mexico and Guatemala. NMSU has offered courses with the Belize Field School program since spring 2007. Courses represented on this 2009 trip are primate ecology and behavior, tropical field ecology / biology, tropical field ecology / wildlife science and tropical insect ecology.

Drexler, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Belize and an NMSU alumna, originally developed the Belize Field School program with NMSU Study Abroad in 2006.

"The people and environment of Belize are beautiful," Drexler said. Belize has the largest intact rainforest north of the Amazon with more than 70 percent of the country under forest cover. It offers an ideal learning environment for the natural resource classes this spring, Drexler said.

"Belize is a perfect place for natural and cultural studies," she said. Courses for 2010 are being planned including cultural anthropology and marine biology for spring and summer breaks.

The ten-day classes each boast a full itinerary of observing monkeys, mammals and insects, conducting fieldwork as well as visiting Mayan ruins, canoeing, birding, caving and snorkeling in the Caribbean coral reef.

The Belize Field School Program is administered through NMSU's Study Abroad Office in Garcia Annex. Paul Huntsberger, assistant dean of Study Abroad, values this type of group study program that places emphasis on the students. He has been involved with educational development in Belize for more than 20 years.

Huntsberger said the Belize Field School program could expand further and incorporate other departments or areas for internship. Over time, programs such as social work, medicine, creative media and environmental science for undergraduate and graduate students could also be planned. "The place has tremendous potential for us as a university. It's an exciting adventure," he said.

For more information about the Belize Field School programs contact NMSU study abroad at (575) 646-5107.