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Tropical escape from the Hilltop

Cornell’s beautiful trees and historic buildings are blanketed with snow for much of the winter, but each year several classes escape the cold on trips to the tropics. Courses taught by Cornell professors have traveled to the Gerace Research Center in the Bahamas for years, and 2013 marked the third annual trip to a field station in Latin America, located this year in Belize.

Lexi Zebrowski reads a story to children in Belize. Zebrowski and other students in Comparative Education spent time in classrooms in Belize during block 6. (Credit: Jill Heinrich)

Lexi Zebrowski reads a story to children in Belize. Zebrowski and other students in Comparative Education spent time in classrooms in Belize during block 6. (Credit: Jill Heinrich)

Seventeen students traveled to the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas, each taking part in one of three different classes.

Michelle Mouton taught an English course that studied Romantic literature’s interplay with Bahaman history. Students in Ben Greenstein’s geology course spent time investigating coral reefs, tidal flats, lagoons, beaches, and dunes. And a Latin American studies course taught by Marcela Ochoa-Shivapour addressed the controversy of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas.

Students in different courses were able to interact with each other, telling stories of their experiences and sharing different perspectives based on the focus of their respective courses.

Another 40 students traveled to Belize, where Alfrieta Monagan taught an anthropology course that studied Belizean culture; Barbara Christie-Pope and Craig Tepper taught an upper level biology course that gave students the opportunity to research fire corals; and Jill Heinrich taught a comparative education course.

Sophomore Ingrid Rotto took part in Heinrich’s education course, which gave her the opportunity to spend each day in a Belizean classroom.

Rotto told the touching story of a young boy who struggled to read. Cornell students began tutoring him, and by the end of their time in Belize he had earned a scholarship to a better school. His mother, a worker at the hotel that housed the Cornellians, expressed her gratitude with tearful joy.

“It was really interesting to meet the people and see how much they’re the same, yet different,” Rotto said. “It was a great experience. I’d suggest it to anybody and everybody.”

By Margo Fritz ’15