Turtle Boat Adventure

Submitted by Eddie Sollazzo on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Barbados

This week we had the opportunity to ride on a glass bottom boat captained by a man named  Kenrick. Before meeting Kenrick and the boat, we met Marvin on the beach, and he was the person in contact with our captain Kenrick. Marvin was wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey and a vibrant bathing suit. Marvin led us on a short walk down the beach to an area where our boat could pull up right to shore to board. It was time to go! 

While on the way to our first destination, Kenrick had told us that he has been living in Barbados and driving his turtle boat for 50 years. The boat was a medium-small watercraft with an upper deck, it fit our group of 18 just fine. What was special about the boat was the see through glass bottom panels. There were two plexy-glass panels that we could see through and sure enough just as we got to our first stop we spotted a turtle through the boat. Kenrick told us that many of the other glass bottom boat tours did not know of this spot and that it was a special secret. 

Kenrick fixed us all some snorkel gear and encouraged us to swim with the sea turtles. It was an amazing experience. I couldn’t help but think about the fun sea turtles in Finding Nemo, a favorite movie of mine.  

The group had a lot of fun taking pictures and jumping off the top deck. My second favorite part of this adventure aside from swimming with the turtles was learning facts about the estates located on the water. Kenrick told us stories of where Rihanna used to live and currently stays when she comes. It was crazy to imagine that the nearby town that we are staying in is where some of the rich and famous come to vacation.

Community day and East Coast!

This Friday was community day, and we got the opportunity to meet the children of the local St.  James Primary School. We were accompanying the kids for a tsunami drill where we marched up a hill and got to a higher elevation in the case of a tsunami. It is wild to imagine the threat of a tsunami while living on an island but of course it is important to be prepared. After the trip up the hill, we embarked on a 5-mile hike with the children of the school around the town and then back to the beach located near where we are staying. The children were so fun to hang out with. Some people in our group hit it off with the kids and ended the hike carrying their backpacks and holding their hands. It was adorable.  

I hung out with a boy named Sheldon Thomas who had me cracking up. Some of the kids told me that I looked like a YouTuber they watch, but I couldn’t make out the exact name. I am very grateful to have the experience of spending time with the kids and making some new friends. 

Saturday, we had a bus tour planned to explore some of the beaches on the east coast. The water was very interesting to see as the courses we are taking are related to coastal engineering. The east coast of Barbados is facing the Atlantic Ocean, and the waters are much more rough and violent in comparison to the west side which faces the Caribbean Sea. The views were amazing, and we got to take some great pictures. Descriptions would never do the landscape justice, so I’ve included some of my favorite pictures! (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Service Learning Experience Abroad

Submitted by Olivia Sheetz on the 2024 Winter Nursing program in British Virgin Islands

My third week in Tortola has been full of new experiences and fulfilling opportunities. My highlight of this week was when we visited the local elementary school where we presented the Purple Hands Pledge to the students. The Purple Hands Pledge is used to encourage conversations about using your hands and words for good, not to hurt others. I loved being able to spend time with the students and see how much they enjoyed having us visit their classrooms. We helped the children create their owns hands with the pledge inside of them so that they would hang them up as a reminder each day to be kind to others. This was an amazing experience that I will definitely remember! (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Final Thoughts

This past week was my last week in the BVI. As I reflect on my time abroad, I am filled with so many emotions. I am extremely grateful for my time spent in Tortola as I met many new friends, experienced other cultures, and learned so much about myself and the world around me. One thing in particular that stood out to me while I was abroad was the sincerity of people in the BVI. Everyone was extremely welcoming and quickly embarrassed us into their everyday lives. We got to know many of the locals and spent countless hours together each day. Our taxi driver, Buckle, became like family to me and the rest of the group. Our relationships with so many others were just like this as well. It was very nice to be accepted so easily by everyone, especially being so far from home. I am going to miss the warm and inclusive personalities of those I met throughout my trip! (Submitted on January 31, 2024)

New Experiences

Submitted by Ashley Cooke on the 2024 Winter Nursing program in BVI

Our second week in the BVI was filled with new experiences. We started our clinical rotations this week in Peebles Hospital. As my first clinical rotation of nursing school, being in the maternity unit gave me a great opportunity to gain exposure to a specialty that I’m interested in. The nurses there were very welcoming and considerate of us and began showing us how their unit is run. In addition to this, we had a great tour of Her Majesty’s prison and learned more of the history of the BVI. On another day, we walked around Road Town and shopped local vendors and small businesses. I wanted to try more local foods, so we went to a little “hole-in-the-wall” bakery. Not that I was surprised, but I really enjoyed the coconut pastry I tried! Taking a hike to the Bubbly Pools and exploring the beaches of Jost Van Dyke was certainly a highlight of my week. Already, I have learned so much and gained so many new experiences and unforgettable memories. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip has in store! (Submitted on January 22, 2024)

The Learning Continues 

The third week in the BVI was definitely busy for us nursing students! The beginning of our week was dedicated to clinicals, assignments, and learning more history of the BVI while touring the Old Government House. In the second half of the week, we had the incredible opportunity to take a trip to Necker island, owned by Sir Richard Branson. There, we took a tour of the island learning about their extensive renewable energy sources and the animal conservation efforts that take place. These animals included tortoises, flamingos, lemurs, and more. Learning Sir Richard Branson’s story and how he was able to become so successful was definitely inspirational for all of us. That day was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. On the other hand, in our free time, I spent a good amount of time reading “Island Queen,” the book we are assigned to read where we meet for book club to discuss. This book is based on a real story about the life of a woman born into slavery in the Caribbean. It voices her life journey through both her successes and failures, but most importantly how she always fought for her family and her unconditional love for all of her children. I was able to finish the book a couple days ago, and I can confidently say that it has changed the way I now view family and race. I am so glad I had the chance to read this book, as I don’t know if I would have picked it out myself, but I feel as though it offers valuable life lessons. (Submitted on January 22, 2024)

Spreading Kindness

This week has definitely been one to remember. We had the opportunity to do so many great things. One of the highlights of my week was attempting to surf for the first time. Our group headed down to the surf school here in Josiah’s Bay. We were able to receive some pointers and help so that almost all of us were able to stand up and ride a wave in. We also visited the Baths on Virgin Gorda, where we were able to hike through the rocks and take some great pictures. However, one day in particular really stood out to me this week, and that was when we visited one of the local elementary schools with the goal of spreading kindness. It was a small school with only about 60 students, so we broke into groups and went into each of the classrooms. I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of fourth graders. While at the school, we talked about the Purple Hands project, whose mission is to educate about the right to live free of abuse and violence. We led a group discussion and created a craft with them where they traced their hand with purple ink and wrote their name and the Purple Hands project pledge in the middle: “I will not use my hands of my words for hurting myself or others.” I loved being able to spread that message to the students and the kids all seemed to really enjoy our presentation. When we would even see some of them around town for the rest of the week, they would run up to us and talk to us for a little bit. This was definitely an unforgettable experience for me! (Submitted on January 29, 2024)

Learning About Barbados

Submitted by Jocelyn Juliano on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Barbados

After my second week in Barbados, I am definitely starting to settle in and getting used to living here. The workload has also started to pick up, but I am making sure to balance my schedule with still getting to enjoy the island and making the most of my days. My usual day here consists of getting up early for class, which is from 8-11am, and then I usually do homework for a couple of hours, and then I go to the beach, or I will go to the beach right after class and then come back in the afternoon to do homework. Either way, it has been so nice to get to go to the beach on most days while we are here. I also have enjoyed getting to experience the food in Barbados. A lot of us have been going to dinner a lot to get to try the food of the island, as well as getting to experience more of the culture here. Some of my favorite dishes have been blackened tuna at a restaurant called the SeaCat, which is across the street from where we are staying, as well as some of the local beach restaurants that have very good food for an easy dinner on the beach. I think a major part of living somewhere is getting to try the food, and I have definitely been trying a lot of new food. 

Some other things that we have been doing have been going on field trips around the island. This week, we went on a field trip to the west coast of the island. We got to see a lot of the different beaches on the west coast. We are staying on the west coast, but it was really cool to see the other beaches. We also related a lot of it to coastal engineering and things that we have been learning about in class, so it was really informative and interesting. The picture I added was from one of the beaches on the west coast tour that we got to see. We also stopped at a restaurant at the end of the trip and talked to fishermen about their experience fishing here and to learn more about the coasts, and about sea level rise that has been happening on the island. Overall, I have been learning so much about the island, and I am so excited for the next few weeks here! (Submitted on January 22, 2024)

A Busy Week in Barbados

The past few weeks have been so fun and such a great learning experience in many ways, from learning more about coastal engineering and Matlab, to also learning a lot about the culture and how to live in another country.  It feels like I have been here for a long time, but it is also flying by, but each day is different and exciting.  

This week was very busy but a lot of fun.  We had another field day, this time to the east coast of Barbados.  It was so cool to see the coast line and the different beaches since they are so different from the west coast which is where we were staying.  The beaches on the west coast are calm and very swimmable, but on the east coast, there are a lot of cliffs, rock formations in the water, and rough waves.  I added pictures below of one of the cliffs that we got to see, as well as a popular location called Bathsheba, which is known for the large rock formations that can be seen in the pictures.  We also went to a lighthouse and toured the site, which was on a cliff and had incredible views of the island.  It was amazing to see and a great way to learn about the coast while also exploring the island.  Another day this week, we got to go to a local school and go for a hike with the students.  We first participated in a tsunami drill with them, which consisted of walking up a very steep hill towards the interior of the island, and then we went for a 3 mile hike around the island and on the beach.  It was a very rewarding experience and helped me to learn a lot about the culture on the island.  Other than that, we had an exam this week, and we have also been busy with school, but we definitely make time to explore the island and experience the culture, and I am really loving the island of Barbados. (Submitted on January 29, 2024)

Last Week in Barbados

I can’t believe it is already time to leave Barbados.  I had such a great experience and learned so much over the past month about the culture in Barbados, and what it is like to live in another country.  During the last week of our trip, we had a few fun things planned for the group.  On Saturday, we went on another field day and went to Harrison’s cave, Animal Flower cave, Andromeda gardens, and a few other places around the island.  Harrison’s cave was the first stop of the day, and we got to take a tour of the cave.  It is a popular tourist destination in Barbados, and it was so cool to see and learn more about the cave and the island.  We went to the gardens next and walked around for a while and got to see a lot of native plants and beautiful gardens.  Animal Flower cave is another popular destination, and I added a picture of the cave below.  The cave is in a cliff and overlooks the ocean once you are inside of it.  Sometimes, you are able to swim in an area in the cave, however, the waves were too rough the day that we went.  Some other things that we did this week include going to a popular farmers market, where I bought a few paintings to hang up in my room.  There were a lot of local stands with paintings, jewelry, food, and other handmade pieces.  We also tried out a different beach on the island which was fun to explore. Other than that, the last week consisted of doing homework, presentations, and an exam, as well as a few group dinners to spend our last few nights together with everyone.  I really had the best time in Barbados and made great friendships and memories that I will never forget.  I learned a lot about myself in the process too, and I am so grateful for the experience, and would definitely recommend doing study abroad! (Submitted on February 3, 2024)

Tsunami Drills

Submitted by Brooke Gaenzle on the 2024 Winter HDFS program in Barbados…

This week was packed! We had a big course load for the week, including an exam, two field trips, and a day with the local primary school. But it was amazing! 

We started our week with a tour of the west coast of Barbados. Our group quickly became friends with our bus driver, Wally, and he added some of his favorite spots to our tour. We saw many beaches, with mostly small, spilling waves, similar to the beach at Bellair’s Research Institute. It was cool to explore the coast, and see so many coastal engineering elements in practice. 

Throughout the week, I balanced coding, engineering, and the beach. I can’t complain too much about homework, because there is really no better place to do it than at the beach. On Friday though, we went outside of our classroom and into one of Saint James Primary School. 

The school was having a tsunami drill and needed some extra hands to keep the students all together. We were told it would be a small walk up a hill to the gathering spot, but we walked for hours! We quickly hit our gathering spot and just kept on exploring the area together after. The students took the drill very seriously, but afterwards, they were stoked to get to know us. 

I ended up hanging out with a couple of kids throughout our excursion. We talked about school and favorite colors, while picking flowers and wading in the waves. They were also really interested in my camera, wanted to learn how to take photos, and of course, wanted lots of photos of themselves. It truly was a one of a kind experience. 

Then we finished off the week by taking a tour of the east coast. This side of the island had insane waves because of the Atlantic ocean. There were cliffs, lighthouses, and so many cool rocks and shells. I absolutely loved seeing the east side of the island, and I am excited to head back to Bathsheba for next Saturday’s excursion. (Submitted on January 20, 2024)

Historic Island Tour of Barbados

Submitted by Caitlin Greeff on the 2024 Winter HDFS program in Barbados…

The Historical Island Tour our group took shared a lot about Bajan culture. This experience has heightened our time on the island and has taught us more than I could have ever imagined. The tour started at Harrison’s Cave where we did a tour of the cave with the stalagmites. It is a big tourist location, which is Barbados’ main industry. Each of the different spots in the cave had a different name and a story behind it. Driving through Barbados and seeing all of the sugar cane fields showed how important it is here. I learned about Crop Over and how it celebrates the end of the sugar cane season. While passing the Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, I learned that the wind-driven mill crushed the sugar mill to produce juice. This is an aspect of sugar mills that I did not previously know. I also learned that every parish in Barbados has an Anglican Church. There was a lot of interesting and valuable information that I learned throughout the Historical Island Tour. I am looking forward to the next two weeks where I will have the opportunity to learning more about about Bajan culture. (Submitted on January 20, 2024)

photos from Harrisons Cave and other landmarks from the Historic Island Tour of Barbados.

Week 2 In Barbados: Teaching Placements

Submitted by Travis Johnson on the 2024 Winter HDFS program in Barbados…

The second week in Barbados marked the beginning of our teaching placements in four
of the local primary schools. I got the opportunity to complete my teaching placements with
three other students from our group at the Welches Primary School. The morning of the first
day of placements was filled with plenty of excitement, and some nervousness that was quickly
erased once we arrived at our schools. From the moment we stepped off the bus at Welches
Primary School, the students overjoyed to welcome us, with sharing a similar excitement to
meet them. The first portion of the day primarily consisted of us meeting all of the teachers and
staff, and getting assigned to a classroom. I was paired with Class 2, which has 7-8-year-old
students. I spent the first half of the day observing the teacher and how the classroom works.
During the morning break/snack time, some students offered me their favorite chips and
candies as a warm welcome to their school. The students were excited for me to join them for
recess after lunchtime, where I asked them to teach me how to play their favorite sport, cricket.
Although it took me some time to fully get the hang of the rules, the students were patient with
me and I really enjoyed learning a new sport and being able to build a connection with those
students on the first day. For the second half of the day, I worked with the teacher to get the
hang of grading classwork and working with students to make corrections. At the end of the
day, there was some downtime where I had a chance to have more laid back conversations with
the students about our hobbies and cultures. Many students asked if I played Fortnite, some
asked where I have I traveled in the past and what foods do I enjoy. One student asked about
American Football, which prompted me to bring my football to school on the second day. When
I pulled the football out of my bag for recess on the second day, all of the students were very
excited to play with it. At the end of recess, they asked if I could bring it again the next day. I
quickly realized I will be leaving the football behind when I return home. After lunch, I had the
opportunity to lead a math class, where we worked on a set of multiplication problems to wrap
up the day.

In addition to beginning teaching placements during the second week, the group also
had the opportunity to visit some prominent natural and historical sites on the island. We
explored Harrison’s Cave on an underground tram ride through the cave system with
opportunities to get off the tram and take pictures with the impressive underground waterfalls
and geological structures that have been forming for millennia. Our next stop on the tour was
Cherry Tree Hill, which offered breathtaking views of the east coast of the island and the rough
waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, we enjoyed a large lunch on the rocky shoreline of the
Atlantic consisting of fried chicken, rice, and my personal favorite, macaroni pie. The second
week in Barbados was an exciting week filled with countless learning experiences in the
classroom, and opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the island. (Submitted on January 21, 2024)

Week 2 in the BVI

Submitted by Alexis Hess on the 2024 Winter NURS program in British Virgin Islands

This past weekend we took an excursion to the island of Jost Van Dyke, Little Jost, and Sandy Spit. Jost is a small island with a population of only 300. We can see Jost across the water from the town we are staying in so it was exciting to be able to see what we’ve been admiring this whole time. While at the island we took a hike to the “Bubbly Pools,” enjoyed the beach, and had a paddle board relay race. Sandy Spit, a tiny sandbar, which was an additional highlight that we swam to.

While we did have a lot of fun this past week on our excursion and at the beach, it was also our first week working in the hospital alongside nurses. We were split into different speciality units of our interest, including the ICU, ER, NICU, women’s health, med surg, and the behavioral health unit. This experience provided invaluable learning opportunities, allowing us to apply our clinical knowledge to a diverse patient population. Beyond deepening our understanding of the nursing profession, it exposed us to various lifestyles and their impacts on health. Our time at the hospital also allowed us to identify differences between the American healthcare system and that of the BVI. Looking forward to the coming weeks, I am eager for more enriching experiences, both within the hospital and on the island in general. (Submitted on January 18, 2024)

Surfs Up

Submitted by Taylor Donahue on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Barbados…

Week 3 in Barbados has allowed our group to see all of the west coast. We observed how beaches change and if they have different coastal engineering structures. At the end of our west coast tour, we met with a fisheries officer. He described the changes he has noticed over the years due to climate change and other environmental factors. Fishing here is an essential way of life, so the locals notice when there are changes to the water. To continue with this outreach, our group traveled to a local school. We were able to go on a hike with the class and talk about how much they enjoy growing up in Barbados. Having these opportunities to connect with the local community has made me appreciate my time in Barbados much more than before. My friends and I were also able to rent some surfboards and try them out. The waves are small on the east side, but we were still able to surf them. Surfing and snorkeling have been two of my favorite activities during my time here. There is so much to appreciate in the water, and I never get tired of seeing the fish. (Submitted on January 18, 2024)

Barbados Week Two

Submitted by Michael Rimbey on the 2024 Winter HDFS program in Barbados…

This week in Barbados, we had the opportunity to have four more placements in our assigned primary schools and do other activities around the island. In the placements I got to know the kids and teachers more and learned their different teaching styles to help the kids understand the information being presented. In our PE classes, we worked on long jumps and I had the opportunity to lead multiple classes out in the sandpit while the teacher was doing something else. In this role, I taught them first how to turn away from the pit and take between nine and twelve steps to get a proper running start when they were eventually going to run towards the pit. I then instructed them to turn 90 degrees towards the fence and place their cone down with their name on it so they had a marker of where to start. When their name was called, they were to come off of the fence and take their marks to get ready to run. Finally, I had taught them how to approach the board and hit it with one foot, jump as high and as far as possible, and land with both feet in the sand. This was all to get the children to understand the basics because they have a competition against other schools towards the end of January and early February. Some other activities we got to do this past week included going to Oistens on Friday night and Harbour Lights on Wednesday night. In both of these locations they had live music, native dancing, gift shops, and places for food and drink. This has been one of my favorite parts of the trip so far because it allowed me to experience their culture even more and make me feel like part of the community. I am looking forward to experiencing more things like this these next two weeks and still am incredibly grateful to be able to spend my winter break here. (Submitted on January 19, 2024)