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Posted on July 10, 2017

Lorraine Bracker and Brynna Sherony show their Cal U pride as they visit Xunantunich, an ancient Mayan archaeological site in Belize.

Two Cal U students spent two weeks in the Central American country of Belize as part of a trip abroad for Honors Program students organized by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

Lorraine Bracker, a sophomore with dual majors in graphic design and graphics and multimedia, and Brynna Sherony, a senior with a major in international studies, went on the honors trip from May 29 to June 12.

Students first traveled to Mansfield University, which hosted the trip, to be briefed on aspects of Belizean history, politics, economics and culture. In Belize, students met with politicians, business leaders, representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and non-governmental organizations, and University of Belize professors.

“We had a good mix of experiencing the tourism side of Belize as well as what a local Belizean would experience,” Sherony said. “We went to the U.S. Embassy, and it was interesting to hear about the interactions with the local government and Belizians. I’m interested in working for the State Department, and this trip definitely piqued my interest.”

A highlight for both students was visiting the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, a Mayan archaeological site.

“We got to see pots and bones and skeletons that are still in there, so it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing,” Bracker said. “If someone showed up at my door today and said, ‘Let’s go back,’ I’d say, ‘Let’s go pack a bag!’” 

The Cal U Honors Advisory Board selected Bracker and Sherony for the trip as part of a competitive scholarship process that also involved preparing a portfolio, soliciting letters of support and writing a statement of purpose.

Their academic scholarships fully funded the cost of six academic credits, room and board, and travel expenses to Belize. Each participating school contributes $8,000 to the cost of the trip.

Students used interviews and direct observations in support of four broad research questions related to globalization, economic development, politics and multiculturalism.

“We had to read articles, answer questions and react to what we were doing in Belize, and we also had to do a lot of homework to prepare for the trip,” Sherony said.

Study abroad is essential in preparing Cal U students for the workforce, said Dr. M.G. Aune, director of the University Honors Program.

“Opportunities for overseas experience are crucial for State System students who will be competing for jobs in an increasingly globalized economy,” he said. 

“We are delighted to be able to support Cal U students who wish to study abroad and grateful to the President and provost for their continuing support.”