Belize: Getting Down and Dirty in Belize, by Sebastian Betancourt Vasquez, Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences major


Posted: May 31, 2017

Two weeks in a beautiful country like Belize was not enough, but I relished the time I had there.
Serious faces with the Green Iguana

Serious faces with the Green Iguana

It is fun to travel abroad for vacation with family and friends, but doing veterinary work, what I love most, along with traveling abroad to Belize is what made this trip the best. I am a city boy from New York City so working with farm animals was out of the question there. I was given the opportunity to travel to Central America with other students from across the nation to work with a variety of animals, immerse ourselves in Belizean culture, and gain some new skills with the C.E.L.A. Belize program. Two weeks in a beautiful country like Belize was not enough, but I relished the time I had there.

Each day in Belize was unique and entertaining, and the scorching heat and humidity everyday did not stop us from enjoying the moments we had. For a majority of the time, we followed the veterinarian to his appointments and assisted in medical and surgical procedures such as physical exams (taking temperature, checking respiratory rate and heart rate, etc.) and castrations. We also spent three early mornings in a classroom to learn about the program, the animals, and diseases to familiarize ourselves with what we would be doing. On the first Monday, we practiced suturing on thawed chicken breasts/thighs and sutured dogs after they were castrated. Throughout the time in Belize, we were able to assist in castrating horses, administer drugs to cows, and even catch sheep to give them shots and oral medicine! There was a small animal clinic that we hosted for free on the first Saturday, from morning to the afternoon, and students rotated among 4 stations: reception, physical exams, surgery (castration mostly), and recovery. The amount of hands-on experience I gained was unexplainable. On the last day, groups of 2 students had to pick a disease and give a presentation on it in order to complete the program’s course.

We were busy everyday, but there was still enough free time to enjoy ourselves in Belize. We spent time getting to know each other and we were able to visit the famous Mayan ruins, Xunantunich. After each day of study and work, we went to the pool where we were staying, played games and went into town to eat or buy some clothes and souvenirs. Some days, we were taken to a river to swim, relax, and cool down from the hot, exhausting day. One day we worked with horses at a ranch, then we went horseback riding in two groups. Some of us went to the Belize Iguana Project one late afternoon to interact with the Green Iguanas and learn about them and their importance to the ecosystem. For the first weekend, we had free time after the free clinic until Monday morning so out of the variety of fun choices we had, we chose to travel to San Pedro by boat and stay there for the weekend. We explored the town and went snorkeling with beautiful fish, stingrays, and nurse sharks! The best part about the snorkeling trip was being able to touch the stingrays and nurse sharks multiple times.

My time in Belize was an unforgettable experience. The skills I picked up were more than I had imagined involving veterinary medicine and large animals. The bonds made are valuable to me. I cherish my time in Belize and I cannot wait to visit again.