Service trip to Belize perfect fit for double major

Written by Emma Price, Student Communications Specialist 

Alissa Smith holding a young boy at a clinic held inside a church in the community of Camalote

Smith holding a boy at a clinic held in a
church in the community of Camalote.

As a nursing and Spanish double major at Miami University Regionals, the opportunity to travel to a Spanish-speaking country and set up a clinic to serve local communities seemed like the perfect opportunity for Alissa Smith, who completed a service learning trip to Belize during Winter Term 2020. 

An Edgewood High School graduate, Smith has always had a love for science. “In high school, I had an amazing biology and anatomy teacher, Ben Johnson, who challenged me and inspired me to learn more about the complexities and intricacies of human life. My passion for science and love for people assured me that pursuing a career in nursing was not just my dream job, but my calling.”

She started taking Spanish her freshman year of high school for the sole purpose of building her college application. When senior year rolled around she knew she wanted to continue to study the language beyond high school. “I decided I wanted to speak fluently to the Spanish-speaking families to hopefully ease their nerves and make them feel comfortable,” said Smith. 

First (of four) house visits in the community of St. MargaretFirst (of four) house visits in St. Margaret.

Smith traveled to Belize in January along with 23 other Miami University students. The students visited four different communities to set up clinics and invite local people with illnesses to visit the clinics and seek treatment.

“To prepare for this experience, I memorized medical Spanish vocabulary that I did not know previously, and I created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the necessary items we needed for the trip,” Smith said. She was able to raise $500 that was used to buy medical supplies and personal hygiene products. Some of the money was also donated directly to an orphanage that Smith visited while in Belize.

“The trip was a healthy mixture of collaborating with peers, sitting in on lectures and interacting with the local Belizean people,” Smith said. “We saw and treated over 300 patients, making our trip the new record holder for the International Service Learning program for most patients served.”

The students also hosted a health fair to teach children about the importance of hygiene, exercise and healthy nutrition choices. Adults were taught about common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. 

“I am so grateful to have been able to use and develop my Spanish-speaking skills, especially in the clinics,” said Smith. “This experience boosted my confidence and inspired me to keep learning the language.”

Currently a sophomore, Smith was set to begin her first round of clinicals this semester, but with the COVID-19 outbreak they have been postponed until the fall. However, she remains optimistic about her future as a nurse. “As of right now, I am keeping an open mind as to which area of nursing I’d like to pursue after graduation, said Smith. “I am eager to get in an environment to see what specialty suits me best.”