Strangers Abroad

What happens when you throw eleven strangers of every different background in a foreign country? Well, you get really close. Really, really close.

I mean you’re kinda forced to be close when you’re seeing each other sans-makeup and dripping in sweat, saying good morning after just rolling out of bed in pjs before coffee, peeing in each other’s faces while snorkeling, dealing with each other when you’re cranky and tired after a long day of field work, diagnosing each other’s burns, stings, and bites, and generally just living with each other.

These people have seen me in conditions that most of my close friends don’t even get to see until they’ve known me for a while, or have never seen.

The weirdest part of all though is how quickly you click with everyone. It doesn’t quite matter our background and experience but it’s this unspoken thing we all have in common that brings us together no matter how different we are, which is why we’re on the trip: we’re all interested in marine ecology and have a desire to learn more about it

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you all to the students and faculty of the UF Belize Marine Ecology course (pictures to be added soon):

Dr. William Guiliano (aka Doc G)

Most likely to sell Adrian at the border

Best half frown/ half smile

Dr. G took one glance at my questions a pushed the computer back towards me so I guess I will be telling you all about him. William Giuliano graduated top of his class in clown college. Just kidding. Dr. G is a professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation at UF where he focuses on wildlife management including forest management impacts on wildlife, game management, felid-prey-habitat relationships, and scarlet macaw ecology & conservation. He obtained his BS in Wildlife Management at the University of New Hampshire, his MS in Biology at Eastern Kentucky University and his PhD in Wildlife Science at Texas Tech University. He is the faculty advisor for the UF in Belize program (and has been for the past 10 years) and is a part of the UF Program for Tropical Ecology and Conservation Science. If you catch a glance at him during the trip, he might look like he’s not having fun but trust me, he loves us. He claims “this is not a vacation” but “what happens in Belize, stays in Belize” and has become known as a less jolly tropical Santa Clause. This trip truly would not be the same without Doc G here leading us.


Most likely to not shave

Born and raised in Gainesville, FL, Angie has been continuing her life in the ville at UF as a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major. As she goes into her fifth and final year, she’ll be looking for ways to live out her dream to save the oceans and be rich. Angie LOVES nudibranchs, is a huge anime fanatic, and is obsessed with serial killers as well as any serial-killer-related documentaries. After her bags were lost at the airport and she was left with no clothing the first night and day, I was so impressed by how calm she remained (any of you that know me know I would’ve been freaking out beyond belief). Angie is also a champ with killing spiders in our room (she squashed a large wolf spider the other day and I know who I’ll want to be rooming with when we meander to the jungle) and has the most admirable chill, attitude.


Most likely to not be “slipperydick”

A northerner and out-of-stater-gator like myself, Hannah is from Canton, Michigan. She went to an online high school and is just finished her freshman year at UF as a Sustainability major. Her goal in life is to travel the world working on sustainable development with communities. Her favorite marine species is killer whale and she knows every capital in the world. Hannah also proves to have a quiet but sneaky side as she kept her wifi alias as a secret for the first week. When we arrived at the MTREC, there was a hotspot named “slipperydick” (a species of fish found in Belize) and we all blamed Doc G and David for the clever name but no one owned up to the wifi. Hannah then revealed to us, yesterday, that she was the owner of the hotspot and enjoyed watching us fret over who the real owner was. Her nickname is now “Slippery Dick” or “Slippery D.”


Class clown

Best bird calls

Alex quickly became the one everyone in the group picks on, and has (mostly) embraced it. She’s going into her fifth year at UF as a Marine Sciences major, is considering going to grad school, and might want to do research with aquatic diseases. Growing up in Palm Harbor, FL, Alex used to pretend to play board games with her dog and once got a rug burn on her nose from pretending to be a dog. Her favorite marine species is the whale shark (or anything she can touch) which can be found in Belize but we, unfortunately, will not be seeing on this trip. While attempting to get a picture off the back of the boat for the gram here in Belize, Alex got one hell of a picture that is now our Facebook group cover photo and has become a never ending meme I don’t she will live down. Alex is also really good at bird calls, just ask her about the “screaming bird” she heard the other night.


Most likely to be found playing ukulele by the pool

Most likely to get lost during a snorkel

David is here in Belize continuing his studies of wildlife ecology and conservation and geology in order to become a professor, researcher, and the “sexiest adventurer in the world.” He just finished his first year at UF after moving from his hometown of Jacksonville, FL. He will tell you his favorite species of marine life is an albatross but since I told him that birds don’t count, he claims the beautiful donkey dung sea cucumber is his runner up. An eagle scout addicted to fruit smoothies, you will almost always find David playing the ukulele by the pool or in the common room at night, the ukulele being one of the 11 instruments he plays. David was also offered weed five different times right after hopping off the plane to Belize.


Most likely to get stung by something

Covered in nautical tattoos, its not hard to tell Tanya loves the ocean, especially sea turtles. She’ll be going into her senior year at UF where she has been studying Marine Sciences. After graduation, she will probably be going to grad school where she will pursue her goal to work with sea turtles and sharks. Although she is more on the quiet side, Tanya honestly has the best laugh. She’s originally from Port Saint Lucie, FL and once met Guy Harvey. Tanya also acquired a giant rash on Sunday when we snorkeled in the mangroves, possibly from a fire sponge(?). We’re all patiently waiting for the day that she explodes into a full blown allergic rash from the unknown culprit.


Most likely to push you out of the way for a good picture

Best pictures

Our resident srat star, Jordan is definitely here to soak in the island vibes. She is going into her second year as a Marine Sciences major at UF and is eventually looking to have a family, work on a boat, and help the environment. Being from the sunny Key West, FL, Jordan has embraced the burn and you will find her catching rays on the top of the boat while the rest of us hide in the shade underneath. You do not want to get between Jordan and a photo opportunity, especially if it’s an octopus, her favorite animal. She has been known to literally push your camera out of the way to make room for hers if it involves a sea turtle or manatee. But let me tell you, she will definitely have the best pictures on the trip. You also probably do not want to trust Jordan with any directional advice as she will get you lost. Her goal for the end of the trip is to fly out on the plane sunburned and wrapped in a towel wearing big sunglasses, floaties, and a tourist hat.


Best tan

Nylah will be on the top of the boat working on her tan the entire ride to the dive spots, and she won’t get burnt. Originally from Jacksonville, FL, Nylah is going into her fourth year at UF as a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major. She is hoping to go “PhD all the way” after graduation unless she can change her life course entirely and become a homicide detective, going well with her love of serial killers. Nylah’s favorite marine species is Tursiops truncatus (bottle-nosed dolphin) and can play the flute. You will also probably find Nylah getting lost with Jordan on Caye Caulker or finding the best spot to get drinks and snap a picture for the gram.


Best push-ups

Most likely to pee off the back of the boat

Remember Adrian’s name when you read headlines of a UF student sold to the Guatemalans. Adrian just finished her first year at UF as a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major where she eventually hopes to find a way to get research and save the world. The 1st alternate for the US National Youth Weightlifting team, Adrian has been partaking in a 30-day ab challenge the entire week and has gotten other students, Dr. Guiliano, and even one of our cooks Maggie involved. She was born and raised in Fort Meyers, FL, her favorite marine species is a parrotfish, and she “hearts” ice cream. Adrian has also been sick for the past few days and we noticed she was going crazy when she claimed her shirt was a seal in the pool.


Best mom

Most likely to attract barracuda

Married mom of four, Heather has become the group’s island mom. Heather currently lives in Georgia where she is working on her non-thesis masters online for UF and she previously attended UF for nursing, Saint Leo University for a BA in Business Marketing, and UF for a BS in Environmental Science. A military child herself, she married a military man and found herself living in Hawaii for almost four years with her family. Heather’s goal in life is to “SAVE THE OCEANS,” her favorite marine species are dolphins, she claims to be a real-life mermaid, and has gone skydiving topless. Heather dresses up her family in different themed costumes every year and previous themes have included Harry Potter, Frozen, and Avengers. Don’t ever try and push Heather out of the way for a picture or Snapchat, she will scold you about living in the moment. Also, don’t try to explain to her what being “iced” is or how to properly use “lit” in a sentence.


Most likely to run across an island for banana bread

Most likely to not spear a lionfish

Don’t give Joe the spear to kill the lionfish. The other UF online grad student here in Belize, Joe is currently working on his masters of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Joe is originally from the “biggest little city in the world,” Reno, Nevada and attended Westmont College in California to obtain his BS in environmental biology. Former navy and married, Joe has become the big brother of the trip and is filled with knowledge on field work, especially in relation to his upcoming research on coral. Joe has been vomit free since ’93, is obviously a How I Met Your Mother fan, his favorite marine species is the candy cane seahorse, and his aspiration in life is to be the next Jacques Cousteau. If you ever go to Caye Caulker, Belize, ask Joe where to find the best banana bread, he knows (and it really is the best banana bread you will ever have, I promise).


It’s weird that I will be saying goodbye to most of these students after tomorrow and that I became so close to them in only a week. I know that we will never forget this time here due to the amount of GoPro photos at least, not to mention our shared love of bean dip and Maggie’s cooking. Hopefully some of us may be back soon.

I’ll post again soon (hopefully) about Belize and the beautiful reefs we have snorkeled. Sorry I haven’t been posting as much as I had hoped, I am unbelievably (or unbelizably haha) tired and have had a very limited internet connection.

Subscribe and stay tuned



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