GoAbroad Interview

Maryam A. Qawiyy - Program Manager

Maryam A. Qawiyy - Program Manager

Maryam received a master’s degree in fine arts from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2010. A freelance writer, thespian, and renaissance artist, she has a passion for the arts, travel, and media. Her continuous global adventures actually inform her work, whether it be written, visual, or performance. Maryam believes that media not only allows for storytelling to occur, but also cross cultural exchange as well, so she values all forms of media.

What drew you to work with TEP?

I was drawn to TEP by the astute and unrivaled professionalism exuded by the CEO and founder, Ms. Rhondine Petrof. TEP is a Belizean based education abroad program provider that always delivers its promise to participants. Not only did I want to work in international education, but I wanted to work with people who are passionate about it.

Tourists on a bus in Belize
Bus selfie with the University of Nebraska group - Spring 2016

How do you use your own international experiences in your role with TEP?

My international experience greatly influences my work, as I understand students’ questions and concerns, which are all based on the desire to have a life changing experience while being safe. I especially enjoy working with first-time travelers, when I serve as a guide and resource to answer all their pressing questions and reassure them that everything will be fine.

Your bio on the TEP website states that you believe “storytelling and cross-cultural exchange can create social change and promote intercultural awareness [and] tolerance.” How do you believe TEP succeeds in doing this?

TEP succeeds in this by providing a platform for students and professionals to volunteer, create social change, and promote intercultural awareness and tolerance. Our job placement program allows our participants to not only work in an international professional environment, but engenders tolerance through intentional intercultural interactions that foster an understanding of another culture and people. This experience also creates social change, as most participants’ placements offer them the opportunity to do meaningful work and support communities in need.

Girl on a beach in Belize
Enjoying the Beach - December 2015

What do you think sets TEP apart from other international education program providers?

TEP’s absolute and unwavering commitment to excellence, passion about international education, and genuine desire to serve and share cultural experiences with others are what sets us apart. Also, the geographic location of the country in Central America and having a strong Caribbean culture gives students a unique mix of experiences that is only available in Belize.

You have a master’s degree in fine arts from Chatham University in screenwriting and creative nonfiction. How does your educational background help you in your current role?

My educational background allows for me to draw on my creative strengths in order to problem solve, and also create innovative ideas to implement into the TEP curriculum.

How do you use your creative nature to help expand and improve TEP programs?

I bring my creative nature and ideas to the TEP team and share them in order to propel our programs forward in whatever capacity possible. For example, a student discovered I was a dancer and asked if I could teach a class; I gladly accepted as the students showed genuine interest. Also, as an artist, I recommend other culturally oriented artists to provide authentic, enriching programs that are wholesome and fun for students to attend as well.

Women with a local drummer in Belize
University of West Virginia student photobomb with a local drummer - Summer 2016

As a native of Belize yourself, what do you think makes Belize a great place for internships abroad?

Location, language, and experiential learning. Belize is only a two hour flight away from several hub cities in the U.S., like Miami, Houston, and Atlanta. It is the only English speaking country in Latin America. Students can not only expect to arrive during daylight hours, but can also expect to be understood, as most students who intern in Belize are English speakers.

Belize is an ideal country for those interested in experiential learning and making a difference.

As a developing country, participants have ample opportunities to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. They will also get to experience first-hand the friendliness of Belizean people, who genuinely are happy to have someone to help support their efforts.

What is the biggest benefit of interning abroad with TEP?

The biggest benefit of interning abroad with TEP is the structure we provide to help our interns maximize their education abroad experience. TEP customizes each internship experience to fit the learning needs, interests, and goals of each participant, while addressing the needs of each partnering community agency. We work closely with both parties to ensure each is a good fit for the other, with the goal of achieving a rich educative reciprocal experience.

TEP internship programs weave intentional cultural learning and exchange events, such as meeting with local experts, homestay experiences, reflective journaling, and regular meetings with members of our team to nurture personal and professional growth. The program provides a supportive environment for first-time study abroad participants, helping them take that first step to becoming global citizens. The program fosters diversity and communality in the human experience, which is valuable no matter where you are in the world.

University of Indianapolis study abroad students in Belize
Surprise Birthday Cake with the University of Indianapolis students - Summer 2016

What is the most rewarding part about working for TEP?

The most rewarding part of working with TEP is contributing to the transformation of our participants while connecting our Belizean agencies to quality interns and volunteers! My love for Belize and its people deepens each time I support an intern or volunteer to make a difference in our country. Belize is truly a unique place to intern or volunteer, and I learn something new with each experience.

Finally, making connections is always fun and humbling, as I see more and more of how we human beings are all more alike than different, no matter our race, gender, or value system. This notion gives me hope that we can move past societal barriers that keep us separate as a human species and ultimately move forward as a human race to progress and evolve, leaving no one behind.