Technology has made it easier to travel at the click of a button; with our computers and phones, we can virtually visit any country and be connected to anywhere across the globe. However, when experiencing a different culture firsthand, it can be life changing, paling in comparison to online research alone.
One of the biggest concerns of students considering interning abroad, especially as an English speaker, is the potential for a language barrier. If that is your concern, it is quite normal; it is one of the major concerns of travelers, especially first-time travelers. But there are many places to travel and intern abroad that English is widely spoken in, along with other local languages and dialects. From Hong Kong to Mexico and India to Belize, and many others, there are a great number of countries that are home to plenty of English speakers, so interning abroad doesn’t have to mean learning a new language.
Belize specifically is a great place to consider for your internship abroad, because as a former British colony, it is the only English speaking country in Central America and one can travel countrywide and be understood. Not only that, but Belize’s small population offers opportunities for hands on experiences in many fields to potential interns.
Genuine (Understandable) Experiences
Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize borders Guatemala and Mexico. As mentioned before, it is a former British colony and the only English speaking country in Central America. Therefore, Belize is the best place for first-time travelers to intern abroad, as they’ll be able to travel around the country with ease and be understood. A sense of belonging can take time, but being understood can help ease one’s concerns when traveling abroad.
Besides even though Belize is an English speaking country, the Creole (Kriol) language is spoken widely by most races and ethnicities and is a mix of local dialect and English, making it easily understandable and used across all Belizean cultures in its diverse, but small populace.
Let’s Get to Work!
Due to its small population of 370,000, Belize creates an environment for genuine and intimate experiences within the workplace. Internships in Belize offer hands-on experience that allows interns to make a greater impact on communities, especially in fields related to community development, conservation, education, health, and social work.
Imagine assisting a women’s co-op write a business plan or supporting conservation efforts through community based awareness projects? If women’s rights and environmentalism are your focus, you can work in these fields in Belize and gain more than practical skills, but exposure to real-life situations that foster empathy and humility.
If the medical field is your focus, building professional skills through an international nursing internship placement or supporting an NGO with outreach to families in need of counseling could be the experience that is calling to you. As an intern in Belize you could even use occupational therapy and physical therapy skills to work with children with disabilities or conduct geriatric outreach.
All of the aforementioned internship opportunities, are just some of the examples of what you can expect from interning in Belize; however, in any particular field one can expect to learn to adapt and be flexible. In some cases, there may be a lack of resources, and you’ll have to rely on your creativity in order to solve problems. Belizeans’ resilience to overcome work environment challenges engender perseverance and valor, and what better way to learn that than by experience.
Accepting, Diverse People
Along with cultural immersion, interning in Belize will nurture tolerance and acceptance of others. Not only does Belize have a rich culture, but it is also diverse and you will notice that reflected in the workforce. The major ethnic groups are Creole, Mestizo, Garifuna, and Maya, but some of the other ethnic groups include Asian, East Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mennonite. Each ethnic group celebrates their own traditions, which is accepted nationwide, even in schools and businesses, so it is safe to say that Belize has a lot of national holidays! No matter their race or ethnicity, Belizeans are friendly, open-minded and tolerant people who enjoy celebrations and sharing their culture and music with others.
Sights Worth Exploring
So you’ve worked all week, and now you’re looking for something fun to do on the weekends? Thankfully, Belize is home to a plethora of natural gems waiting to be explored! Want to snorkel with nurse sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles? The second largest barrier reef in the world boasts many water parks that are easily accessible by a water taxi (speed boat). Interested in the rich historical monuments? The Ancient Maya temples stand tall and welcoming. Belize is even home to The Blue Hole, a world heritage site. Whether you prefer the rustic outdoor adventure or sunbathing on the beach, Belize can offer these and so much more to the thrill seeking (or lazy) intern.
Unique Aromatic Cuisine
Most businesses in Belize take an obligatory hour-long lunch at noon, and the only worry there is what you will eat. Ignite your taste buds and deepen your understanding of food, as Belizean dishes come from one of the many ethnic groups and boast a unique flavor; however, you will find the staple dish to be rice and beans, stewed chicken, fried plantains, and potato salad. And all of the latter are made with lots of spices and coconut milk to add a sweet aroma and Caribbean flavor.
No Destination is Perfect
Experiencing multiple authentic cultures, all in one location, is a unique opportunity. As a Belizean myself, I am aware that the picture I have painted makes Belize seem like a tropical paradise filled with kind people, countless adventures, and long lunch breaks with amazing food, which is all true; but, there are also mosquitoes, the blazing heat, and local time, which we affectionately call “Belizean time” and means things move at a lot slower pace. All of these things also define Belize, and can equally impact any internship in Belize.
Though technology allows us to “visit” any country in the world, at any time, via the internet, actually interning and living abroad takes the concept of visiting to a whole new level. Interning in Belize allows individuals to understand not only what it means to be Belizean, but what it means to be a global citizen; interns will be exposed not only to difference, but also to the similarities that make us inherently human.
Why intern abroad in Belize? You will undoubtedly learn patience and flexibility as you adapt to the culture and develop tolerance and courage when facing adverse situations, all the while using creativity to problem solve. These are all incredibly valuable skills for any career when you return home, or embark on another journey abroad.
Will interning abroad in Belize truly show you all of the above? Maybe it will, but maybe it will show you something entirely different and expose you to so much more. The only way to find out is to take the first step and sign up for an internship in Belize!
This article was contributed by Toucan Educational Programs, one of the top organizations currently providing study abroad program opportunities in Belize.