Journey to Belize: how a semester abroad changed my view of the world

The sign on the window simply read “Student Teaching in Belize.” I didn’t even know where Belize was located‚ but I knew I wanted to go. I had always wanted to be a part of a study abroad program‚ and this was my chance.

Georgia (Mar 16, 2007) — The sign on the window simply read “Student Teaching in Belize.” I didn’t even know where Belize was located‚ but I knew I wanted to go. I had always wanted to be a part of a study abroad program‚ and this was my chance.

Belize‚ located in Central America‚ borders Mexico to the north‚ Guatemala to the west‚ and is surrounded by the beautiful Caribbean Sea to the east. It happens to be the only English−speaking country in Central America‚ which meant I didn’t have to brush up on my Spanish prior to departure.

Just getting to Belize was an adventure for me. To begin with‚ I had never been on an airplane or even out of the country. But I successfully managed to mill my way through Hartsfield−Jackson International Airport and endured the three−hour plane ride to Belize.

My roommate and I stayed in Belize City and were placed at Hummingbird Elementary School in fall 2006. The first two weeks were very overwhelming as I went through a total culture shock. I kept thinking‚ “How do people live like this?” Belize is a very poor country that survives only on tourism. I couldn’t get over how different everything was than what I was accustomed to in the United States. Just walking down the street‚ I felt as if I were in a movie.

Even the schools were drastically different with primitive‚ small classrooms and few resources. But the teachers at the school were very friendly‚ as were most of the people in Belize. And though they didn’t have many supplies‚ the students were still able to learn. I taught a class of 23 students ages 8 and 9 who were absolutely wonderful and so well behaved.

Shortly after I began teaching and developed my routine‚ my feelings about being in Belize changed. Eventually I got used to all of the differences and started to like them. I became a master at using public transportation (having never used it before in the States)‚ and I finally noticed what a convenience it was to be able to walk anywhere and everywhere I needed to go.

My experience in Belize was definitely an eyeopener. I learned some valuable lessons and gained insight from a part of the world that I never knew existed. One of the most important things I learned is to see people for who they are and not what ethnic background they belong to. In Belize‚ I was amazed at how well all of the diverse ethnic groups got along: Mayan‚ Mestizo‚ Spanish‚ Indian‚ Chinese and Garifuna descents.

My advice to anyone who is considering a study abroad program is to go for it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to travel the world and experience a new culture while earning college credit at the same time. Many people may ask “why‚” but I always ask “why not?”

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