Belize, also known as the gateway of the Caribbean, is one of the most politically stable countries in South America and is a unique but often overlooked place to find an internship. After being a British colony for more than 100 years, Belize eventually gained independence in 1981. While English is Belize’s official language and U.S. dollars are widely accepted, there is still a diversity of cultures in this beautiful country. Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world, numerous Mayan ruins, tropical rain forests, and over a hundred islands (better known as cayes), Belize’s natural beauty makes it the perfect place for those wanting to gain a professional experience while being surrounded by paradise and adventure.
Education: In some areas of Belize, there are schools with a lack of resources and crowded classrooms that are in need of a more well-rounded education. Not only will you be able to help make a difference in many students’ lives but you’ll help strengthen the education system. When you choose to find an internship in Belize, you’ll be able to provide them with the support and attention they need to succeed in life.
Healthcare: Like any developing country, Belize is in the process of improving the quality of their health care system. Compared to their neighbors, Belizeans are aware of the fact that it will take time. Gain valuable professional experience in an international setting by finding an internship in Belize. You will be able to work with various doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to help offer vital support to their broad range of patients.
Wildlife Conservation: Home to some of the world’s most diverse wildlife and rich habitats, many internships in Belize are centered around conservation efforts to help sustain the country’s natural beauty. Due to strict government regulation, ⅔ of Belize’s natural forest is safe from exploitation and Belizeans are very respectable of their surroundings. Ranging from primate and manatee rehabilitation to providing environmental education at an NGO, many internships of this type are available in Belize.
When and Where to Look for an Internship
Belize has very distinct wet and dry seasons. The best time to land an internship in Belize is from December to May, during the country’s dry season. While this is the time when many tourists visit, you will get to experience Belize’s warm weather, clear skies, and easy access to many attractions. Try to avoid going during April and May, when it can get extremely humid, and from June to November, Belize’s rainy season. Keep in mind that many establishments tend to be shut down during the off-season. With Belize being fairly small compared to other countries, you can expect to find many internships scattered all over depending on what program you choose to find an internship with.
Cost of Living in Belize
While some say that Belize is one of the most expensive countries to visit in South America, it is still the least expensive destination in the Caribbean. Overall, Belize is a very affordable place to live compared to if you were interning in the United States, Canada, or Europe. While the standard unit of currency is the Belizean dollar (BZ$), many prices are listed in US dollars where they are widely accepted. For years, the exchange rate has usually stayed around US $1 = BZ $2. If you happen to intern in Belize during their slow season, try to negotiate prices since this is when establishments are desperate for your business. For more information, visit Numbeo.
Work Culture in Belize
Etiquette: When you’re interning in Belize, don’t be surprised if you find yourself using Mr., Mrs., or Miss but with their first name instead. When it comes to attire, it is usually casual and most men and women can get away with wearing khaki pants, collared shirts, and sandals (not flip-flops). As you can tell, finding an internship in Belize will be a more laid back environment than most but you will still need to keep it professional. Although you may be kept waiting, it is important to arrive on time to a meeting and avoid talking about politics, race, and religion.
Language: Luckily for you, English is the official language in Belize so you don’t need to know any other language to get by. While many Belizeans are bi- or even trilingual, almost everything you can find in Belize ranging from street signs to government documents are in English. You can arrive at your internship and communicate effectively with your colleagues right from Day 1!
Networking: Belizeans are known for being friendly, easy going, and always eager to share their culture with their guests which makes it easy for visitors to communicate with them. With Belize being a small country, it is important not to bad mouth others since you want to minimize the risk of accidentally talking about someone the other person may know. For those interested in interning in Wildlife Conservation, you should join the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network and for those interested in Business, check out the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Work and Labor Laws in Belize
For all visitors to Belize, a passport that has been valid for at least six months is required. If US citizens are planning to stay in Belize for longer than 30 days, then they will need to obtain a visa. For more information, check your nearest Belizean Consulate or Embassy.