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Toucan Education Programs Inc.

About

Discover the Serve, Learn, Explore (SLE) Factor when you Study Abroad in Belize with Toucan Education Programs (TEP).

TEP's program offering includes international internships, Service-Learning, and Sustainable Economic and Community Development.

Our study abroad programs are designed to meet both students' and community needs while promoting ethical, reciprocal, and innovation. Prioritizing the health, safety, and success of our students are core values embedded in every program we run.

Discover the SLE Factor and its positive impact on you and your host community. Join us!

Founded
2010
Headquarters

Mile 68 George Price Highway
San Ignacio, Cayo District
Belize

Reviews

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Nia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Currently, a graduate student studying agribusiness and applied economics. This was not my first time abroad. But compared to my other trip, this was my favorite program. Spending two weeks in Belize was truly a beautiful, unique experience. (It was a trip of a lifetime.) The program and economics course truly shifted my perspective on sustainability and community development. Dr. Metzgen is an amazing teacher and a trailblazer in the Belizean community. I enjoyed the opportunity in doing a service-learning project along with planned site visits to Barton Creek, San Ignacio, and Xunantunich. Looking back on this adventure, the memories I created in Belize has opened doors for me. I was given the opportunity to participate in several workshops and events sharing my story and my experience in Belize.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Always enter a new experience with an open mind and heart....Have zero expectations. Try to get everything the program recommends on the list. I would recommend to future travelers to bring comfort snacks and items to help cope with the stress of being in a new country. I would also bring at least 2 button-down long sleeve shirts and a hat to cover your neck and face the weather in Belize is extremely hot.
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Alexea
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I truly enjoyed my experience in Belize this past summer, without a doubt the study abroad program left a huge impact on me. First, I feel as though I had a tremendous amount of support from the faculty( Ms. Abby, Ms. Rhondine and Mr. Roberto) and our professor, Dr. Metzgen. To have support is very important when traveling to another country for the first time. I loved the planned field trips that we took for example: the iguana conservation project, Barton Creek, San Ignacio market and the Mayan Temples just to name a few places. I can definitely say that when I came back home I was able to bring back memories that I will cherish forever and knowledge that is priceless. I would definitely recommend this program to any student. I hope to be able to come back to Belize soon !

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice for future travelers on this program is to make sure you bring the necessary clothes and items and to keep an open mind. I think many people don't keep an open mind when traveling to other countries and it can have a negative effect on your experience.
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William
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My overall experience was great since it was my first time learning outside the U.S. I enjoyed the planned activities that the program had to offer. I learned a lot from taking the course under Dr. Metzgen about the history of Belize and how Belize looks going into the future with AG and Tourism. We also had the opportunity to go on excursions outside of doing class work which helped us as a group to see how beautiful the country was. My favorite day's were going to Barton creek to go canoeing in a an ancient Mayan cave under mountain and also the day where we had the chance to work with the kids at the local school on teaching them about germs and hygiene. To conclude, I really enjoyed the program as a whole and I would recommend it to students interested in studying abroad.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would change the location where our group stayed at so that we would not have been so isolated.
Response from Toucan Education Programs Inc.

Thank you for taking the time to share your review of the program, Will. It was certainly a pleasure having you as a part of the pilot of this program this past summer.

Based on the feedback from yourself and the rest of the pilot group, we have made changes to next year's program regarding housing which will certainly address the concerns you mentioned in your review.

Thank you again. We wish you the best of luck and hope to see you in Belize again soon!

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Jessica
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am a first-generation student so going to Belize was both exciting and also made me a bit nervous. From those who picked my group up from the airport, to the director of TEP, everyone ensured I had the necessary tools to have the safest and greatest experience possible. I interned at the Santa Elena Public Library and did presentations in surrounding schools. I was also able to visit South Belize and swim in the Carribean Sea! I made signature dishes alongside Mayan women and did the same with the Garifuna people on their home island. Reciprocity played a huge role in my experience because I gained so much personal and professional growth in return. I made lasting friendships and immersed myself into the beautiful culture of Belize. Thank you for the amazing experience TEP!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
My most nerve-wracking moment was to present in front of so many children in the surrounding schools of Santa Elena. I overcame my fear by giving it my all and going in prepared to teach the youth the information I was there to present. In the end, I was very proud of myself and felt that my fear of presenting in large crowds was a thing of the past.
Read my full story
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DeNari
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I enjoyed my Belize trip. I enjoyed the people that I went with and I made a couple of good friends, some that I still keep in touch with. I really enjoyed the internship and the people I networked with through the internship. I enjoyed the country as a whole. The only problem that I had was the lecture in the beginning from a director and feeling as if I was being treated like a child and I felt that whatever I had to say was deemed as unimportant. I understand that TEP cares about our safety, but there is a way you talk to people and that was not it. Other than that incident, everything else was great, especially the activities where we immersed ourselves within the Belizean culture, it helped improve the quality of my trip. The locals are really nice and welcoming and the food in Belize is amazing.

What would you improve about this program?
Don’t treat the students like children. Talk to the students about the value of their safety, but don’t come off too strong. It felt as if our experiences were being restricted in the beginning because of the way things were said.
Response from Toucan Education Programs Inc.

Thanks for your review, DeNari. You certainly made an impact on the Belizean community and we are happy to hear that it made an impact on you.

We also thank you for sharing your feelings on the issue that arose in the beginning regarding the safety of you and your colleagues while on the program.

TEP is dedicated to giving all participants the tools and information needed to have a safe experience on their program. We apologize if you felt the advice we provided came across as too strong.

However, when we have students on our programs, we consider them as part of our family and we never want to have to share bad news with their families back home. We want to ensure that you return home to them in the same way you arrived.

We consider health, safety and security of all participants, our staff and our partners of the utmost importance to us.

Thank you again. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors and know you are now and will always be a part of the TEP family.

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

The opportunity to become a part of this program was all thanks to serendipity. I was initially not planning to study abroad that Summer. Nevertheless, I knew that studying abroad was an investment and also knew of the potential growth I could have if I embarked on this journey.

Being in college you always hear that internships are key. This is what sparked my initial interest in the Intern program that Toucan Education Program (TEP) offers. Also, I wanted to explore a country/part of the world I hadn't yet. I went above and beyond to find fundings to go to this program and become an intern. This was one of the best financial and personal decisions I have made.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

TEP staff ensured I had all of the necessary tools to succeed in the program. We had an in-depth orientation that was very clear and easy to follow. Alongside this, my internship supervisors worked with me on projects that I executed. For instance, with presentations that I did in surrounding schools in the town of Santa Elena in Belize. I also did work independently and this was a time to showcase my creativity and abilities.

There was so much room for both independence and teamwork. If I ever needed anything, whether that I needed to know how to get to the nearest grocery store or ideas on how to become a better presenter, TEP was always a quick text or call away.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

A piece of advice before embarking on this journey would be to come open-minded. I never expected to receive all that I did. I discovered the true meaning of reciprocity while on this trip. I expected to serve a community, inspire, and impact Belize. Never did I imagine getting so much support, and personal growth in return, among other things. Be open to leaving Belize a changed person, for the better!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day for me was waking up at roughly 8 am, making breakfast, and getting dressed in my business casual clothing. I would catch a Taxi to my internship which was about an 8-minute drive. I worked from 9-4:30 pm.

During lunchtime, I would go to a nearby Pupuserilla. A place where they sold very delicious food accompanied by a refreshing agua fresca. Mmm, it brings back memories!

During my internship, I tutored two young ladies in Elementary school. I also assisted in planning a sustainable book club for the community, while making presentations on STI's and bullying, then presenting them to nearby schools.

After the day was over, I would catch a taxi back to my residence or get dropped off downtown and explore the gift shops and different places to eat.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not making an impact in the community or on the projects that I worked on at my internship. However, I realized that creating something that could become sustainable or be carried on even after I departed was my new goal. That is why I put in a great deal of work in giving everything that I did my absolute best.

I was in Belize for about a month on this program. I came to the realization that I needed to do more than a one month impact. I wanted to leave an initial footprint that others could follow long after I was gone. My views changed thanks to the mentorship and guidance of TEP and their staff, along with my internship supervisors.

What other things did you do in your trip?

Besides my internship, I did so much more.

I visited the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and climbed all the way to the top of the great structure. I cooked a homemade meal beside Mayan women, made chocolate from scratch, and visited an island where the Garifuna people taught me how to cook one of their signature dishes.

In South Belize, I got the chance to swim in the Caribbean Sea while being housed in a Bungalow directly in front of the beautiful water. I also got to go to a gorgeous butterfly garden on my birthday while in Belize.

I immersed myself so well into the Belizean culture, but I know I still have a lot to learn, and this experience only made me more curious and excited to keep exploring this world that we live in.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Dr. Sandi Smith

Job Title
Vice President for Strategic Partnerships
Sandi has made a career of supporting students in Education Abroad programs. With an obvious passion for introducing others to international and intercultural learning experiences, she has worked with thousands of students and faculty.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have vivid memories of my first visit to Belize. I was so curious and enthralled with the bio-diversity and the human cultural diversity. I had a really exciting feeling that Belize would be a mesmerizing learning laboratory for students and faculty from a wide range of academic interests and disciplines. I had never been so excited about the Education Abroad possibilities.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I work with an AMAZING leader! Our founder and CEO is so authentically passionate about building learning partnerships between colleges/universities and local Belizeans. She is incredibly creative in facilitating ways to partner with the learning goals and expertise of students to enhance the dynamic development of her beloved country and community.

As a social enterprise, our organization is committed to making a positive impact in Belize. Thus, our work is not only about catering to the needs and interests of students who want to study/intern abroad. I must not only be thinking about the learning opportunities for students, but I am also always creating learning and development opportunities for local Belizeans alongside our students.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

What keeps me so excited about my work is the impact a meaningful intercultural experience can have on the learning and personal development of anyone who participates. It is the feedback I get from students that makes me so proud to invest my career in administering Education Abroad.

I have heard countless times that students value their Education Abroad experience as one of the most important experiences of their life, and the confidence they have that the international experience will transform their life direction.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would absolutely love to spend a month or more in the Toucan Education Programs' Service-Learning in Belize Program.

1) It would give me the opportunity to interact with real people in the community on a daily basis, and give me the opportunity to learn so much from their skills, values, and perspectives of the world.

2) I love the methods that support the focus on Intercultural Learning. With intentional assignments in cultural learning, I would love to challenge myself with the assignments that provide me the opportunity to learn more about my own cultural perspectives and behaviors, while practicing interaction and communication skills with Belizeans from many different cultural experiences.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

It is quite unique among Education Abroad organizations that Toucan Education Programs is an in-country social enterprise. Started by a Belizean who is focused on building bridges between the learning desires of college/university students AND the needs of her community and country.

I love that we explore organizations and communities in Belize and let the grassroots needs and opportunities guide our programs and partnerships. Instead of asking a school if they can supervise an Intern because the student wants this experience, we ask the school what needs they have and then find a faculty-led group or Intern, or program that can contribute to the learning and outcomes the school needs.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

From the perspective of Toucan Education Programs, a successful Education Abroad organization builds intentional learning and development opportunities for those going abroad, and the receiving country/community.

International and intercultural learning is about a two-way relationship. Not merely a financial transaction, but a privilege of human interactions and understanding.

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