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Toucan Education Programs

About

Serve. Learn. Explore: Study Abroad in Belize with Toucan Education Programs (TEP).

TEP's programs include international internships and along with Service-Learning programming in Belize.

As a Belizean based social enterprise , the work we do is personal as it affects the people of our country. Our programs are student and community centered for the greater good of all involved. TEP's support services to all program participants is simply outstanding.

Study Abroad in Belize with TEP for a truly life changing experience.

Founded
2010
Headquarters

Mile 68 George Price Highway
San Ignacio, Cayo District
Belize

If you can Belize it, you can achieve it!

Join one of TEP's amazing programs and make an impact on yourselves and the Belizean community TODAY.

Applications are now OPEN for our 2020 programs!
- Intern in Belize
- Service-Learning in Belize
- Sustainable Economic and Community Development in Belize

Contact us TODAY!

Reviews

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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

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

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.

Default avatar
Elizabeth
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a wonderful experience interning with a domestic violence non-profit organization, Mary Open Doors, in San Ignacio, Belize through Toucan Education Programs. Toucan Education program provided great support to me throughout the extent of my stay, including providing amazing assistance during a conflict involving my living situation (which was completely out of their control). I gained a lot from this experience, including leadership skills, teamwork skills, and an enhanced global perspective. Rhondine from Toucan Education Programs is one of the most dedicated and hard working yet kind and considerate people I've been lucky enough to meet. She runs TEP and puts her heart and soul into making sure the program is a success for students. It is obvious that she puts students before profit. Although I wish the program would have done more activities or trips to the ocean, I would recommend this program to anyone interested in Belize or completing an internship in a really cool country full of nice people, rich culture, and delicious food.

What would you improve about this program?
This program could be improved by TEP making more solid weekend excursions or trips for students. I suggest this because we only went to a few places and the coast of Belize is absolutely amazing and I wish we could've experienced it more. They left it up to us to make our own plans and, due to the unfamiliarity with the region, it was hard to do. This could be resolved if I had looked into the country/fun destinations or activities prior to arriving. Other than that, I have no suggestions for improvement.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

Jessica Aguilar

Jessica is a first-generation student and is in her third year at Michigan State University. She is doing her undergraduate degree in Psychology and plans to pursue her Master's degree when she graduates in May 2021.

She was an intern for the Toucan Education Program Summer 2019 and feels she grew immensely from her experience.

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.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

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

As TEP's Education Abroad Program Manager, Abbiola works on all aspects of programming from design to implementation.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, she has spent most of her adult life studying, living and working abroad in Japan and the USA. She is dedicated to fostering social change in education and has obtained two MA degrees in Applied Linguistics & TESOL and International Education.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have been lucky to travel a great deal in my life over the years. My best travel memory has to be going to Thailand. I visited there is the winter 2005 during my first year living in Japan. It was the first country I was able to check off of my bucket list.

Thailand reminded me so much of the Caribbean because of the weather and the rich culture. It was amazing to be able to see so many similarities in a country so far away from my own. I think the best part was being able to immerse myself into the culture and interact with the Thai people. It was unforgettable.

How have you grown since working for your current company?

I have grown considerably both personally and professionally since working for Toucan Education Programs.

Toucan Education Programs values its employees and I have felt this in every aspect of my work life.

This motivates me to be innovative, share my ideas, work towards improving our current programs and designing new programs for our participants. It has also given me the platform to give back to the community through the work we do on our programs.

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

One of the amazing things about our participants is that they get so invested in their service projects that they usually keep in contact with the organization after returning home.

One alumna is still in contact with the members of the youth group she established during her time in Belize. She still assists them with any questions they have and just check in with them from time to time. This is definitely one of the best stories I have heard since it shows how engaged our community becomes with our participants.

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

The Service-Learning in Belize program would certainly be my program choice especially if it was my first time abroad. I’m able to do meaningful service projects while learning about the Belizean culture. Also, the reflection based curriculum allows me to really go in-depth with this 9 day experience. I love that it allows you to focus on one project for 5 days as well as integrates cultural activities so you can immerse yourself and get a better understanding of Belize.

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

Our commitment to reciprocity makes TEP unique. We want both our participants and the Belizeans they interact with to grow personally and professionally for their experience on our programs. I am especially proud that each member of our team works in sync to ensure that this takes place. We are a small team but we put a lot of effort into ensuring every stakeholder gets the most out of every experience with us.

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

I believe the biggest factor in being successful is surrounding yourself with like-minded people. At TEP, we are all committed to our mission and vision. We believe that we can make a difference in both the lives of our participants and the Belizean community through our programs. Every day we are working together towards fulfilling our goals and on making an impact on the Belizean community and our participants.

More Interviews

Professional Associations

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