Belize: Likely for you if Mayan ruins and a barrier reef sound like your sort place. Past Review

By (Geology, New Mexico State University) for

Galen University: San Ignacio - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Study abroad has not changed my academic interests or future plans, but it has opened my eyes to the realities developing countries struggle with. I learned how to better appreciate the social and political climates people live within.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was much less than expected of US courses, with very little homework for any classes and a smattering of papers for each class. The grading system was similarly lenient, though the teaching methods were strongly dependent on power point lectures and course trips when applicable. The administrative support for teachers was much less than American educational system standards, with the administration frequently changing policies on trips and a general lack of financial and institutional support for teachers and their activities.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Ms. Middleton was highly helpful and reliable. Help from her was just a phone call away, and she was very knowledgeable about the typical needs an international student would have. The program size was just right for the small university, and my expectations were generally met from her.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Our stay at the Log Cab Inn was expensive, removed from town (at least a hilly mile from San Ignacio) along a notoriously dangerous highway, and facilities and resources were often limited. The Log Cab Inn resort frequently had problems with its well breaking or failing to draw up water for a day or two at a time. Our provided refrigerators were inadequate for our double occupancy rooms, given our need to store food for the semester. Internet service was limited to a study room, and was unreliable for the last month of our stay. However, the staff were generally friendly and housekeeping services were reliable.

* Food:

Options for vegetarian students is limited to tourist type restaurants if that is a concern for you. Ask for local advice on food, especially regarding Chinese restaurants, due to a lack of health code enforcement. Meat besides chicken is somewhat expensive in Belize, and seafood is seasonal (especially lobster, shrimp, and conch). All vegetables and products are currently non-GMO and lack much of the steroid and preservatives in developed countries and so it often tastes better than back home.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The Battle of the Drums in Punta Gorda is an excellent chance to experience the Garifuna musical culture in mid-November. No trip to Belize is complete without snorkeling or diving along its barrier reef which is gorgeous, and the water is always warm enough to swim in. Mayan ruins are scattered throughout Belize, and the Xunantunich and Cahal Pech ruins are excellent and very near San Ignacio. A trip to the blue hole along the hummingbird highway is recommended, although other waterfalls and pools can be found in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. The Belizean Independence Day on the 21st of September is a great time, although locals may be resentful of people of English heritage for obvious reasons around that time.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Bottled water is widely available at stores and is recommended for drinking due to the high E. Coli concentrations in groundwater. Buy a gallon at a time at least and use a refillable water bottle to limit your disposal of trash, since these gallon or larger jugs can be recycled/refilled. Always travel with a trusted person at night, and even in the day (especially if you are a female). Healthcare is generally out of pocket, and hospitals may refuse to treat you if you do not have a credit card or cash on you even in the event of an emergency. I eventually stopped taking my malaria medication because its side effects were causing me nausea and other expected problems and Malaria did not appear to be a problem in town although trips into the deep jungle may warrant the medication. Food safety regulations are not strongly enforced, so ask locals for recommended places or foods to eat and especially ask locals about safety of Chinese food places.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Housing is affordable if you avoid resorts and the aforementioned Log Cab Inn location. Banking is reasonable, with the expected ATM usage fees, although banks have nearly constant lines during operating hours (especially on Friday, mid month, and at the end of the month). Departure fees from leaving Belize can add up at 20USD. Belize is the most expensive Central American country, and it may be worth your while to convert your US money in other countries if you plan on visiting any.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The exposure to different cultures
  • Learning about sustainable development in developing nations
* What could be improved?
  • Alternative arrangements for housing from the University
  • Support of the teaching staff from administration, especially for field trips
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Students of Anthropology, Archaeology, Environmental Science/Sustainability, and Central American culture can expect classes to be covered in English with Spanish and Creole accents. Other students can expect a cultural experience but may find your education here lacking.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: ESCI 410
Instructor: Dr. Logan Kuiper
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Due to a lack of interest in this course, it was changed to an independent study of sorts with no formal lectures. This course was originally slated to be taught by Ramon Frutos, the retired chief Meteorologist of Belize who was strongly associated with national water policies and hydrology efforts. At the last moment, this was changed to Dr. Kuiper who had extensive experience with hydrological modeling for the USGS, but was more associated with the physics and modeling of water, and in the US, than Ramon Frutos and his national experience. This independent study was essentially us two students teaching ourselves from the Hydrogeology text with weekly lectures from Dr. Kuiper over the main points of the chapter from the text for the week. No assigned work, papers, or field experience (due to a lack of notification to Dr. Kuiper by the administration) and only one assignment on a review of a paper on caves in Belize after I expressed interest in the karst environments of Belize. Thus this course was disappointing and could have greatly benefited from a local teacher like Mr. Frutos or at least preparation by the administration.
Credit Transfer Issues: I have not transferred credit from any courses to my home institution, but I feel guilty asking for credit having only read a textbook and gained no field experience in hydrogeology.
Course Name/Rating:

Mesoamerican Civilizations

Course Department: Anthropology 225
Instructor: Dr. Jaime Awe
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was an excellent survey of Mesoamerican Civilizations (with the exception of the Maya, who are addressed in a spring semester course). Dr. Awe is an excellent lector and offered a number of excellent opportunities to visit ruins and anthropological places of interest. Most notably he took us to Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave, which he has personally investigated and was able to provide excellent insight into the Anthropological and historical information that enriched the trip.
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Applications of Sustainable Development

Course Department: ESCI 375
Instructor: Mr. Victor Alegria
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course consisted of a number of guest lectures from workers from each department of the Belizean government talking about their department's efforts for sustainable development. The class also required a group project analyzing the sustainability of one of Belize's protected areas or industries. The lectures were very insightful about the operations of the government and some industries in Belize, but the group project was frustrating due to a lack of work ethic and communication from local students. There was a lack of guidance for this group project as well. Overall though, the guest lectures brought a lot of the less visible efforts of the Government of Belize to light.
Credit Transfer Issues:
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Special Topics: Environmental Law and Policy

Course Department: ESCI 430-B
Instructor: Mr. Victor Alegria
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course addresses the basic laws and policies regarding the environment in Belize. It compares the basics of the governmental systems in Belize and the US, the EPA in the US and the Environmental Protection Act in Belize, and touches on a number of other legislative documents for Belize. This course taught me the most about the formal government and legal system in Belize which put all of my other experiences there into context. This course was the most intensive I took there, with a great deal of focus on case studies and legislative documents.
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Special Topics: Protected Areas Management

Course Department: ESCI 430-A
Instructor: Mr. Victor Alegria
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course addresses the history, current status, and typical operations of protected areas in Belize. It emphasizes the importance of tourism and environmental protection to the nation of Belize, and addresses the difficulties developing nations face when trying to manage protected areas. It was a good course with some redundant information, but it brings the difference of protected areas of the US and Belize into focus and shows the common trends and difficulties of environmental protection. It was greatly enriched by Mr. Alegria's personal experience
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