Belize Program Overview

Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala is a small country with one of the most spectacular and diverse environments in the world. Belize is home to vast regions of unspoiled tropical rainforest with more than 700 varieties of trees, over 570 species of birds, and 5 different species of large cat, including the jaguar, the third largest cat in the world.

Once a haven for English pirates, Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America.  With no language barrier, CCSP students have a unique opportunity through homestays and other activities to engage with the diverse cultural groups who call Belize home, including several Maya cultures, Mestizos, Creoles, Garifuna, and Mennonites.

CCSP students have plenty of opportunities to explore Belize’s tropical landscape during their semester abroad. By land students visit the ruins of Maya cities, explore the largest jaguar preserve in the world, learn about faith and the land from old-order Mennonites, and are taught about community development by Maya villagers.  By sea students explore the second largest barrier reef in the world, search for sea horses in mangrove forests, and visit various islands over breaks and free weekends on their own.

A distinctive and highly beneficial component of the Belize program for students is the opportunity to participate in internships, specially designed to put learning into practice so as to gain valuable insights through relevant work experience and cross-cultural homestays.

Be it in intentional community at our riverside campus in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, or out exploring in the field, students studying in Belize are challenged by academically rigorous courses to consider what it means to live in right relationship with God, creation, others, and ourselves.

 

Overview of Belize Courses and Credits

God and Nature:                                         4 credit hours

Tropical Ecosystems:                                  4 credit hours

Sustainable Community Development:       4 credit hours

Environmental Literature:                            3 credit hours

Internship:                                                   2 credit hours

                                              15-17 Total credit hours

Course Descriptions

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God and Nature

COURSE CREDIT: 4 Credit Hrs

COURSE LEVEL: 300

Central to the mission of CCSP, this course helps students to develop a theology of creation that understands humans as stewards of the earth. Through the study of scripture, and other relevant texts, students explore the theology of creation, biblical stewardship, questions of faith and science, and Christian responses to current environmental problems.

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Tropical Ecosystems

COURSE CREDIT: 4 Credit Hrs

COURSE LEVEL: 300

In this field-based ecology course students explore with experts forest, stream, and near-shore marine environments - coral reef, mangrove, and sea grass - in Belize. In addition to studying these various ecosystems, this class is also designed to help students scientifically apprehend a broad understanding of global environmental issues.

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Sustainable Community Development

COURSE CREDIT: 4 Credit Hrs

COURSE LEVEL: 300

This course explores how knowledge of ecological systems, globalization, political economy, and the biblical worldview come together in the pursuit of development that is community-minded, just, and ecologically sustainable. Through readings, lectures and fieldtrips, students study complex issues in sustainable development such as the nexus of poverty, the environment, and justice, and the many practical challenges associated with sustainable community development.

Environmental Literature

COURSE CREDIT: 3 Credit Hrs

COURSE LEVEL: 300

This course introduces students to the landscape of environmental literature, both past and present, providing a solid grounding in the field. Through key readings, discussions, and reflections of various environmental literature forms including short story, essay, and poetry, students consider what makes literature "environmental" and why this field of literature was and is so important in shaping an earthy faith, and worldview.

Internships

COURSE CREDIT: 2 Credit Hrs

COURSE LEVEL: 300

Internships in Belize allow students an extended period of time (2 weeks) to engage with local topics and issues; to take knowledge and skills they are developing in their experiences and coursework both in Belize and in courses prior to Belize, and begin acting upon it. In the past students have had internships in tropical organic agriculture, conservation, community development, ecotourism, healthcare, traditional medicine, community health, education, and even local government. Internships are set up based on the interests and background of the students with many different organizations CCSP has developed relationships with over the years. During this 80-hour internship experience, students stay with Belizean homestay families where they are able to gain greater perspective on Belize and develop lasting relationships. Here's how some students describe their internship experience:

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Mark Wolstenholme, Eastern University:  

For my internship I stayed with a wonderful local family in the town of Succotz and worked on the nearby organic Maya Farm at The Lodge at Chaa Creek. There I learned basic organic farming techniques from composting to goat herding. Each day I assisted local Mayan farmers in performing daily farming tasks such as taking the goats out to pasture, pruning, watering, planting, composting, building structures, and many others. I gained a better understanding of how to grow organically, but I also gained a valuable cultural experience. While on the farm I conversed, and built friendships with local Belizeans who regularly spoke Mayan, Spanish, and English. And while I was at home I experienced life with a local family, hung out with their youngest son Edwin, and even learned how to cook from their mother. Some of my most memorable experiences in Belize came from those two weeks of internship, and I took away valuable lessons that I will never forget.

Olivia Santana, Calvin College:  

I was blessed with the opportunity to intern at the Belize Zoo, a unique organization started to educate Belizeans on the native animals found in their own backyards.  Throughout my two weeks I was able to work with the zookeepers caring for the animals but also building relationships and friendships with them.  Throughout my time there I was able to learn so much about the animals, myself, and how an organization is run.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience with some unbelievable storeis to tell!  It will forever be a special memory on my heart.

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Kallie Shades, Hope College:  

My internship at La Loma Luz hospital in Santa Elena, Belize was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Shadowing physicians, surgeons, and other medical staff while living in a local Belizean residence produced unforgettable memories and secured my decision to enter the medical field.  I gained valuable knowledge about Belizean culture and the way a hospital functions outside of the United States.  Everyday I was wearing scrubs and doing things like watching C-sections and gall bladder removals, traveling to local villages, or taking vitals on incoming patients - it's an experience you can't possibly turn down!

Michelle Alkema, Dordt College:

My internship was one of the highlights of my semester in Belize. I interned at an NGO called Friends for Conservation and Development. I loved getting to know and learning from the staff at FCD. Exploring the intersection between conservation and development while in a developing country was such a valuable experience and the lessons I learned about environmental education are ones that I certainly will use in the future.