If you’re just starting college, you might be very excited about the prospect of taking a trip with your peers alone for the first time. Personally, I had never experienced anything other than the family vacation until I was a sophomore in college. Of course, I did take a “spring break” trip to Panama City Beach in Florida, but I was incredibly underwhelmed by the experience. I vowed from that point forward that I’d take an off-the-beaten-path trip from then on out. My first volunteer experience during spring break was to Mexico, and the following year I went to Belize. Both were unforgettable experiences, but Belize was particularly riveting. Here are a few compelling reasons to consider volunteering in Belize:
1. There are tons of volunteer opportunities to match your specific interests.
While nearly every country affords students plenty of volunteer opportunities, I chose Belize specifically because of the diversity of options. If you are particularly interested in environmental protection, then in Belize, the sky is the limit. If you are interested in education, there are various organizations that connect willing student volunteers with schools and community centers. Community outreach and medical volunteer opportunities are plentifully available as well. To get you started, check out this Belize First webpage outlining volunteer opportunities with major organizations in Belize.
2. The astounding natural beauty beats any Belize beach resort by a long shot.
Many people choose their vacation destinations based on the surrounding natural beauty, which is why, I suppose, beaches are such popular destinations for spring break trips. What most spring breakers don’t realize, however, is that places like Belize have beaches and much, much more. It has one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. You’ll see birds you’ve literally never seen or knew existed. It’s got the Central America’s largest cave system, thousands of acres of lush jungle, and more. To think that Belize is such a relatively tiny country with so much beauty constantly blows my mind. After going to Belize, it’s really hard to plan a trip anywhere else and expect to be as touched by natural beauty.
3. The people of Belize are truly the most welcoming, friendly, and hospitable people on the planet.
Despite the fact that Belize is incredibly ethnically diverse—home to many different peoples and languages—they all seem to share a common respect for the human condition and for the environment. One of my Belizean friends told me a story in which he once caught a wild baby bird when he was a little boy and kept it in his room in a shoebox. When his mother found out, she forced him to release the bird and then locked him in his room for a day. The lesson? To see how it feels to be caged. Needless to say, my friend from then on out learned a lesson that Belizeans teach their children early on—that life in all its forms should be respected. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, Belizeans are incredibly welcoming and accommodating.
Of course, I’m not in any way saying students shouldn’t at least once indulge in a typical college spring break trip. At the same time, you’d be surprised by how much more invigorating a volunteer trip, particularly in Belize, can be.
Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer, whose posts offer a college guide and news for prospective students and parents. She welcomes comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.