When I applied for this internship, I didn’t really tell anybody except my close girlfriends and immediate family. I applied because I was a new graduate, working part time, had no work experience in the environmental field, and to be honest… I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Did I even want to be an Environmental Scientist? Do I like field work? Do I feel passionate about this? These were questions that dawned on me daily, and I was actively ignoring them by telling people “I’m taking a year off to figure my life out”, while doing anything I possibly could to avoid figuring my life out (grads, you feel me?). I mean, what better way to figure your life out than to head to Belize for 6 months? (Pictured above is myself with fellow IYIP interns Hannah, Hailey, and Helena on the first day we arrived in Belize.)

Out of all the interns, I was one of a few that hadn’t done too much travelling for long periods of time. I’ve travelled to different countries but never for longer than a month, so thinking of 6 months was very daunting to me. It was no secret that I was nervous to take this opportunity and when I left my home to head to the airport, it finally hit me that I’d be gone for what seemed like a long time. In the car I began to feel nervous, stressed and panicked… Not realizing that these 6 months would just fly by. Looking back on this day now, I can’t help but to laugh a little. I’m now just over 4 months in and it feels like I was just packing my suitcases and tearfully hugging my friends and family preparing to leave. The past 4 months in Belize have definitely had their ups and downs, but I am so happy I decided to take this opportunity because where else would I have learned that hiking isn’t my thing and that I have a slight burrito obsession? In all seriousness, Belize has been nothing short of an adventure and I’ve learned so much about myself in the past few months and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Being in a new country with new people is something that has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. But to my surprise, I quickly found a routine here in Belize. I made new friends, joined a gym, and got comfortable in my new surroundings early on. Weeks are pretty chill in the city we live in, Belmopan. During a typical work week I go to the office, go to the gym, and occasionally have outdoor movie nights & local wine with some of my friends. Over the weekend, we usually go to various places around the country. Like many other people, I’ve never experienced being in the Caribbean and not staying in a resort. Taking this opportunity has allowed me to visit places around Belize I would have never gone to on my own.

One of the highlights of my trip so far has been hiking the Tiger Fern Trail and setting up camp on top of the mountain. This is pretty ironic considering hiking is not my favourite thing to do, but this experience was worth the pain (torture). We left Belmopan around 8am with our coworkers, Jani and Denver, and a couple of their friends. We all squeezed into a truck and drove an hour and a half to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary where we started our hike around mid-day, and at peak heat (not our smartest idea). After a couple hours, and a lot of breaks to catch our breath and wipe our sweat, we made it up to the top where we set up camp! Just a short hike away were 2 beautiful waterfalls. We spent the rest of the day swimming around and cooling off. This, and the view, really made the hike worth it. In the morning, we woke up with the sun and above the clouds (literally).

Helena and I at 6am above the clouds. You can tell who the morning person is.

Some other good times I want to mention are: making new friends (so cliché, I know), scuba diving for the first time, weekend getaways in Caye Caulker and San Pedro, eating lots and lots of $3 burritos, wine club in Belize City, my parents and best friends coming to visit, exploring local spots like Guanacaste National Park, watching the Raptors games at local bars, swimming with sharks and rays… The list goes on and on.

Although there have been these amazing times, I don’t want to lie and say it’s all been butterflies and rainbows (is that the saying?). There have definitely been some tough times as well. On several occasions I’ve felt homesick, wanting to see my friends and family, wanting a quick trip home or even just to be alone for the day. But that’s all part of the experience! Those moments have just made me more grateful for the life I have and more excited to return home in a couple months!

For anyone searching for answers in their own life, I can now confirm a 6-month getaway is something worth doing. Even though it may be scary, you become grateful for the things you have, you realize what you like, and you make some great memories along the way.

See you in 2 months Canada!

Krysta Iatropoulos