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Submitted by Darrell Harvey on September 20, 2016 - 11:02am

I have been struggling to decide what to write about since returning from my internship in Belize. I have spent days brainstorming and writing drafts, but nothing seemed quite right. I wanted to focus on something from which anyone reading the post could learn, but I couldn’t think of a good topic that wasn’t focused on myself. I suppose that is because in the last half of my internship what I learned about most was… me.

When I left for Belize I had mentally prepared myself for culture shock and for the many new experiences I was going to encounter. Everything was going to be different and I was going to have to adapt. This was not difficult for me to do because I had prepared, but what I wasn’t expecting was the culture shock when I returned home. When I left Belize and travelled home through Miami, Los Angeles, and Vancouver I saw everything with new eyes. Everything seemed new and shiny and overly extravagant. Flying over Miami I remember looking critically at the immense subdivisions, tidy soccer fields, and flawless roads and thinking it was all somewhat unnecessary. I mean, I have always known that money doesn’t buy happiness, but this was the first time I suppose I had really experienced it. The people of Belize, at least those that I met, are just as happy if not more so than the people I know in Canada despite the huge differences in wealth.

When I returned home to Comox I was in a thick daze for about two days. It was hard to be back in Canada when I had worked so hard for three and a half months to integrate into the Belizean culture. It was strange to be able to clearly understand other people’s conversations, to go to a grocery store filled with all sorts of food, and not to be stared at and hollered at every time I went out in public. Basically, it took some adjusting just to be a normal person once again.

Coming home was an experience from which I wasn’t expecting to learn, but I certainly did. I have gained a new perspective of what it is like for those who come to Canada for the first time, as well as those who return home to Canada from being abroad. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, but I have a much better idea of what others might experience, which is a useful perspective to have in my life moving forward.

Stephanie Govier, Natural Resource Protection, VIU