Saint Louis University's Casa Belize delivers a study abroad experience unlike any other. Take what you learn in the classroom into vibrant and multicultural communities, learn from local leaders and community members, reflect on national and international realities, and explore the uniquely diverse ecosystems of Belize.
What is Casa Belize?
Offered in partnership between two Jesuit institutions — Saint Louis University and St. John’s College (located in Belize City) — Casa Belize is open to students of all majors, both from Saint Louis University and other universities. As a student at Casa Belize, you will spend a semester immersed in the diverse culture and history of Belize. Through interaction with marginalized populations, you will explore academic perspectives on the social realities of Belize, live simply in community with fellow students in an on-campus residence, and be invited to share your spirituality - no matter your faith tradition - with that community. Reflections based in Ignatian spirituality and a community retreat during the semester provide additional opportunities for you to process your experience abroad.
As a student at Casa Belize, you can explore the country’s ancient roots at Maya ruins or the recent legacy of colonialism at the history museum. Take a water taxi to the Caribbean islands just off the coast for a weekend on the beach or hop on a short bus ride to explore one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Strap in for cave tubing or a canopy tour, or learn the traditional ways of Maya communities and dances of Garifuna youth. While English is the language of instruction at Casa Belize and what you'll use to get around town, you can also work on your Spanish skills with the country's large Spanish-speaking population.
Along with a deeply challenging classroom environment, there is also a very strong community immersion aspect that not only builds on the class work, but also contributes to personal development.Noah, class of 2021
Benefits of Studying at Casa Belize
- As a Saint Louis University program, facilitated in partnership with St. John’s College in Belize, transcripts will list SLU as the credit-granting institution.
- Study abroad close to home and in English, which is the official language of Belize.
- Open to individuals of all faith traditions and experiences, you will combine rigorous intellectual inquiry and moral reflection rooted in direct contact with marginalized communities using lessons from Ignatian spirituality.
- Use Belize City as a base to explore Caribbean islands, Central American jungles, vibrant Garifuna communities and ancient Mayan ruins.
At Casa Belize, you can complete up to 18 hours of core and major requirements in cultural diversity, social sciences, foreign language, fine arts, natural sciences, philosophy or theology. Classes are held at St. John's College in Belize City and taught by professors from St. John's College and Saint Louis University.
You will take common courses including Praxis Seminar, Belizean Culture and Civilization, and Theology or Philosophy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Based on academic background, personal interests, and professional goals, students are paired with fellow classmates and assigned a praxis site in a local Belizean marginal community. Students learn from the people in that community two full days a week for the entire semester. This learning environment cultivates an awareness of and sensitivity to the realities of those who are struggling to end social injustices while working to promote human dignity. The Belizeans in the praxis sites are co-professors of this class. Students enter the praxis sites as learners, not as volunteers, and are invited to immerse themselves in the “classroom” of the marginalized of Belize. Students’ praxis sites are intentionally linked to their other academic courses. Students bring their community-based learning into dialogue with classroom-based course work. In addition, this experience serves as a springboard for personal and communal reflection in and out of the classroom. (Potential SLU core and/or degree requirement fulfillment: Global Citizenship, International Studies, Service Learning, Social Science, Jesuit Traditions)
This course looks at society and culture as the key concepts use to examine the experience of Caribbean peoples. It also introduces students to the historical evolution of Caribbean society and culture, as well as the factors outside the region that helped to influence the evolution of the society and culture. Finally, this course introduces the students to the concept of development in the Caribbean. Students will explore how the continued development of the Caribbean region reflects the complex relationships among social, cultural, political, environmental, technological, and economic factors. The course will also introduce key individuals and institutions that have played a major role in Caribbean development. (Potential SLU core and/or degree requirement fulfillment: Global Citizenship, International Studies, Social Science)
This course is designed to engage students in the reality of social injustice in Belize while introducing them to the variety of ways in which the Christian tradition responds to this reality. Students will study selections from scripture, Catholic Social Teaching, Christian theologians, and the lives of Christian saints and martyrs. Students should leave the course with a better understanding of Christian perspectives on social justice that can be applied to their own faith or spirituality, political choices, and way of life. (SLU attributes and core: fulfills theology core requirement, Catholic Studies-Theology, International Studies, Urban Poverty, Women's & Gender Studies)
Electives from a variety of majors are available including:
- Basic, intermediate and advanced Spanish courses
- Introduction to Psychology
- Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminology
- Ecology and the Environment
- Marine Ecology
- Tropical Ecology
- Latin American Literature
- World History
- Latin American History
- Belizean History
- Directed readings courses
Cultural Immersion Through Accompaniment
Students spend two full days per week over the course of the entire semester accompanying community members, learning about their reality and that of the places they live. This experience informs classroom discussion and personal reflection on the reality of marginalized people and places, especially the poor and the environment. These sites include (subject to change):
Accompany environmental conservationists, community members and local government officials as they work to preserve the marine biodiversity of this small island. Students will travel to the island just off the coast and visit with conservationists in Belize City to better understand the balance between the environment, community needs, and policy decisions.
Accompany this unique community that fled the Salvadoran civil war of the 1980s and sought refuge in the middle of Belize. Students will learn the history of the community, why they fled, how they joined together, and their current achievements and struggles as the only recognized refugee community in Belize.
Accompany health care workers, the sick, and their families as they confront the lack of access to institutional hospice care through this volunteer initiative. Students will learn how doctors and nurses tend not only to the immediate health care needs of their patients, but how they have eased pain and changed the stigma of the terminally ill.
Accompany community leaders and park rangers as they protect the endangered howler monkey (known in Belize as “baboons”) in this grassroots conservation program. Students will learn the successes and challenges of community efforts to protect an endangered species and its native habitat.
Accompany youth, men, and women as they work toward rehabilitation at this unique prison. Students will learn about prisoners’ pasts, their time as inmates, and their hopes for the future as well as how the private foundation that operates the prison approaches rehabilitation.
Accompany students, teachers and the surrounding community as they study, work and pray together. Students will learn about education in a low resource system and how dynamic church and community leaders have organized to provide social services to students, their families and the neighborhood.
Your companions in this experience may include SLU students, students from other universities and Belizean students from St. John's College. St. John's College is a Belizean tertiary institution educating in the Jesuit tradition and an associate member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. As such, the college aims to foster an atmosphere of respect, growth and spiritual awareness that will promote the development of multifaceted individuals who love and care for themselves and others, their environment and their community.
SLU students visit Belize each year for educational experiences
experiential learning community sites
courses available at Casa Belize in English
ecosystems in Belize, from ocean to jungle