Megan's Internship Experience
I worked as a Tourism Management and Gender Intern for my six-month internship at the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute (UB ERI). My project focused primarily on the seasonality and impact of dive tourism within the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR). I obtained this information by conducting dive audits and interviews with dive operators. On a dive audit, I followed dive masters and guests on their dives and monitored their behavior. Dive audits were additionally completed by dive operators who collected data individually. During interviews, I assessed the views of dive masters on the uses, frequency of use and current management of the TAMR and the state of the reef.
Working so closely and independently with stakeholders for this position was something entirely new to me and at first, a little intimidating. It felt this way because I was heavily reliant on the connections I had with participants to collect my data. My social skill set grew during this experience as I learnt to respect the availability of my stakeholders and to be flexible to accommodate their needs when working with them. This ranged from scheduling to meet them in the TAMR for dive audits to something as simple as to what way was best to contact each company. I grew to be more proactive and confident in my decisions and especially more forward thinking during this project. Overall, I enjoyed conversing and working alongside the dive masters who participated in the study.
Additionally, I have learnt that engaging businesses within the tourism sector to participate in conservation activities is difficult. However, I think it requires patience, clear communication and time to build trust with individuals and overcome this barrier. Lastly, there was a common goal that the livelihoods of these stakeholders depend on the health of the TAMR and this was a thought that motivated me throughout the project.
Overall, I am very grateful to have such a fantastic opportunity. My social skills have improved, and I have learnt invaluable life lessons from some incredible individuals. I experienced an extremely supportive and friendly environment whilst working at UB ERI, from day one. Whenever I needed anything, whether it be project assistance or someone to listen to my personal problems, someone was there. It was a pleasure to be a part of the organization and to be involved in this project.
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