Preparing for my trip to Honduras, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This was my first study abroad trip and I couldn’t have been more simultaneously nervous and excited about heading off on a two-week adventure in Central America.
We arrived and worked in the clinic, schools, and community of Santa Ana for one week, and then went to Guatemala for a few days of sightseeing. While we spent the majority of the days working, many of my memories were made upstairs in the clinic where we lived. We threaded each other’s eyebrows, discussed one of the greatest Latin American authors, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and conversed about everything from trap music to Proust to which character on Parks & Recreation we embodied, all in the span of 7 days. We stayed up way past when we should have, just getting to know each other’s visions, fears, and the quirks that make each of us unique.
Megan works at IKEA, seemingly a mundane place, but had some of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard. Crystal is a vlogger who is (although she denies it) YouTube famous. We have people who speak 3 or 4 languages, people of mixed heritage, and people from all walks of life. But through all of our differences, I could see one strong common thread that connected every single one of us, and that was our passion for change and our commitment to making as much of a positive, lasting impact as we could in our few days in Santa Ana.
The medical field can be ruthless at times, but our group’s compassion and eagerness to serve was truly palpable. When we found out that a doctor was free to shadow, everyone would jump at the chance. When there was a house call, we had to pick numbers because everyone wanted to go observe. When we got the opportunity to zip line, every single one of us took the jump, even though many people had a fear of heights.
I think the zip line was a good metaphor for what I got out of the trip: while we will face many challenges on the path to becoming nurses, doctors, and other health professionals, if we can overcome our fears, the reward is outstanding. Those views on the zip line are ones you can only get by taking the jump, and the same concept applies to medicine. It is a constantly evolving and truly innovative field and without people willing to be courageous, it won’t move forward.
I went into the trip knowing only a couple of people from class, but came out of it with a newfound admiration for 17 amazing peers and 2 exceptional professors. While change, especially in a country so disparate from our own, is expected to be slow and deliberate, I feel that our group really made a firm, lasting impact on the small community that welcomed us. We taught community members about fumigation, we collectively painted a school, we saw almost 300 patients at the clinic, and we went out in the community to pick up trash, teaching kids about the connection between trash, standing water and Zika. We endured motion sickness on the long bus rides, were woken up at the crack of dawn by roosters, got bruises in places I won’t mention from sitting in the back of pickup trucks, and relied on Immodium and Pepto Bismol a little too much; however, even with all of the hardships, I can’t imagine a better or more fulfilling first study abroad trip.