How did you find out about BECA? How did your friends and family react when you told them you were moving to Central America?
My first trip to Honduras was with my church to El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza in 2009. I quickly became enamored with Honduras and was fortunate enough to continue coming back to Honduras every year since then. Through these trips to Honduras and El Hogar, I met a group of girls a little older than me with a similar love for and interest in Honduras. One of those girls, BECA alum Leah, began working for BECA soon after she graduated from college, and from that moment, BECA was on my radar. Soon thereafter another El Hogar friend and BECA alum, Emily, started working with BECA. Based on hearing about their experiences, seeing their photos, and more I decided that I too would apply to volunteer with BECA when I graduated from college. That’s why I’m here today! Thanks, Leah and Emily!
Needless to say, my friends and family were not at all surprised when I told them of my interest in BECA and moving to Honduras.
Did you have any preconceived notions about Honduras before you came down? How did that compare with what you found when you arrived here?
Most of my trips to Honduras before moving to Cofradia were in and around the Tegucigalpa area. Tegus is very different from the San Pedro Sula area in a lot of different ways , so I was very surprised when I arrived in Cofradia almost two years ago. It was so much hotter and dustier than places I had been before!
What was your first day in the classroom like?
One word: Chaos. Last year I taught first grade to 25 loveable and rambunctious kids. I remember during the first week of classes last year, during which I had a parasite, there were three adults in the room (the resource teacher, the administrator and myself) and we could not get the kids to sit in the morning meeting area for the life of us. I have a vivid memory of our school admin, Derek, sitting criss-cross on the floor with his arms wrapped around one of the more wiggly kids of the class. I remember thinking to myself “How in the WORLD am I going to do this for a whole year….?” However, I made it and even signed on to come back for year two! My first day in the middle school English classroom was MUCH less entertaining in comparison.
What made you decide to stay for a second year? How have the two years been different?
At the end of my first year at SJBS and with BECA, I was not at all ready to leave. I had build such strong relationships with families in the Cofradia community that I wanted to stay another year to continue to strengthen those relationships. However, I did not feel like I had found my niche in teaching first grade. I wanted to explore other grade-levels that I thought I’d be more comfortable with. So, that’s why I decided to try out teaching MS English this year. It has been so great. I love the age group (even with the eyerolls and deep sighs) and the material I am teaching.
The two years have been so very different not only because I’m teaching a vastly different grade-level, but also because I already felt comfortable and established in Cofradia. This second year with BECA has been all about pushing myself in the classroom and building on relationships with families in the community. While last year was more about establishing myself in Cofradia and learning how to be a teacher.
What is your favorite part of the day or class to teach?
While 7th, 8th and 9th grade are each so unique and have wonderful qualities, I’d say my favorite class to teach is 8th grade. It is a group of really mature and interesting kids with a great sense of humor and a huge desire to learn and share what they’ve learned with others. Interestingly enough, the 8th grade class was the class I knew the least about when starting the year. However, from day one we really hit the ground running and established together a really respectful and fun rapport in our class.
What is your favorite place that you’ve been in Honduras?
Such a hard question! There are so many beautiful places in Honduras. I would have to say my favorite place I’ve been to in Honduras is probably Copan Ruinas. I haven’t been as much this year as I did last year, but last year Copan was were you could find me many weekends. It is just so peaceful and quiet and a great place to go to to relax and escape the chaos that I sometimes feel in Cofradia. Not to mention, there is a WONDERFUL café there with some of the most delicious cheeses and coffee.
Where can you be found on a Saturday morning?
In bed, definitely in bed. I love to take Saturday and Sunday mornings to relax and have some “me” time. I’m usually in bed with coffee and a good book (or sometimes a good series on Netflix).
What are the challenges, differences, and benefits with staying a second year?
There are so many of all of the above! I would say one of the biggest benefits is already knowing the lay of the land in Cofradia and at school. Coming in to year two with an idea of what to expect at home and in the classroom on top of already knowing a lot of families in the community really helps you feel comfortable and at home when the school year starts. One of the biggest differences, and sometimes challenges, is actually pretty similar… Knowing your way around the Cofradia and school communities makes you a real leader among the first-year volunteers. It definitely falls on returners’ shoulders to show the new volunteers the ropes which is often so much fun, but can definitely be challenging after a long, hot day in the classroom!
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of living in Honduras?
For me, the most challenging aspect of living in Honduras, especially this second year, is a lack of independence in comparison to the US. Not being able to hop in a car and go wherever I want, whenever I want, has been challenging especially when you start to feel comfortable in a place. You know WHERE you want to go on Sunday afternoon for a delicious iced coffee and slice of cake, but getting there is often difficult or expensive. However, while this has been a real challenge for me this year it has also been a really humbling experience having to rely on fellow teachers and families to get you where you need to go.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened outside of school?
There have been so many memorable and funny moments outside of school with families and other volunteers.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever had in Honduras.
When you live in Cofradia and go to a lot of families’ homes, you quickly learn what the specialties are at each house—the best cup of late afternoon coffee, the best homemade pizza, the best baleadas, etc. I don’t think I have a favorite meal I’ve ever eaten, but one of my favorite things to eat is the pizza one of my 8th grader’s mom makes. The dough is so crispy and she puts loads of fresh vegetables on top! Yum!!
How would you describe the experience of working with BECA and living in Honduras for someone thinking about applying?
Working with BECA and living in Honduras is easily one of the most challenging things you could ever enroll yourself in. However, more than challenging, it is rewarding. As long as you push yourself, you will leave with some of the most memorable experiences and strongest relationships of your life.