Lessons from Honduras

A few weeks ago I was lying in bed, unable to fall asleep, and I was thinking about Honduras and about China and how one might apply to the other. Honduras was a learning curve in all kinds of ways and there are a few lessons I would like to share that I have found particularly useful in the past few weeks.

First of all, I can do this. I’ve covered this a little in the blogs around the time that I left for China but it was a helpful mantra to help me get over the first hurdle of this year, actually getting here. It won’t make the hard times go away but it definitely helps make them a little easier. It’s something that I know helps my family as well, or at least my mum!

I loved my time in Honduras but that’s not to say that it didn’t come with its difficulties. It could be very easy to only think back to the amazing things I did but I always remind myself that there were bad days too, days when I felt bored or homesick or frustrated. To me, that aspect of the year actually makes the whole experience more worthwhile. Taking the good with the bad, acknowledging the balance, it makes me feel like I achieved more than if the whole year had been easy. The challenges made the good times more enjoyable.

When you’re young, a year away from all your friends and everything you know can feel like the end of the world. A lot can happen in over the course of a year – birthdays, Christmas, holidays. This year alone I’m going to miss Kirsty going through her Highers, Amy finishing her last year of university and graduating, and a million shows, trips, dog walks and family dinners. All these little things add up but for all these experiences that I might be missing, I remind myself that I am making different ones here, ones that I won’t be able to recreate back at home.

For me I have never felt anything but incredibly lucky to have this kind of opportunity, both going to Honduras and also China. I always felt like it was a chance to do something amazing and exciting, and I know that everything I left behind will still be there when I get back. In the grand scheme of things a year does not take up that much of a lifetime and it’s amazing just how fast it can fly by!

Often times thinking about the bigger picture can actually be pretty overwhelming. Become fluent in Chinese, form meaningful friendships, experience all aspects of the culture. Whether these are self-imposed or unavoidable (thanks uni), it is a lot of pressure to put on yourself. There are times, especially in the beginning, when everything that is still to come is too much. In times like that it is a good idea to take joy and take pride in the little things.

Things like understanding something the first time someone says it and not having to say ‘shenme?’ (什么, what?) about three times; ordering successfully in a restaurant without just pointing at the picture in the menu; any time you’ve had a good day, whether that was because you went for a swim, made a friend or just because the weather was nice. Whatever it might be, it’s worth holding on to that feeling.

One of the biggest things I learnt in Honduras was obviously how to speak Spanish. It had been my aim going in to come home with some level of fluency and I feel like I did that. It’s definitely a great achievement but it also comes with a lot of transferable skills. When I was in Honduras, I wasn’t there with the purpose of learning Spanish, it was just a by-product of the environment I was living in. I’ve thought a lot about how I was able to improve my Spanish level and honestly it was mostly how much I was talking to people. For this reason my conversational Spanish is pretty good, if I do say so myself, but my grammar and written Spanish are not as strong.

The advantage of this year is that the whole point is to learn Chinese and all of my efforts can be devoted to that. I can take everything I did in Honduras, plus everything I should have done and combine it into the perfect recipe for fluency. Easier said than done, but I remain hopeful.

Finally, and probably most important to me, is that Honduras taught me I am more than I ever thought I could be. I am stronger and more independent than I knew. I can be both intense and chilled out. I am adventurous, spontaneous and brave. I know just how happy and confident I can be. Knowing all of this is the most valuable thing I learnt from Honduras and I will carry this knowledge with me, not only into this year in China but also into the rest of my life.

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