This summer I visited Guatemala in the hope of absorbing the extensive culture from ancient ruins, active volcanos but most importantly, language schools. After studying Spanish at Edinburgh for my first year, I thought I needed the opportunity to use it real-life situations. I took morning classes for three weeks in a small town by Lake Atitlan, called San Pedro La Laguna. The entire town has a population of 13,000 people. You can walk from one end to the other in less than 15 minutes. Despite the tiny vicinity, this small town had everything I needed. While learning, I stayed with an extraordinary family to fully immerse myself in the language and culture.
Before leaving for any adventure abroad, it’s natural to explore all the possible things that could go wrong whether it is losing your passport on the first leg of your journey or feeling painfully homesick throughout the trip. Luckily none of the above happened to me on my travels. My host family made me feel more at home than ever, and with three meals a day made lovingly for me by my ‘mother’, I never went hungry. Before that, I travelled around the region exploring the beautiful cenotes and sea life down the coast. One island I visited Caye Caulker, had the motto ‘Go Slow’, and it stuck with me along the trip. While my previous trips have been an elaborate attempt to do everything I possibly could in a short space of time, this one was the opposite. I stayed in select locations for extended times to fully enjoy myself and left when I felt I had had enough. I took it slow.
This experience was like no other, not only did I enormously improve my language, grammar and vocabulary in Spanish, I also met some wonderful people and made unforgettable memories. It’s easy to get lost in oneself when you’re at university or amongst your friends, but when travelling you have infinite time to feel introspective and reflect on yourself. In that respect, this summer was challenging but with an ultimate final reward. I came back with a feeling of accomplishment. It’s no wonder the weeks back in England after my journey was difficult to adjust back into. I felt despondently nostalgic for the simplicity of the life I was leading in Guatemala. However, if you’ve ever felt unwell abroad, you’ll understand the lust for those home comforts, and when a parasite stuck the last week of my trip, I felt it was time to go home. Despite this, the entire experience was wonderful. It can be hard to fully acknowledge the brilliance of a situation when you’re in it but reflecting upon it now has made me more grateful than ever that I had the opportunity to spend my summer in the way I did.