Among other things, she had to get used to the traffic: “Taxis everywhere, constantly honking. People driving crazy—it’s fun,” says Calvin College junior Julia Riddell of life in Honduras.
Riddell, who is studying in Honduras through a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, has had a lot of practice getting used to things. The daughter of missionaries, she spent her life before Calvin in France.
Riddell took up the study of the Spanish language—her major at Calvin—while a high school student. Inspired by her sister, who studied for a semester in Chile, she decided to study in Latin America. “We talked a lot about that experience, and she got me really excited and pumped about studying abroad.”
She deliberated between Calvin’s semester programs in Spanish-speaking countries. “Mexico was much too close to the U.S. and too full of American things,” she reasoned. “So Honduras it was, and as I got thinking about it and reading up on the country, I got intrigued about its development versus poverty problems, its culture and people.”
She’s enjoying the adjustment. “The experience is awesome. . . . The culture is different, the food, the people, the society. I love it. It’s the first time I’ve been in a developing country. It’s been a growing experience.”
The Gilman Scholarship is part of a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education. Its goal is to encourage undergraduate students to choose nontraditional study-abroad destinations. More than 3,000 students, including several from Calvin, have received Gilman scholarships to study in 80-plus countries since the program was established in 2000.
Riddell has a few ideas about how she’d like to use her Spanish-language skills post-graduation. “I would like to possibly work for an NGO [non-government organization] where I could use my Spanish,” she said, “some sort of organization or association that involves development issues or international relations.”