Alexis Sneider is a student enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program at Niagara College. She has recently participated in an international field study experience In Honduras. Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”!
While in Honduras I experienced many things. One was how culturally diverse our learning environments were. In Canada each student has a desk, in a large school with walls and doors. In Honduras we visited some communities where only a few desks were available, there were no doors and the walls were old and unsteady. Our schools here are equipped with smart boards and lighting with outlets to enhance our learning experiences and ensure we are exposed to the best of the best in order to achieve full knowledge. In Honduras most of the desks were broken, there wasn’t much (if any) tools to write on boards or anything to really make understanding what was being taught easier. Canadians are fortunate enough to have a variety of different schools, public or catholic to choose from and each provide us with the same level of learning as the next. In Honduras there are so many different levels of poverty that schools all varied in safety, learning experiences, and size, which resulted in no real consistency in their education.
There is such a difference in how people live in Canada compared to how the locals live in Honduras. I fully understood what poverty really meant when I had the chance to visit the different communities. What is considered safe and “normal” for them is something that most Canadians would fear and consider dangerous. Walking around the streets of Honduras I was exposed to gang members, homeless men women and children, and hunger. These people have nothing besides the clothes on their backs (if that) and are fighting every day just to survive. In Canada when you are experiencing poverty you usually do not have children, however in Honduras they have a different mindset. They believe the more children they have the more help they have earning money, and the higher chances of one of their children moving abroad and earning money to bring back to them. With little education and more and more children being pulled out of school to help their families it is a vicious cycle of deteriorating health, wellness, and overall chances of survival.
These health risks were evident in most of these communities, especially what I (as a dental hygiene student) witnessed in their mouths. It is not in my scope of practice to diagnose without doing full assessments, which we were unable to do because of the lack of proper instruments; however there was evidence of a lot more decay and even some rare issues that one normally wouldn’t see in a Canadian client. This experience really helped me see the progression of disease in a mouth when it is not properly taken care of; I was able to see things that textbooks don’t do justice. I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to be apart of such an amazing experience; it is something I can carry with me for the rest of my life.
I believe I am a much more compassionate and understanding person because of it, and my communication skills and oral hygiene coaching has improved tremendously, and will only get better from here on out.
Not only did this experience enhance my career success in the future but also it was an amazing and eye opening experience for my soul. I felt so connected to each and every person I met and have taken steps into changing certain aspects in my life here in Canada just because I appreciate everything I have even more. Returning home made me angry and sad, speaking to others about my experiences and them relating it to not having their favorite food in the fridge or having to take the bus to school made me frustrated. No one really understands poverty until they go to a country like Honduras and I felt like I was talking but no one really understood what I was saying. I understand that we were born in an amazing country that doesn’t see poverty to this level of extremity so we can’t relate unless we witness it for ourselves.
I feel so privileged that I grew up in Canada and I still have both my parents who love and support me, while others have nothing. I realize now that the anger I felt was having no positive impact on anything, and decided to do my best to ensure I wasn’t taking anything for granted here.