By Mark DeHaan
Spending a summer in Honduras is not the typical way a college student fills his or her summer vacation. Instead of trips to the beach, movies with friends, or family vacations, Calvin College student Dan Stout was taking classes, translating for American visitors, and living with a Honduran family.
As a Spanish major, Stout is required to spend a semester abroad in a Spanish speaking country in order to fulfill his major requirements. Also a basketball player, Stout wanted to avoid any conflict with the sport that spans both the fall and spring semesters. So, with the help of faculty at Calvin, Stout was able to work out a summer semester, one that fulfilled his major's requirements while also avoiding any conflicts with basketball.
A junior from Escondido, California, a town just 30 miles north of San Diego, Stout chose to be a Spanish major because of his familiarity with the language and the ease with which he picked it up.
"Spanish always came easy to me," said Stout who is part of a Calvin men's basketball team headed to the NCAA III Tournament this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. "The summers before (going to Honduras) I worked with people whose primary language was Spanish all day and I spoke Spanish eight hours a day at work."
While in Honduras, Stout took courses in math, sociology, and art appreciation. Stout said that courses were very much the same, besides being in Spanish, but the setting in which he learned was in stark contrast to here in the United States.
"They didn't turn the lights on until it was dark to save money. Most of the students there, because it is a public university, pay around the equivalent of $5 for tuition for one of the trimesters," said Stout. "None of the buildings had air conditioning – they just left all the windows open and doors open. It was hot most of the time, but luckily it would rain, and when it rained that was when it was nice outside."
While not in class, Stout was able to play basketball to keep up his game, practicing with university as well as pro players in the city.
"The professional players in the town were pretty comparable with Division III players," said Stout. "There was a guy that was 6'8", 280 pounds who had played pro in Russia for about 10 years, and I think four guys from the (local) pro team played on the Honduran National Team, so they had a lot of skilled players on that team."
Stout also traveled as well as volunteered time while in Honduras, taking trips with other university students while translating for American guests.
"I got to translate for another group of Americans that came down for a little while because I volunteered at a kids camp for kids with HIV for a weekend up in the mountains," said Stout. "I also helped with a basketball camp with that same group of Americans. They came to the university and they ran a basketball camp for 500 kids. I was also coaching, trying to help with that too."
Despite filling his time with basketball, school work, and translating, Stout was able to find time to be a tourist on a couple of weekends, including a trip to the beach.
"I went on a couple trips with kids at the university to the Caribbean and to Mayan ruins, so those were really nice and a lot of fun," said Stout.
Stout's time in Honduras is something he will never forget and an experience he would like to re-live soon.
"I'd love to go back – stay by the Caribbean for a little bit, see the host family again, and who knows, maybe play a little bit of basketball."