LCC International University > News and Events archive > Katherine Handal: “Education is the best gift that you can ever give to somebody.”
Meet Katherine! She was born in Honduras, a Central American country, which on the one hand is rich with culture and enjoys some of the most beautiful nature on this Earth, but on the other is beset by societal and economic difficulties. Having witnessed gaping economic inequality, Katherine aspires to become a teacher to provide more opportunities for students.
For starters, would you please tell us about your life before you ever heard of LCC?
Growing up, I’ve always been very social, having deep connections with family and friends. In the summers I would help in my grandmother’s food business as a cashier and a waiter. I attended a high school that combined the Honduran educational system with the American education style. Actually, in my high school, there were teachers from the US and even a few international students. I was an active student in high school. For instance, I was a member, and later the president, of my high school Charity Club. One of the most impactful experiences for me there was a fundraising event, directed at purchasing school supplies for those who couldn’t afford them. So before LCC, family, friends, a sense of community, and learning were cornerstones of my school years and I grew to hold these values close in my heart.
How did a young lady from Central America find herself in distant Lithuania?
In my Junior high school year, I got an email from LCC through the high school counselor at school. The counselor worked mostly with American universities, where I first wanted to study because the majority of my high school classmates were going on to study in the states. However, I found out that it was too expensive for me. Even the European universities I was looking into could not grant enough financial aid. It wasn’t until late in my Senior year that I remembered about the LCC email. After doing some research, I applied on the last day and got accepted! I did have to wait a semester in order to earn money and have the required documents prepared for studying overseas. Still, it was a big decision for me, and I am so happy it has worked out really well.
You are here at LCC, as well as is your younger sister, Sam. How does it feel to currently be one of only two representatives of your country at LCC?
Well, actually it feels very special. It’s great that Sam and I can introduce others to the Honduran culture and cuisine, and we see that people are super interested. For example, we had a blast informing others about Honduras during Cultural Day. We cleared up some common misconceptions people might have, demonstrated local dance moves, showed the beautiful tropical landscapes, and served samples of Honduran food that we had prepared. Apart from these, people are also intrigued by the Spanish language since it’s unusual to hear someone speak it at LCC. Because of this, I wouldn’t mind if there were more Spanish-speakers here. It does get lonely not using my mother tongue as much as I’d like.
How do you deal with homesickness?
When we are homesick, we cook as much Honduran food as possible– like Baleadas! Also, calling family members or dancing to Spanish music helps bring some of that ‘home’ atmosphere. Although change can be hard, I enjoy trying new things and I am grateful that friends and the overall community make me feel welcomed. For instance, I’ve been introduced to the Eastern European culture, among others. People show me new dishes, dances, places… it all helps me stay excited and feel like this is a second home.
Coming from a developing country that deals with many difficulties, what is your outlook on overall education opportunities? Do you believe education can transform societies?
Yes. I believe education and learning can transform lives. Educated people can start their own businesses more smoothly, or get better jobs. In Honduras, I’ve seen how people in villages barely have even electricity, which makes education very difficult, to say the least. I think everyone should have an equal opportunity to become educated because it’s the basic core for growth. Critical-thinking and problem-solving help people in all areas of life. In my heart, I always carry a saying from my mom, “education is the best gift that you can ever give to somebody.” I like to think that I too can do that. I mentioned the fundraiser from my high school Charity Club I was leading, for example. The experiences of giving to others there influenced me here, to be an FYS leader and a writing tutor here at LCC.
You'll be a Junior English major this spring. Have you ever doubted studying TESOL?
Not really, as I like sticking with the idea of doing something that could help others, but I guess I do have small doubts from time to time. For example, sometimes I feel I’m not ready to be the teacher who helps students grow, as I’m young and don’t feel experienced. On the contrary, many students I tutor now, show their improvement and gratitude, which helps me gain more confidence. I appreciate it so much. At the same time, I also feel these are general doubts many people have from time to time. Ultimately, I enjoy teaching and I don’t think I would want to do anything else.
What has teaching others taught you?
I notice that students don’t just write for the assignments, but also aspire to share their stories through the writing. It reminds me that writing is not just researching and so on, but it is also about the experience and how the writer expresses it. Everybody has a story. By reading a person’s writing you can understand the person’s story. I want to be a teacher that can read and understand these stories in order to help my students. Therefore, I realized that such assignments would allow me to achieve this goal.
They say that everybody has their own personal 'why' - their biggest motivator. What inspires you to get up in the morning and seize the day during such an unusual time we’re dealing with currently?
I tutor almost every day. It motivates me because I get to help someone else. It also helps to remind me why I came to LCC and why I decided to be a teacher. The end goal makes me focus on the classes, even if online learning is harder. So, having short-term as well as long-term goals is a big motivator in my life. I’m also grateful to God for every day and so I wish to make the most of it. Waking up early so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time is a pretty big ‘why’ for me.
In closing, I feel your love for your country. How are you planning to connect your future career with helping your home country?
First, I want to gain more teaching experience, maybe in Lithuania, and later somewhere else as well. I think I want to focus on small classes at first. I also want to seek financial stability, because in Honduras I want to be able to teach for free. I understand it’s a big aspiration, but I want to make it happen. There are so many people below the poverty line who cannot afford education, or who cannot study because they have to support their families. It isn’t uncommon for young teenagers to drop out of school in order to help support their families. Later in life they can’t get a decent job because they lack education. By teaching English for free I will hopefully give more opportunities to these people.
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