Indiana State University Newsroom

Grad student has eye-opening visit to Guatemala

June 20, 2012

When Indiana State University graduate student Ceymone Dyce arrived in Guatemala to study the field of clinical mental health counseling, she found the ground transportation for her first site visit familiar, yet different.

Nearly every color in the rainbow had been added to an aging vehicle that was unmistakably an old yellow school bus filled with the scent of live poultry and humans.

Called a "chicken bus" because such vehicles are often used to carry live chickens as well as for public transportation, the vehicle's cheery design contrasted sharply with the conditions Dyce found upon arriving at her destination.

After disembarking the "chicken bus," Dyce, who is completing her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling at ISU this summer, followed a social worker and another student up a dirt hill in San Pedro, Guatemala, on the first day of her two-week experience.

The social worker was an employee of the local organization Common Hope that helped facilitate the students' learning experiences. Common Hope's mission is to bring aid to people in need, with education of children one of its primary goals. It was Dyce's first home visit in Guatemala and she had mixed emotions of excitement and surprise upon reaching the site.

A small child answered the tin door, barefoot and covered in filth, at the top of the dirt hill before the trio entered a compound. There they met with a father of six, a mechanic, who politely arranged chairs for his guests.

"I don't think I will ever forget his face," Dyce said. "He was sitting there ... completely just beaten down."

In silence, Dyce observed the social worker as she and the man talked about his needs, how the organization can help and what he needed to do whilst surrounded by flies, ducks, chickens and other difficult conditions. Dyce said the standard of struggle in the village and elsewhere in Guatemala was far removed from her experiences in the United States.

"It [the experience in Guatemala] is really going to affect me as a clinician," Dyce said. "I don't think I have ever experienced poverty in such a light...I think my perspective on what it actually means to have, to want something and to struggle to receive things and actually be in need I think, that has changed dramatically."

Despite staying in Antigua, a modern city where tourists usually gather before exploring other parts of the country, most of her experience was in very rural and impoverished areas of the country. Dyce and other students went on visits to homes, schools and other locations as part of their program.

Dyce, who is from Old Bridge, N.J., is no stranger to travel and travel study programs. She spent six months in London during her undergraduate studies. Her journey of discovery to Guatemala provided another opportunity for Dyce to combine her love for travel with her love for mental health counseling.

"I was taking Contemporary Mental Health Issues in Guatemala, so I felt what better way to knock out an elective that I had to take to satisfy my graduate program here and actually be able to do something I really like, which is to travel internationally."

Indiana State University partnered with Winona State University and St. Cloud University to give students such as Dyce the opportunity to study and learn in Guatemala for two weeks in May. Dyce said she enjoyed the opportunity to share this experience with other students with similar levels of interest in the same area of study.

Dyce said the experience not only exposed her to different views about her career but also reinforced some of the teachings she received at Indiana State. She said children, the population with which Dyce enjoys working, are pretty much universal in terms of how they interact with each other.

"Observing them (the social workers) ... definitely reinforced the fact that if your relationship skills and your connection is strong you will be able to be very successful," Dyce said. "What I've been taught here at ISU in my counseling program, about establishing rapport and building a relationship really is the key to effectively reaching people."

She added that in her experience she was able to make comparisons between mental health issues in the United States and Central America, view differences in family interaction and understand the value of religion in other cultures.

Her experience in Guatemala also opened up other opportunities. She was offered a job to work with a school counselor at a private secondary school in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Dyce said she is still giving the offer some thought as she continues to make strides in her career. After completing her masters this summer, her next step will take her to the University of Florida to pursue a doctorate in counseling and counselor education.

Dyce said the trip changed her perceptions on Guatemala. In her preparations she felt that she had to be on extra high alert given all the immunizations she received but after experiencing the country she enjoyed her time there greatly. Aside from studying, Dyce experienced new foods, locations and nightlife than she is used to in the United States.

Dyce added that she has always considered studying abroad very important to her as she views learning and understanding different perspectives about different people and cultures as an essential part of life.

"I encourage people to study abroad," Dyce said. "It really has the opportunity to affect you on a personal level, professional level and also on a spiritual level as well.

One such opportunity, a graduate course on the global impact of human trafficking, is being offered by the clinical mental health counseling program in May of 2013. The course will take students to Cambodia and Thailand to work with a non-profit organization that helps children who have been rescued from brothels. Graduate students and advanced undergraduates interested in this trip can contact Catherine Tucker, assistant professor of school and educational counseling, at

Photos: - A brightly painted "chicken bus," so named because it is used to carry live chickens as well as people, sits in a parking lot in Guatemala with a bus still in traditional yellow paint. - A woman carries a chicken aboard a bus in Guatemala that is also used for public transportation. The colorful buses are dubbed "chicken buses." - A Guatemalan woman does laundry at an outdoor facility. Fresh water is pumped from a well to a pool-like structure divided into several areas for individual use. Many homes in Guatemala do not have running water. - Ceymone Dyce - Guatemalan women weaving a tablecloth to sell to support their household and children. Traditionally, the tablecloths are used as an offering to the mother-in-law during Guatemalan marital ceremonies. Each woven item is made by hand and takes approximately 10 months, the duration of the engagement.

Writer: Ernest Rollins, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or