For years my husband and I discussed volunteering for the Maya Educational Foundation's English Language Program in Antigua, Guatemala until we finally stopped talking and signed up! Now that we're back home in the United States, with time to reflect and savor the experience, both of us wonder why it took us so long. Hands down, we agree: teaching English to Maya university students exceeded our expectations in ways we could have never have anticipated.

Start with Antigua, Guatemala, a World Heritage Site, dating from Guatemala's colonial period. Nothing less than a jewel of a city at the Hispano-Maya crossroads: five hundred year-old Baroque churches, cobblestone streets, and a timeless pedestrian pulse coursing through its centuries-traversed central plaza. Not a street light or bill board in sight.

Even more, Antigua is the ideal backdrop for MEF's English Language Program and its volunteers. In 2014, there were nine of us, five of whom—my husband and I included—were first-timers. On the first day we were strangers—we haled from California, Oregon, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. But by our last, we ended friends and colleagues. That we all stayed and taught our students in the same hotel, shared meals when so inclined, and most importantly, worked collaboratively to plan and execute the daily curriculum, molded us into a committed teaching team. Ours was a bond that quickly evolved over two short weeks. What didn't hurt either was a respite weekend spent together at the glorious but simple Tzununa ecolodge overlooking Lake Atitlan's Volcan Toliman!

Best still, at the very heart of this rewarding experience, were our eighteen Maya university students. A handful of adjectives—receptive, determined, smart, appreciative, hopeful, and respectful—only begins to capture what made our brief time together life-changing. The privilege of exchanging ideas with these aspiring young professionals and supporting their dreams was as enriching as inventing ways—skits, pantomimes, word games, sing alongs—to explain the verb "to be" or the difference between "there" and "their." Yes, it was hard work; yes, two weeks fell woefully short; and, yes, we’d wished we could have done more. But these realities paled in comparison to the rare opportunity we shared to help make the world a little better...one person at a time, conversation by conversation.