Over the summer of 2016 I spent five weeks in and around the island of the Dominican Republic. Getting to visit the large cities of Santiago and Santo Domingo, whilst also having the amazing opportunity to live in, and experience the smaller towns and communities of La Mena and numerous others. In total I got to visit ten areas of the DR. Each new area seemed like it was half a world away from the previous. It was surreal how distinct they were.
I was extremely lucky to have been able to experience the DR as though I was a local. This was all down to the unbelievable organisational skills of ISV. During the summer between 3rd and 4th year of university it is recommended to gain work experience, but I wanted to gain something I felt would be more valuable. I decided to take my trip to gain life experience, and I decided to go with ISV because I also wanted to help better someone else’s life, in the same way that they would impact mine.
Before I left for my five-week adventure that I was extremely excited for, I grew most worried about the language barrier I would have to face with everyone I would interact with. Mainly the children I would be teaching. Knowing very little Spanish I began to panic, but then remembered that I had time to practice before I left. I found the key to solving any worry I had was to be organised and to address the problem as soon as it arose. In terms of the language barrier, being fully immersed in the culture helped my progress dramatically. However, I never had anything to worry about, because there was always someone to help, and the Dominican people were very patient with me.
My time in the Dominican Republic consisted of a Spanish language program, a community development project and an adventure tour. Everyday was new and exciting. Being home the most common question I get is ‘What was your favourite part?’ and I can never answer. There wasn’t one moment during my entire abroad experience that I didn’t love, and that I wont remember for as long as I live.
I’d say one of the most rewarding parts of my travel was the lesson I learned from people I had only just met. My project leaders that I had the privilege of knowing for just two weeks taught me about the importance of sustainable development and responsible tourism. This was knowledge I had no previous experience of, however the rest of my trip made it all very clear. Overall I learned so much from the Dominican people. It was made clear to me through their actions, kindness and gratitude, that it doesn’t matter how much you’ve got or where you came from. It’s about how you choose to see the world, and what you do with the opportunities it presents to you.