Mary (right) and a friend pose with a carnaval character in La Vega.
Overseas Study Program
Santiago, Dominican Republic
Mary’s majors: Folklore and Anthropology
Year abroad: Spring 2009
Reason you chose this program: I wanted to be somewhere Spanish-speaking that had homestays. Also, this program offered the opportunity to study abroad as a sophomore, which was the term I wanted to go abroad. It fit really well with my Latin American and Caribbean Studies minor and I really wanted to be somewhere near water. I'm also am very interested in Dominican archaeology.
Favorite classes: Social and Political Movements of the Contemporary Dominican Republic, Sculpture, Spanish
Describe the housing situation: I had a host mom and dad who I was extremely close to, and two very little sisters. My host grandmother came over to help around the apartment and she was a lot of fun. We lived in an apartment really close to campus. A few of my close friends lived nearby, which was really nice as well. I had my own room with a double bed, desk, and TV, and my own bathroom.
Best Memory: For Semana Santa (Holy Week), I went to the southwest coast of the DR with my friends John and Jacob. The southwest coast is the least traveled portion of the DR. Figuring out how to get anywhere was challenging, but completely worth it! We went to the country's most isolated beach, took part in intense splash fights, and spent a day relaxing at a town in the mountains with great sculpture, architecture, food, and people. Everywhere we stopped was breathtaking. Since the country was on vacation, everyone was relaxed and looking to have a good time!
Biggest Surprise: I was really surprised at the difference between the Dominicans' attitudes towards foreigners in the cities, tourist areas, and rural areas. In the cities and tourist areas, everyone would speak English to me and treat me like a lost tourist. In the rural areas, however, people would speak to me exclusively in Spanish, welcome me into their homes, and genuinely act like they wanted to spend time with us.
Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: As much as I loved the public transportation in the DR, I got pretty irritated at all the gua guas (busses) and conchos (public cars) honking at me, soliciting business. When I got back to the United States, the convenience of the gua guas and conchos was something I missed the most!
Greatest Challenge: Getting used to being the object of stares, piropos (compliments given on the street), and other forms of unwanted attention. I really enjoy my anonymity here in the United States and it was difficult adjusting to giving that up.
Going abroad versus staying on campus, discuss: Studying abroad is a really wonderful opportunity for students. It is one of the few times in life when you can live in a foreign country and have one fee take care of housing and food. I think it's the most fun and effective way to learn a language. Also, I get antsy being in the same place for too long, so I thought it was awesome to break away from my college experience by going abroad for a semester.
Fact about your host country that you think people would be surprised to learn: There's a wonderful country outside of the all-inclusive resorts, despite the Dominican Republic being famous for them!