Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because of the opportunities it presented me. I saw the pictures and the biographies of the women and men who worked at the Santiago, DR office on the CIEE online page, and they seemed like wonderful people. The program costs were also relatively low compared to other programs in Spanish-speaking countries. Also while the costs were low, there were so many excursions and fun things included in the total study abroad sum. The CIEE employees in Santiago love the city and welcome students from abroad with open arms. Not only did we go on excursions to the beaches and beautiful spots in the DR, but we also went to museums and cities that hold a lot of history.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. My favorite class abroad was my "History and Society of the Caribbean" class. It was a direct enrollment class which meant I was with Dominican students as opposed to many of my other classes where I was with other American students. At first it was scary because I felt my language skills were not adequate, but I grew to love my Dominican classmates, and I really felt I learned a lot in this class about the U.S.'s role in the Caribbean and the Caribbean culture and history. It was interesting to hear about history from a different viewpoint. It was definitely eye opening.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived with a host family during my stay. I lived in a beautiful middle-class house with my host mother, brother, and the wonderful woman who did the housework. My family consisted of some of the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. They accepted me into the family and always tried to make me feel welcome. I learned a lot about the culture through my family, and I feel staying with a host family really helped me get a better grip on the Spanish language.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Go! Study abroad and live it up, soak everything in. If finances seem to be holding you back, look for scholarships. Studying abroad was the best decision I ever made, and going somewhere that at times made me feel awkward and uncomfortable made me stronger and built me into a more complete person than I was before this adventure. Like Saint Augustine said, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? I don't know if I can choose just one, there are so many. One of my favorite memories was when my program took a weekend trip to Ensamana and we went to the beach and stayed in amazingly cute condos. We also celebrated our director's birthday in a Spanish restaurant with delicious food and Sangria. It was one of my favorite memories from the Dominican Republic.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? I was surprised at how friendly the people were. I thought people in Indiana were friendly, but Dominicans are always doing what they can to help each other out. Whether needing directions or trying to find lost keys, Dominican people have the biggest hearts and best intentions.
“If I could do it over, I would…” explore more. I would stop fearing embarrassment from messing up my Spanish and I would be fearless.
What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge was overcoming my fear of sounding stupid. When I first got there, my Spanish was very rough. I did not want to talk to people in Spanish because I would constantly have to say, "que? que? que?" or "what? what? what?". By the end of the month, I had met some amazing Dominicans who understood my fears and did their best to make me feel comfortable and help me with my Spanish.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” I did so many more things while abroad than I would have on campus here. In Bloomington, I would have done school work, sorority events, and a few hours of volunteering a month. In the DR, I volunteered, did school, went to museums, jazz nights, beaches, historical places, Haiti, adopted a dog, and much, much more. I was a lot busier there, but in the best way.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? Some people are surprised to find out that the Dominican Republic was where Christopher Columbus landed and founded the first colony in the New World.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I looked up scholarships on the internet and through IU. My program, CIEE, also had a lot of opportunities.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? Yes, I recommend other students pursue a Hutton Honors Scholarship. You do not have to be a Hutton scholar. Also, if going through CIEE, there are many wonderful scholarship opportunities through the program.