A look at the Dominican Republic service trip

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A look at the Dominican Republic service trip

Spencer Dee, Staff Writer

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The opportunity to chose your experiential ed trip first happens sophomore year. The most popular trip is the Dominican Republic service trip. On paper, it may seem like a terrible idea to go to a less developed country than the US to teach students for a week, especially compared to the hikes, campouts, and other fun activities that the other trips have to offer. Yet upperclassmen continue to recommend the trip to those faced with the decision on where to go. So what is the Dominican Republic service trip and why is it so highly regarded among past travelers?

After a rigorous day of travel, we arrived at the Outreach360 center in Monte Cristi at around three in the morning. The living conditions are good, but the mosquito nets take a little bit to get used to. The Zika virus is a very real problem on the southern Dominican coast, but very few mosquitos were found in Monte Cristi, although many precautions are still taken. The town of Monte Cristi is a small town compared to a place like La Jolla, with most of the buildings being one or two stories with every other street nicely patched. The locals say this is because when elections come around, the candidates invest money into repaving some of the streets to show the people how committed they are to the local community. Evidence of elections can be seen along the walls and houses, as propaganda in the form of posters  is scattered throughout the town.

Across the street from where we were staying, there was what people referred to as the “juice lady.” who sold juices, smoothies, sodas, and oreos. But one main attraction of visiting her shop was “Scooby”, her very friendly puppy. Stray dogs roam can be seen roaming the streets a lot, searching for any scraps that they can find.

The setting offered an escape from the busy, always connected life of the US. Blocking out social media and news allowed students to focus more on being in the Dominican, and less on what they are missing while away from home. The quality of life also provided some perspective for the consumer lifestyle that America has to offer. The people of the DR are simply friendlier than the competitive and sometimes even hostile social world that has developed in America. Overall, the trip allowed for a step back and a reassessment of the world we live in.

One of the most rewarding parts of the trip is being able to help elementary and middle school level kids learn english. For three days, groups lead classes of 30-40 enthusiastic kids, teaching them how to say numbers, colors, and shapes. Each group teaches the same class for the whole week, allowing connections to be drawn as individual students recognize each person and engage even more into the lesson and in general, has more fun. Being able to play basketball and baseball with the kids was an amazing experience, and it was made very evident that fun and games transcends language and cultural barriers.

In addition to the interactions that were made with the kids, the class as a whole became closer through the trip. Whether it was late night card games or the playing football in the warm ocean waves, students were always enjoying themselves.

So now that I have been on the trip and have an idea of how amazing it is for those who might be on the trip later, I highly recommend this once in a lifetime experience. One week can give a person a big look into what the Dominican really is, once you look past the tourist destinations that are so often used to portray this culturally rich country. I believe it is a mistake to pass up such a positive opportunity, and future sophomores should do everything they can to punch their ticket.