I cannot believe that today was my last day in the Dominican Republic. This experience has gone by so fast. I have had a great time these last couple weeks and I couldn’t have ended my experience in a better way. The first week of April the school was closed for the holiday break Semana Santa. The entire country is on break and many businesses close early or are closed the entire week. I took full advantage of this week off and traveled with a German volunteer that I met here. We traveled from Sunday to Wednesday, going to Santiago and then to Monte Cristi. We spent one day and night in Santiago, walking around, exploring the city and going to a museum. The museum is called Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes, the center develops educational and cultural programs around ecology, art and history of the Dominican Republic. During my time in Monte Cristi we went to a beach, hiked a “small mountain” El Morro and went on a snorkeling tour. Sadly, I do not have any pictures from inside of the water. It was interesting to see another part of the country and be on the west coast of the DR. I think the people were very similar to where I live in Los Alcarrizos but the streets were much calmer and quieter and the people moved a little bit slower. Which is similar to the U.S if you go south, near the beach life is a little bit slower. This trip was a great way to start my last three weeks here and was an amazing last vacation.
Once the break was over, I resumed my normal routine in the school and helped with the grant proposal. They were able to use what I wrote in the initial proposal, so I am very happy that I was able to contribute to the future of Lecheria. During the week I made sure to take in all the sun and spend as much time as I could on the roof of my house listening to the neighborhood and the birds. During my last weeks here, I was very conscious about being present and appreciating the small things. On the weekends, I spent time at the community pools with my friends and was able to take a pottery class in the city. It was my first time doing pottery and it was so much fun! We made plant pots and were able to paint them as well. I think it is a great souvenir to bring back home or even to leave in the house as a gift. I will be looking into classes when I come back to Buffalo, NY.
Liceo en Modalidad y Arte María Montez, the school that I have been working with separate from my internship, invited me to their English club meeting one last time before I leave. They were so wonderful and presented me with a certificate from their school for helping and contributing to their school and English program. I am so happy that I was able to make a good impression on the institution and on the students. It is an important aspect of studying abroad that is easy to forget, but being from another country, you may be the first person from that country that a person meets. Or you may be the only person from that country that the person will ever meet. Because of this, it is important to be cautious of your actions and words so that you are portrayed the way you want them to see you and the people from your country. After the meeting I was invited to attend the school’s art show competition. I brought my roommate Paloma, there was singing, dancing, acting and of course art from different mediums. The students are so talented and their love for the arts and creativity is inspiring.
I may have mentioned before but the school that I am working with has a lot of Haitian students, due to the location of the Batey and the amount of Haitian immigrants that settle here. Since the community has mostly Haitian immigrants the community speaks Haitian Creole. Many parents of the students do not know any Spanish and only speak Haitian Creole in their homes, which creates a problem with the students and their Spanish. While the school is helping the students that know little Spanish by offering 1:1 sessions with volunteers to help enhance their Spanish skills, the teachers have also started having Haitian Creole classes. They have a class once a week for an hour with one of the teachers that speaks Haitian Creole and lives in the community. I was able to attend the first class and it was so much fun! The teachers were able to see a little of what it’s like for me and the other students trying to learn a new language. It is going to be a great addition to the skills the teachers already have, to be able to communicate a little bit with the students that are struggling with Spanish. Everybody had so much fun and it is always a great time bonding with the teachers without any students around.
Today was my last day in the school and saying goodbye to everyone was really difficult. Yesterday, I said goodbye to two of my roommates and other volunteers because they left for the weekend. Three months is a weird amount of time because it feels like a lot of time but also feels like nothing. I kept telling myself I wouldn’t cry saying goodbye because it may not be a goodbye, I plan on visiting Europe soon and I will see them again. However, when you experience something so new, difficult and fun together you become a family. Everyone I have met here has accepted me into their family and I have accepted them into mine. The students, the teachers and all the school personnel have taught me so much about myself as well as their culture. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and I am proud of myself for getting through everything that comes with an experience like this.
Now that the experience has come to an end, I am thinking about my transition back to Buffalo, NY. This has been my home for the past three months, my routine has changed, my surroundings have changed and I have changed. I’m thinking of how I will navigate my new environment in Buffalo because that has also changed. Graduation is coming up and soon I will be an LMSW entering the job force. Who knows what opportunities will be open when I return to Buffalo, NY, but I am ready to find out. I am ready to bring everything I have experienced here and all the positive changes I have made in myself to Buffalo, NY and to my new career.
I want to say thank you to the University at Buffalo for giving me this opportunity and to you all for keeping up with my journey and showing me nothing but support.
Goodbye Dominican Republic and hello Buffalo, NY