A lot of people are drawn to The Dominican Republic because of its beautiful scenery and beaches (it is the Caribbean after all!). But, we've got a little secret for you: that isn't the best part!
We interviewed Emma H. who has volunteered with International Language Programs (ILP) three times! Ukraine 2014, the Dominican Spring 2016, and then again in the DR as a Head Teacher Summer 2017. She shared with us why she loved the DR so much that she decided to go twice!
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What is one of the best parts about the DR and why?
"...First and foremost, because of the people here. From the kids that wait outside the front gate every day to play, to the cute old man selling empanadas on the way to school; you find yourself living among good friends. The longer you're here, the more people you'll find to say "Hi!" to on each street, and the more friends you'll have to go visit.
There is no better part of the day than when you're walking home from school and a little naked boy comes running up to you with his arms spread open for a big hug."
Emma shared a really cute story to show just how kind the people are in The DR.
"Dominicans are extremely friendly and very hospitable. There was one time I went to one of my student's houses after school; her name was Angelica. She was sassy and devious, but I knew she tried her best. She took me inside, got me a chair and sat me down. She then proceeded to look in the fridge, "for something to eat", I thought. I could tell that it was mostly empty - some eggplant, some milk, a couple mangoes, some leftover rice, and a carton of orange juice. She grabbed the orange juice and a nice glass from a cupboard. There was just enough orange juice to fill the glass and she handed it right to me. I was so surprised I couldn't hide my laugh. Here was a seven year old girl, being an amazing hostess, and giving her English teacher the last swig of orange juice from her fridge. I've since learned that the phrase "mi casa es tu casa" (my home is your home) holds true here."
Why did you choose to go back to the DR?
"Why not? My sister, Hannah, was the first one to suggest the idea to me. She had been head teaching in Romania the first semester I was in the DR and wanted to go for herself (bad case of FOMO probably). At first it felt weird going to the same country again, but the more I thought about it, it really just felt like I was taking a couple months off of school to go visit some good friends and some adorable children who call me "teacha". So, one thing led to another and we both applied to head-teach in the DR the next summer."
What have you learned from living in the DR?
"The list is endless. I've learned that you can fit 10 people in a 5-person car, and that you can even squeeze one in the driver's seat with the driver, if you want. I've learned that putting lotion and aloe vera on your 57th degree sunburn, and then sitting in front of a fan for a couple hours is the best way to turn it into a tan. I've learned that you should always be ready for kids to jump on you - from the front or the back. But, (all jokes aside) I've also learned that you should never brush aside an opportunity to show somebody kindness or make a friend, whether you're in a foreign country or not. There are so many opportunities that I realize I have missed because in my mind I was too busy, or too tired, or didn't feel like it. I am 100% guilty all of those accusations, but the few opportunities that I have taken, I have never regretted. "
Why is the beach really not the best part?
"...But really, don't get me wrong, I've had the time of my life being a beach bum in the Caribbean. I love the beaches in all parts of the Dominican Republic - Sosua, Cabarete, Las Aguilas, Barahona, you name it. But hands down, I love my kids more. Some of the most rewarding moments I've felt in my short life have been hearing Anderson explain English class to a kid who hasn't ever come, or hearing Jerson start to speak Spanglish to the teachers, or hearing Yuniel try and speak Spanish in an American accent. When you teach these kids - or any kids, for that matter - and you start to realize how much of an effect it is having on their lives, and then on their future, it feels like you've really done something worthwhile and, honestly? You just start to glow inside. "
Okay, Emma, you have our hearts aching to teach cute kids of our own!
The DR is home to one of ILP's humanitarian programs and will capture your heart. Click the button below to learn more about The DR and how you can make a difference during your semester living abroad.