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What You Should Know Before Living In The DR For The First Time 

Posted by Auvi Evans on 12/11/17, 9:22 AM

The Dominican Republic is home to some of the cutest kids around and also one of ILP's humanitarian programs — Here are a few things everyone should know if they are going to live in the DR for the first time!
We have a bit more about volunteering in the DR that you might be interested in. 

You Get Creative With Your Free Time 

You won't be teaching all of the time, and will have every Saturday and Sunday off, which means lots of free time. First of all, you are only a 10 - 15 minute walk from the beach and you will most likely spend a lot of time there (which is probably one of the reasons you chose to volunteer here, right?) Volunteers also spend quite a bit of their free time hanging around in hammocks and doing a bit of shopping. We love a place called JD Leather where you can get custom leather goods like shoes and purses made, but sometimes, the most exciting you have is strolling down to the grocery store to pick up some frozen yogurt. 
You'll also be spending quite a lot of your time in the neighborhood streets, exploring with the the neighborhood with the local kids who are eager to hang out with you. You may stumble on a neighborhood basketball game, or invite the neighbor kids to join you for a beach day. You'll definitely be able to enjoy a chill semester full of sunshine and palm trees. 
Just exploring the city and the coastline full of different beaches near you will definitely fill your days. You will find a lot of fun things and meet the greatest people in your town — there are a few things from home (like movie theaters) where you can spend some of your time, but it's a taxi ride away. 
Humanitarian program

You Won't Have The Luxuries of Home

When living in the DR you will quickly realize how much you have taken for granted in your life. You will see a lot of people who live in poverty and live life making the most of what they do have, which is very little. This is a big thing to understand before you leave on your semester. 
Although the home that ILP volunteers live in is a definite step up compared to the other homes in your neighborhood, you'll still run into some issues that many locals deal with, which is just the nature of life in the DR. Things that are common in the States will be a rare (if not impossible) luxury in the Dominican; Long, hot showers will be something you'll skip out on : there is little to no water pressure in your shower anyways, so most volunteers take "bucket showers" with the water that is brought to the house (which isn't heated — good thing it's hot and humid in the DR; those cold showers are refreshing!).
Also good to know: You can't drink the tap water so get used to carrying around a water bottle where you'll fill up with filtered water found at your house. Air conditioning is not very common at all, so locals keep cool with a fan if they have one. Sometimes the electricity goes out for periods of time, so you'll need to live life without WiFi, which isn't as fast as it is at home anyways. 
Most volunteers quickly embrace some parts of island living (like the thick palm fronds and amazing fresh fruit) but need a minute to adjust to other parts, like always wearing bus repellent but getting bitten anyways. These little things will make for some good stories later on and once you get back to the US, you will appreciate everything so much more than you ever have. Living life in the DR is definitely an experience you'll remember. 
You can read more about the unexpected parts of your semester here — we love what Lauren S. said about her semester in the DR. 

You Will Fall In Love With The Kids

The kids you teach will absolutely melt your heart. From their cute giggles, the way they squeal your name, their rad dance moves and sassy personalities... you will just LOVE them, even if they can be little troublemakers. You will get to know their personalities really well and become great friends with them — you may have signed up for a semester by the beach, but the volunteers who put the kids first typically end up having the best semester. 
One of the cool things about The DR is that you live alongside the kids; a lot of your students live in your same neighborhood so when you are taking  walk to the beach, don't be surprised if several of your students join you . Hayden G. who volunteered in the DR says:

 "The kids you teach are literally your neighbors! So most of the time we were just outside playing with all the kids we teach, seeing where they live. The parents are really nice, always inviting you inside. All the kids just hang out outside of the gate and wait for us to come outside and play with them. It's the best!"

Teaching Can Be Difficult

I'd be lying if I said teaching is a cake walk. It can be hard and frustrating! Kids have a ton of energy and when you pair that with their sassy little personalities it can be rough. A lot of the kids you will be teaching come from some rough backgrounds. They may not have a very positive role model in their life. Especially in this humanitarian program, ILP teachers are there to teach English but also to be a bit of positive role model. These kids deserve to have a happy encouraging person cheer them on.

Even though teaching can be difficult, it is incredibly worth it. You will get help from your Head Teacher on ways to help your class and figure out what works and what doesn't work when teaching. Just go into it knowing you'll end up learning a lot (p
atience, love, and kindness are just a few of those things). And, you really will adore them. They will change your life!
ILP Adventure

You Will Live With 30+ People

You will in a house with your ILP group - your whole ILP group! Actually, this is one of the largest ILP groups that we have in any country. That's a lot of people and sometimes it can feel crowded, but honestly, it is so much fun! It's like you have built in friends to do things with all the time. 
30 may seem like a lot, but Hayden says: "It honestly isn't that bad because the house is kind of split up in different sections/apartments. I would go days without seeing some people. It wasn't like we were around all 30 people all of the time. There is 3 floors to the house so everyone is pretty spread out!" 
It's just important to realize going in that having 30+ people living in the same house means you may need to carve out some time just for yourself if you want it, and know that everyone will need to pitch in and help keep the house clean and organized. You may be living in the Caribbean but that still doesn't get you out of picking up your room and sharing the washer. 

It's Hot

No, guys, really HOT. Humid hot. Like we talked about before, you won't go anywhere with air conditioning unless you decide to stay at a nice resort on one of your vacations. When you walk outside you're immediately sweating. It's hard the first few weeks, but you start to get used to it.
Things like light clothes, cold showers, swimming at the beach and battery operated fans will save your life (especially when the power goes out so all the fans at the house shut off)! Soon you'll get more accustomed to it and it won't feel so crazy hot all the time, but know going in that you'll be pretty sweaty for most of your semester. Embrace it! 
semester abroad

You Will Love The People

The Dominican people are so incredibly kind. They come from humble circumstances and a very different background than what you probably have experienced, yet they are still happy and loving people. You will find great friends and will really grow to love them and their culture. Do not miss out on the chance to find ways to reach out and become friends who those around you. 

One volunteer was looking out for their cute bus driver and pitched in to buy him a movie ticket, which he found incredibly touching (read more here). Another volunteer found ways to connect to the culture by visiting a local retirement community and sitting with a few other residents (read more here). We know you are already in the DR to give back and serve, but you may find that you'll want to do a bit more to help the people you've come to love. 

It Will Be Hard To Leave

After spending your semester in The DR you truely do come to love it, despite the  hard days you had. Leaving your cute kids will be heartbreaking, saying goodbye to your city which has become home will be hard, and once you get back to your home in the US you will probably miss the DR every day. It will be an adjustment living life in another country, but we hope it's one you'll love. 
The DR is so much more than pretty beaches. As you teach English you will make a difference in the lives of the children and they will equally make a difference in yours. Enjoy every second of it! 
Click the button below to learn more about your semester abroad in the DR and learn more about what amazing opportunities you can experience during your semester living abroad. 
Discover the D.R.

Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering Abroad, Caribbean

Exploring The World For Nearly 30 Years

Hi! We are ILP, a non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We share our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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