I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for a little over a month now, and I’m amazed at how much has happened so far. It’s been a pretty world wind experience and I’m sad to see how quickly my time abroad is passing by.
It took some time, but I can finally say that I feel more comfortable here in the DR. My first few weeks were filled with numerous adventures. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many beautiful places on this incredibly beautiful island: from jumping off the cliffs at 27 Charcos, snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Cayo Arena, relaxing on the beaches of Cabarete, dancing the night away at the local discotecas, and watching la locura that is Carnaval.
With classes such as Dominican Dance, Dominican Folklore, Painting and Latin American Cinema to name a few, I don’t mind waking up before the sun rises (although it’s a struggle) and walking to and from the university numerous times a day. I enjoy the classes I am taking and for the first time in a really long time, I’m not stressed out and losing sleep over my grades.
With the arrival of February comes Carnival and all that it entails. I’ve always loved this time of year in the Caribbean and being able to experience carnival the Dominican way for myself is a dream come true. So far, I’ve attended carnival in Santiago, La Vega and hopefully will be attending Santo Domingo’s by the end of the month. I’m looking forward to these upcoming experiences and plan to write more about carnival in my next post.
Last week, after realizing again how little time I have left here, I felt inspired to get lost in the beautiful streets of Santiago and spent the entire day wandering and exploring the mysteries of this city. By the end of the day, I was tired and craved a long shower, but I felt happy. I felt content and fulfilled. The day started out with two friends and myself simply walking down a new street we’ve never been on before and this in turn led to us having an extraordinary day. We discovered quaint cafes and bars, talked and laughed with the friendly empanada vendors we met, went to the park where we embraced our youth, tried new foods and interacted not only with one another, but the strangers we met throughout the day.
I remember thinking to myself that day what a great time I was having and even said to my friends “I don’t want this to end.” Moments like these are what I think I’m going to miss most about my time abroad in the DR. Of course when I’m back in the wintry mountains of State College next semester for school, I’ll miss the warm sands and beaches of the DR, but I’ll ache for the days I let the unexpected happen. I hope to retain this attitude and find inspiration daily in the ordinary things in life.
The biggest thing I’m learning is that not everyone’s study abroad experience will be the same. I came to the DR with certain hopes and expectations and when these hopes and expectations fell short, I was disappointed, frustrated angry and annoyed. Instead of wallowing in my disappointment however, I decided to take my study abroad experience into my own hands. I realized studying abroad is an experience in itself, but it is only what you make of it. Furthermore, I’ve grasped the fact that I can’t just sit around and wait for life to invite me to enjoy it: there are new experiences to have, new people to meet, new foods to try and even more amazing moments, all waiting for me everyday and it’s up to me to take as much of life as I want.
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