Silvia in the Dominican Republic
Silvia spent several months as volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She gained abroad experience in the field of Tourism, Event Management and conservation, Social Media Management and Spanish as well as English Teaching.
Silvia's way abroad
I had to do a six - month internship from my university, of which at least the half should have been abroad. Since I am very eager to travel and know that you can learn with every experience abroad very much - much more than you would think before - I decided to do the internship completely abroad. The Dominican Republic was initially not on my wish list, as I intended to go to a French-speaking Country. The Dominican Republic was suggested by Studentsgoabroad and I ultimately decided to go to the Dominican Republic. You never know what would happen if you decided otherwise and yet I can safely say that it is the best decision that I could have made.
It all went much faster than expected
Approximately three months before departure, I applied for an internship at Studentsgoabroad. The whole process was a lot faster than expected. I was asked in which country I wanted to go, what kind of company and what are my preferred tasks. Studentsgoabroad found something for me really quick and gave me some advises regarding departure, visa, etc. The replies to my mails have never taken more than a day and all my questions were answered. Also during the stay I was asked a few times, how everything was going. It would have been nice, however, to receive a few more information about the organization in advance to get to know the project better before I was in contact with Manfred.
How about the language?
I was picked up at the Santo Domingo airport on time and headed for the bus to Samaná. As soon as I arrived in Samaná I got picked up by Manfred who brought me to my apartment. On this exact evening a dinner with most of the colleagues took place, to welcome me and two more new ones. On the next Monday was my first working day. I had an introductory talk with Julia, the coordinator. After some time I have gradually worked on various projects in which I have worked with the aid of other workers, coordinators, volunteers and Manfred. Whenever some problems occured especially Julia had a open ear and helped to solve these problems. Language skills are of great importance for this internship. At least English should be spoken fluently, as almost all meetings are in English. With the other volunteers I mostly spoke English.
In addition, Spanish language skills are also important because in most projects (school, tourism, English lessons, computer lessons, hospital, etc.) you are in contact with the locals and some workers of the organization are also locals. The more Spanish you speak, the more tasks you will get assigned to and the more responsibility you'll get within your projects. There are two Spanish classes, one for beginners and one for advanced speakers. Since Spanish is my mother tongue I have not participated in the courses, but regularly assisted in the Advanced Course. The courses takes place weekly and are adapted to the needs and wishes of the students.
I had a wide range of tasks
I had applied for the tourism sector but was also active in the social media area where I learned a lot about multi media programs like Adobe Premier etc. Above all, I got to know the platform facebook from another perspective. I've learned how to increase the range, what attracts people and what doesn't. As mentioned above, I assisted in the Spanish lessons and English lessons for young people. I worked one and a half months at the reception of a cooperating hotel where I also learned a lot. I also participated in a project, which consisted of tourist guide workshops on appropriate customer support. In addition, I launched an environmental protection project with a few other interns in which we held a presentation for the local inhabitants to create awareness about environmental protection. At the end of this project we planned a beach clean-up event on the beach. Many international workers are employed in the organization and there are many volunteers and interns from all over the world. But there are also several locals who work for the organization.
I was very flexible with my working hours and I often worked from home. Many projects have taken place on certain days and were not regular and other projects were regularly and every week on the same day and at the same time. So at the beginning of the week I always created a schedule with all the tasks I had to dp during the week, whereby I developed more time management skills.
Santa Bárbara de Samaná...
... is the capital of the province of Samaná and compared to Santo Domingo, the capital of the country, or even with other cities it is rather small. Tourism in Samaná is rather special and does not focus on mass tourism. There are mainly Cruising tours (1 November - 15 April). However, there are also large resorts. The biggest attractions in the province are the whale season (15 January - 15 March), the Bacardi Island Cayo Levantado, which is very nice for diving and snorkeling, the waterfall in El Limón, the National Park los Haitises and the two small towns Las Terrenas and Las Galeras, which have very beautiful beaches. One is called Playa Rincón which is one of the most beautiful beaches of the Caribbean and the whole world.
Good to know:
In November it didn't stop to rain. Some of the houses are not build strong enough, so that at some point the rain got inside. Within a short time everything started to become moldy. Partially, it surprised me how some things could get moldy, as the where hanging freely with the fan directed on them. In the remaining time the wheather was very good.
Be awre – the locals always try to scam you! So you better know who you can trust and whom you better don't. If you stay for a longer time in Samaná, you will know all the traders and know who to trust. Otherwise you can also ask the volunteers on the spot. In general, you should't accept the first mentioned price. Dominicans like to negotiate and can almost always go down with their prices.
Most of the men on the streets will call after you. Don‘t get confused. If they are nice and polite, you can nicely answer. But if they are impertinent, simply ignore them and proceed safely. Unfortunately, they have never learned better than that, but at some point the Dominican men will get to see the wave of emancipation. However, there are also very pleasant and polite men, as there are exceptions everywhere.
Leisure time, excursions and food:
In the Dominican Republic, there are interesting places everywhere. You can go on excursions on the weekends. In the province I would visit all the places I have mentioned. Also, I would recommend trips to Puerto Plata, Sosúa and Cabarete which are more touristic than Samaná. There are the 27 waterfalls, which you easily visit during a half day trip, as well as several very beautiful beaches. Especially the beach in Sosúa is good for diving and snorkeling. Another good destination is Jarabacoa, which is located in the mountains. There you can try paragliding and enjoy some cooler temperatures.
Santo Domingo is also an interesting destination if you want to learn more about the history of the country and the colonial period. In addition to the museums in Santo Domingo you can also find the national park Los Tres Ojos there, in which four incredibly beautiful lakes are located. The most stunning thing about the lakes is their location in the middle of a big city. During Christmas break, I had a whole week time to travel across the country. During this week, I was in Barahona and its surroundings. In this area, you can find a very great lake, the Enriquillosee. During a boat trip on this lake, you can see crocodiles and a lot of Iguanas. Another great trip in this area is to the Oviedo lagune. There, you can do another boat trip to see flamingos and a lot of other birds. The city Pedernales, which is located on the boarder to Haiti, is also very interesting to visit. All excursions can be done without a rental car as the public transportation system is quite good. You just need to have some patience and make sure to start your early enough.
...in the Dominican Republic are for example rice with beans, Tostones (Fried banana), chicken, yucca and yaroha (chicken meat with fries, mayonnaise, ketchup, baked with cheese). These things can be found almost everywhere. Fish is also very tasty and mostly fresh. I would recommend you, to have a look at you fish before it gets fried to make sure it's fresh.
In the evening, you can eat all these things at the Malecón in Samaná. This is a good place to end the day while relaxing and talking with your fellow volunteers. There is also quite different food like pizza or burgers. On the market in Samaná you can buy fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, bananas, avocados, mangos and pineapples for a reasonable price. Here the same rule like before applies: don't accept the first price the seller tells you! It is important to wash the fruits and the vegetables properly before eating them, since they are more natural than in Europe and sometimes they still have some dirt which can make you very ill.