Over winter break, Seton Hill University (SHU) offered a study abroad program to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR) from Dec. 27 to Jan. 18. This three-week trip was a total of $2,850. Although possible scholarships were included, the experience students would receive was priceless.
“It was the best experience of my life and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity,” said Madilyn Ferretti, a human resource major at SHU. “As long as you go into the trip with an open mindset, accepting the fact that there will be difficult times, you will have no problem adjusting.”
Students were able to live in and embrace a culture totally different from their own while on this trip. “I really liked that aspect, and the fact that I was able to speak Spanish all the time,” said junior business administration major and international organization minor, Marissa Lakovic. “It was also a bonus that temperatures were in the mid 80s every day, while it was winter back here in Greensburg.”
With a total of 12 students, each was able to take and receive up to six credits, including Spanish and a Global Cultures course – History of DR. The advisor for the trip was Spanish associate professor and chairperson of the Division of Humanities at SHU Debra Faszer-McMahon.
Each student would live with a host family in their household and be treated as if they were their children. This allowed students to connect and create relationships with different families.
“Living with a homestay family was an experience in itself,” said Lakovic. “You are living in someone else’s house and treated like their child basically when you don’t even know them.”
A typical day consisted of waking up in the morning to eat breakfast, and then commuting to school by either walking or taking a carro público (similar to a taxi). From here students would have Spanish classes from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. and then would receive a break where the school would provide them with a snack. Then it was back to Spanish class for another hour and a half until lunch and the start of the city study course. If planned, excursions would usually last afterwards for two hours, until finally returning students back to their “homes’” for dinner and freedom to do whatever they pleased.
Some of this free time comprised mostly of sight seeing, going to different beaches, museums, indulging in different food and beverages at restaurants and bars, playing outside sports and just simply hanging out with friends enjoying each others company.
“One of my favorite days was when we traveled three hours by bus to Jarabacoa. We hiked down a mountain to a beautiful waterfall,” said Ferretti.
The students also visited the famous Los Tres Ojos Cave, a salt mine, and enjoyed shopping in La Zona Colonial and Calle Conde that consisted of boutiques and small vintage shops.
One of the more lifetime memories came when the students visited Haitian Batey. This is a town located near the fields where many less fortunate families of all ages lived under scrutiny. Although they were born and raised there, they were not considered Dominican.
“It is a learning experience and really opened my eyes to the simple things we take for granted here, that other people aren’t as fortunate to have,” said Lakovic.
“There will be days where you miss home, or things just don’t go as planned, but overall I made some incredible friends and fell in love with the Dominican,” said Ferretti. “I would go back in a heartbeat.”