Being a university student, I always wanted to go travel to another country and do a volunteer project. Throughout my studies in Physical Geography I became very fascinated with the Caribbean and saw it as the perfect place to go on a volunteer trip. After a lot of searching I decided to go with a student-only project in the Dominican Republic that incorporated learning Spanish with working in a small village helping with building projects and teaching kids, and also included an adventure portion. It was a well-rounded program that would give me raw insight into the country’s culture, natural environment, and charm. Turns out this was one of the best experiences I had ever gone on and was an eye-opening, life changing experience.
Getting to volunteer in the village for a couple weeks really let me get to know the children and families in the village. Throughout the volunteer project we helped build a wall and sidewalk to the elementary school in the mornings and taught the children about how to be environmentally sustainable citizens in the afternoons. The people in this small village were incredibly friendly and invited us into their culture with open arms, always inviting us to the domino and meringue dance nights in their homes or on an afternoon hike to a secret swimming hole. Immersing yourself in a culture like this is truly the best way to understand another way of life. It really draws the line between going on vacation and being a traveler. It forces you out of your comfort zone and keeps you on your toes and ultimately gives you an incomparable experience that staying in a fancy 5-star resort could never do.
This program also incorporated some adventure on the weekends and after the volunteer portion was over. Everything from ziplining to caving and windsurfing, all in the stunning natural landscapes of the Dominican Republic. Some highlights included Diamond Beach, Los Haitises National Park, Laguna Du Du Park, and of course, sipping pina coladas in fresh pineapples. The rich history of the country was also fascinating to learn through walking tours of cities like Santa Domingo and Santiago. Spending 6 weeks in the Dominican Republic also helped my Spanish; by the end of the trip, I felt comfortable to walk into markets and practice my Spanish in a real environment.
If I had spent more time there, I am sure my Spanish would have become even more natural. By the end of the trip I didn’t want to leave but had to leave a day late due to a hurricane and flight delays which seemed like a blessing and curse all at once. All in all, I would recommend heading to the Dominican Republic with a company like Travelshore to guarantee an ultimate, well-rounded experience of adventure, culture, volunteering, and any other surprises the vibrant country has to offer. You can’t beat a trip led by locals who know the country and the secret spots better than any traveler would.