I don’t think I had an accurate idea of what I was getting myself into this semester. I have always had this vision in my head that everyone who goes abroad magically has something click in their head and suddenly they are able to speak Spanish. While I have found my Spanish rapidly improving from complete immersion, it is a whole lot more difficult than I thought. My vocabulary is extremely limited and sometimes even if I know the “Spanish” word for what I am trying to say, I don’t know they “Dominican” word for what I need to say. Some things even as simple as trashcan.
I will also say that my program is a whole lot different from most other study abroad programs. Even though I applied for it because of its uniqueness, I didn’t fully understand how different it was. I am part of CIEE Service-Learning and I am already starting to see how difficult and how incredible it is going to be. I have class from 8am-1pm every day, return to my host family for lunch, and then work in my community until dark. We will also be published by the end of the semester through PUCMM by our research about our communities, our tangible projects, and our proposals on how to better the organizations in part or in its entirety.
This week we have been able to visit all of the organizations I have been researching for about a month now. I have written essays, had dialogue about them, and even have sought them out on Facebook. However, even after all the background research I really had no idea what I wanted until I got to visit the individual organizations.
This community is exactly how I imagined it to be and nothing like how I imagined I would feel. I have always been drawn to this, but never understood why. Suddenly, when those people look at YOU straight in the eye there is no way you are able to not feel anything. I am entering their world as an outsider, and this is their reality. They don’t revolve their lives around Facebook or what parties are going on, they are just trying to make it by every day. They don’t have proper housing, sanitation, water, education, anything. I don’t know how exactly to explain everything going through my heart.
All I know is that I am spending four months with one of 6 organizations whose missions are to create even a little bit better of a life for people, even if it is only one. I think that this will be one of the hardest most incredible experiences of my life, and I look forward to giving everything I am in this.