What I Learned In The Dominican Republic

Volunteering abroadJill Puckett
Advertising & Promotion
Business and Culture in the Dominican Republic, summer I 2017.

Immerse yourself in a different culture for a couple of weeks and you will find yourself looking at the world from a slightly different perspective. You learn that people act differently than yourself and that’s okay. As a citizen of the United States, you may even have learned a little patience. I know I did anyway. One of the things that stood out to me the most in the Dominican Republic was the culture of taking your time. In the Dominican, people are on “Dominican time”. This means that you may be anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours late for any given event, including business meetings and appointments.

Being patient doesn’t end at waiting for meetings in the business world or with making plans with friends in Dominican culture. Dominican people have also mastered the art of being patient with food and meals. In most cases, Dominican people eat dinner much later in the day than people from the U.S. They also take more time to eat and be social, taking as much as three or even four hours to enjoy a meal and the company.  To me, experiencing Dominican time was learning about more than just patience, it also taught me to sit back and relax in the moment instead of rushing around without ever enjoying where I am and what I’m doing.

Aside from learning about Dominican time, I also learned about being in a “warm” culture. I found that culturally, Dominican people are accustomed to touching, whether it be a touch on the shoulder to get someone’s attention or a kiss on the cheek as a greeting. This was very different from the US where we learn that it can be perceived as being very forward to touch anyone before you know them well.  However, people raised in Dominican culture are much more accustomed to touch, so it is expected and can even be rude in some cases to not reciprocate the gesture.

Along with being passionate in body language, the Dominican people can also be very passionate with their words. While participating in an advertising case workshop at Unibe, I was struck by how well the Dominican students argued for their ideas and then quickly put their own feelings aside when it came to choosing the best work. The students were very vocal about their ideas with one another and while it first came off as a heated argument, I quickly realized that they were simply passionate about their ideas. I was impressed at the end of the workshop when everyone came to a consensus that was better as a whole than any one singular idea had been because they had worked to bring together the best pieces from each idea.

Not only did I learn about Dominican culture, but I also learned a great deal about myself. Though I had travelled before, I was much younger and still growing into who I was as a young adult. With this trip, I was older and knew myself more, allowing me to learn even more as I experienced new things with new people. One thing that I learned about myself that I like is that I am very open to trying new things and even seek them out. While I generally thought this was true before, I was happy to find that when faced with something new and different, such as food or experiences, I did not shy away from trying. This helped me be open to trying anything that was offered to me, so that I was able to know for sure whether I liked something or not. In particular, I think of trying Mama Juana, a liquor unique to the Dominican Republic. Though I had been warned that I would not like it, I still gave it a try, only to find that I now know for sure that I do not like it.

In addition to learning that I genuinely enjoy trying new things, I found that this trip made me eager to try even more. Though I have always wanted to travel the world, I now know that I will. It is no longer an option for me as I seek to learn more about the world around me because now that I have a small taste of culture, I need to see and do more.

On this trip, I learned about myself that I am most interested in learning about the true culture of a country rather than just the tourist side of things. I was frequently frustrated when I was only able to interact with other tourists and US students or felt that I was doing something that only tourists did. I wanted to feel more immersed in the culture and was happy to find this feeling when we met other students from the Dominican Republic. By spending time with them, doing things that they would normally do, I felt like I was able to learn more about their culture than any book or tourist destination could teach me.

Of course, I also learned a great deal about advertising and marketing on this trip. However, in the case of short-term study abroad trips, I found that the real point was to immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible and try to look within to learn more about yourself. Studying abroad in the Dominican Republic allowed me to do both, impacting how I view the world and what I seek to do with my life in the future. After this trip, I would highly recommend to other students to travel abroad, even for just a couple of weeks like I did because you never know what you may find or learn about yourself and the world around you.

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