My Dominican Republic Journey

Thomas Mahfet
Finance Major
Business and Culture in the Dominican Republic, Summer I 2017.

During my stay in the Dominican Republic I had the opportunity to discover and learn a
ton from my experiences throughout the study abroad trip. One of which was how much
importance was placed on baseball not just for its popularity but because it is one of the only ways for the Dominican’s large poor population to improve their social class. I have learned that the social mobility of the Dominican is very low and baseball is one of the very few ways that their social status can be changed. This however puts a ton of stress on the young boys in the family who play baseball. They are pulled out of school at a very young age to pursue baseball and because of this they have a very limited education. More often than not they don’t make it in baseball to change their families’ social status and without an education their options for employment are very limited.

I also learned that the Dominican Republic’s primary industries were agriculture and
tourism. Part of this is because of the lack of higher education in the Dominican Republic. Most students in the Dominican attend school only until about eighth grade and because of this there is a very limited amount of job opportunities available. A lot of these jobs are located in the agricultural and tourism sectors of the economy. These are also economic sectors that don’t allow many opportunities for employees to increase their professional position and because of this many poor Dominican people are stuck in poverty.

I also found that the Dominican Republic preferred colored sodas compared to the US’s preference for dark sodas. This changes the marketing focus of which drinks from popular brands like PepsiCo and Coca‐Cola are promoted. Those brands are Country Club for Coca‐Cola and Red Rock for PepsiCo. These are brands that are not available in the United States and show how they are meant for the Dominican consumer. I noticed on our visit to Bepensa Coca‐ Cola that their brand was being bottled there as well just as much as regular Coca‐Cola.

Something else I found interesting was that they ate dinner at a much later time in the day than on a typical day in America. The average American eats dinner around five or six o’ clock while in the Dominican it is very typical to have dinner around nine or ten o’ clock. This was quite the adjustment for me the very first day because I was not prepared to eat dinner so late and was extremely hungry by the time I actually got to eat. I honestly don’t think I fully understood why they ate dinner so late either. It seemed that most of the working class still got off work at the latest by six or seven and ten o’ clock is still three to four hours away from that time. I guess it must be simply just cause that’s how the culture has been for so long.

I also found out both through an UNIBE student and a little from both Dr. Lancendorfer
and Dr. Veeck about their current political system. It was very fascinating to compare the
differences between the political system and situation of the Dominican to ours. Many people in the Dominican know that Donald Trump is our president and understand the controversy that surrounds him but what we think is corrupt and what they think is corrupt are very different. The Dominican has dealt with corrupt dictators for a long time and recently in the latest election their president was elected for a second term which is against their constitution.

Some things I learned about myself on this trip include the fact that I absolutely love studying abroad. I knew I liked study abroad and that I wanted to try it again before I came on this trip but now I realize that this is something I would be very interested in pursuing for a semester. The things I do and the people I meet and the ability to just experience very little detail of a different culture just fills me with such a rush of curiosity and anxiousness to just do more and learn more. I’ve been to three different countries in Central America and the Caribbean and now all I can think about is wanting to go even farther. I want to visit every continent on the globe and this trip really solidified my passion to travel and experience life on a global scale. This feeling also led me to realize how much harder I need to work so that I can fuel this passion because I know studying and traveling abroad does not come cheap.
Another thing I learned about myself is that I am much more of a creative thinker than I
anticipated from the type of major I chose to pursue. I still don’t feel it is enough for me to change my major but I do feel I think and act more creatively than some of my fellow students studying in finance and accounting. I think it actually gives me and edge in my career to be able to think and problem solve with a more creative mindset than analytical and can help me approach financial problems and situations in new ways rather than coming at problems systematically with previous solutions to find the right one.

I also came to find out about myself that I think I might make better and closer friends studying abroad than I do back in the United States. These people that I’ve experienced this new culture with and have hung out with for two weeks straight have impacted me profoundly in such a short length of time that I don’t even want to think about what my life would be like had I not made those connections. I have had so many great experiences that I only have shared with these people and I think about the next time I will get to see them all the time. We still keep in contact every day going all the way out to a month after we’ve returned from the trip. I feel that the new friendships I’ve created will last all the way until the end of college and beyond.

I also learned about myself that I have a very open mind and am willing to allow myself
to accept a different culture as it is. I do not feel any superiority to any other culture nor do I feel that every society and culture should act and feel a different way. I think it is very important that I think like this because it will help me extremely if I ever encounter different cultures when working with customers at my job or maybe when I work with my fellow coworkers.
I also was surprised to find out about myself that there is absolutely not one thing I
would not try or any place I would not go when I travel to a different country save anything illegal or dangerous. When I travel I want to try as much as possible and I refuse to limit myself in any way. I feel this allows me to have a much more well‐rounded study abroad and traveling experience.

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