The semester abroad here in Creighton’s Encuentro Dominicano has changed me in many ways some of which I cannot yet put to words but the most important one is the personal formation that the challenges of living in another country present. This challenge is an assortment of tough times, exciting times, dull times, awkward, and ambiguous times (especially communication). How is that different than a normal semester at home? Not only is it adapting to new things but it is allowing the culture, people, and strange and increasingly familiar challenges to help not only put daily life in perspective but what things are important to you personally, in learning who you are and what you can do (especially your limits). The most impactful times are the ten day immersions in the campo which bear the fruits of expecting, receiving, and embracing the unknown. Unknown faces, unknown language, unknown community, house, and this teaches you about yourself in how you react and make necessary, desired, and even unwanted changes of how you approach yourself and others. It affects how you interact with people. Being in a new family community I learned to spend more time just listening rather than guiding the conversation and seeking to entertain by my strangeness and trivia, being an Americano in the campo. You also learn about the ability you have to be loved and to love with nothing substantial besides your presence, smile, and willingness to share. How can you love complete strangers in ten days? Not in the same ways you love close friends or family whom the test of time have allowed that to grow, but in helping and receiving help in overcoming the challenges which the awkward and exciting newness presents.
The most impactful experience here has been the communities which I have been a part. Learning to love people is the greatest challenge that exists especially when you do not like them or there are personality conflicts. This is a challenge not only among the student communities but also in the campo. The fruit which has come with embracing the unknown here has been a greater trust and appreciation for the support of the people around me. Both from the families I stayed with in the campo and Comunidad Doce here in ILAC. Learning how to be open to people and love people for who they are and how they have come to impact me personally has changed the way in which I view friendship, family, and community. It took me a while to live in the moment, to embrace and be aware of what I can do right now to love and be open to be loved. The simple things gain more importance, a smile, wave, hola, Que tal, Que mas, como esta, etc. This is one aspect of Dominican culture, to greet people with a smile or a wave. They are a very touchy people in a good way, a handshake, hug, and (for kids) climbing all over you. (Though that is more universal.) The live the importance of giving of yourself simply by being present to the people around you. A saint once said that if you want to grow closer to God and gain humility and patience with yourself and others than go to a foreign land where you do not know anybody. This of course will lead you to grow closer to or at least love more the people He puts in your life.