1. Get to know the people in your comunidad. You will experience so much throughout this semester. Your fellow comunidad members may be the only ones who will be able to fully understand what you went through when you return home. Build your relationships so you can trust and support one another, you’ll be happy you did!
2. Don’t be shy about using your Spanish. Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself; stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way to improve your Spanish. Go out of your way to practice your Spanish whenever you can. The people who do this will end up improving the most throughout the course of the year.
3. Make friends with the workers at ILAC! The drivers, the gardeners, the cooks, everyone! The ILAC staff is great and they’ll all be there throughout your entire experience. Talking with the workers is also a great way to practice your Spanish.
4. Play volleyball! Playing volleyball every weekday at 5 is a great way to get to know the workers and get some exercise. The ILAC staff gets really into it, especially JJ.
5. Make friends Santiago. Santiago is your new home, so make the best of it! Making friends with people in the city is a great way to experience the culture and learn about the popular things to do/places to visit within the city. We’d also recommend reaching out the PUCMM students; they are super friendly and welcoming.
6. Download whatsapp! Make sure to do this before coming to the country because it often will not let you download it unless you are in your home country. Many Dominicans use the app as a means of communication.
7. Travel. Although it may seem scary in a new country, now is your time to step out of your comfort zone and be independent. There is so much to see and do in the DR. Fit in as much as you can with the time that you have!
8. Climb Pico Duarte. Mountain climbing may not be everyone’s thing, but is a great way to come together as a group for some serious bonding. Rain or shine (or hail!), it’s worth it and it’s an Encuentro tradition!
9. Explore ILAC. Sometimes with all the school work and studying, we got sick of being in the same place for so. Taking study breaks and exploring ILAC is a great way to get a change of scenery. Grab a snack from the Colmado and eat it on the roof. Or grab a friend and head to one of the track kiosks for a study break.
10. Go dancing. Santiago has a fun nightlife scene! Dancing is a big part of the culture and definitely something you don’t want to miss out on!
Dani Grobeck, Comunidad 18