Dominican Republic #12: Final Reflections

At the end of the trip, faculty trip leaders Sheryl Koyama and Bob Graves, asked students to provide final reflections on what they had learned and experienced during their time in the Dominican Republic. Below are excerpts of students responses.

Francis Gannon ‘21:

“Before visiting the DR with Deerfield, I was fortunate enough to have visited the country with my family. My memories of this place only consisted of nice resorts and beaches. I assumed that the rest of the country would be somewhat similar. I knew that there would be poverty, but I never thought it would be that bad. So, when I first came to San Juan de la Maguana, I was shocked. Immediately, I felt the need to help the locals. Now, after seeing all the DR, I have a much better understanding of all that happens here. I have left this place with an additional understanding of myself. I have learned to appreciate and be thankful for what I have. Secondly, I have been exposed to a selfless community that has inspired me to bring some of these experiences to DA. This trip has taught me so much and inspired me to do better.”

Raymond (Tripp) Hindle ‘21:

“I used to think that the DR was just another third world country. I was right and wrong. The DR is full of people with class and character living in tins of plywood and metal. I used to think that the people of the DR were uneducated and dumb. I was wrong. The people of the DR are educated to survive the island which they live on. They thrive in so many aspects that I do not and will never. Their sense of community and family is like none I have ever been a part of. Their sense of joy and love to our group and the people that helped with the build was incredible. I now think that my views on the DR and its people have changed immensely. I now feel as if the people that I worked with this week have given me more appreciation of who I am as a person and I want to become. This trip has opened my eyes and view on life and am looking forward to using what I have learned from the people of the DR and bringing home to DA and my family.”

Garret DeMallie ‘21:

“I used to think that the Dominican Republic was just a poor country full of unrelatable people. But, this is not the case. From the first day of the trip, I witnessed the joy and livelihood of the DR. Everyone we passed in the bus waved with a big smile. When working on the site, I was able to converse with locals and learn about their lives. The children were enthusiastic and always playing games. They had favorite activities, sports, and singers. Now I know how similar we all are. Although the locals weren’t as fortunate as those of us from the U.S., they were still caring and relatable. Now, I think of the Dominican Republic as a vibrant place, full of outgoing people, always willing to help with a smile on their face. Dominicans that were previously strangers quickly became friends.”

Kailen Coelho ‘20:

“One of my favorite things about the Dominican Republic is how genuinely kind, caring, and welcoming all of the people are. It is a place where people look out for each other just as much as they look out for themselves, which I think is such an admirable thing… One characteristic that really showed over the course of this trip was my ability to work hard and willingness to help or cooperate with others. Every time we stepped onto the work site, I did my best to get involved and to give my all in every job I was assigned. I also learned a lot about the importance of teamwork in the real world. We were very lucky to have such a cohesive group of people who were able to communicate and work together in an easy and efficient way. Furthermore, I learned that I am a very easy going and flexible person. There were several occurrences over the course of this trip that we had to do activities I normally would not do, but since we were immersed in the culture, I stepped out of my comfort zone and ended up loving every experience. Overall, this trip was extremely humbling and I have learned to appreciate my own life and the people I love so much more because there are people in the world who have so much less, yet they never complain about their situations. I am excited to continue giving back to those in need and learning extremely valuable life lessons in the process.”

Emma Earls ‘20:

“This trip has been a life-changing experience on so many levels. I have changed as a person because of what I’ve learned, and I have grown in compassion, in determination, in understanding, and in so many more ways. Coming into this trip with no idea of the physical labor we would have to do, I never would have thought I’d be able to do it. My perspective of work, both regarding my own capabilities and the larger meaning of what this job was has changed for the better. I connected with members of a community whose language I did not speak, and came to care about the kids like they were my own little cousins. That world, it’s houses and food and attitude towards life, is so completely different from my own, but I quickly came to not simply appreciate it, but love it very dearly.

Being immersed in that lifestyle wholly connected to the country, made this trip one of the most surreal and rewarding experiences of my life. My attitude towards life, my perspective of the world around me, and my compassion as a human being have all shifted for the better because of the connections I’ve made in this beautiful place.”

Talbot von Stade ‘21:

“Before the trip, I thought I knew how people live in poverty and without resources, and I thought I knew what it meant to have a meaningful purpose. I expected feeling like a stranger, and as an American, would make me resented for having lighter skin and appearing as if I automatically came from privilege to the Dominicans. Before this trip, I didn’t understand what it meant to appreciate and value every single thing one has. The Dominican people live for their family, village, children,… There was a unique unity of humanity and simplicity in which there were no socioeconomic or racial hierarchies. We were a group of people building a house for a family to have a brighter future. This trip has taught me shelter and nourishment is far from automatic, and I now realize the incredible privileges I have had access to. We have discussed the definition of community, and mine has been incredibly altered by this experience. I have learned the importance of connecting with a group of people to achieve a goal and share life-changing experiences only the 17 of us will remember. This trip fevered my love to travel, be able to speak Spanish, and my responsibility to give myself to others as my role as a human being in this world.”

PJ Embree ‘21:

“I used to think that third world countries were a lot different. I wasn’t too sure on what exactly I thought, but when I actually got to the sight and saw how they lived and interacted with one another, my whole life changed. I learned that these places aren’t as advanced as what I am used to, but the love and sense of community is palpable. Everyone knows each other and actually visits one another rather than just sitting behind a screen. From the outside it may look like a littered grouping of tiny houses. But after diving head first into their world, I realized that it is so much more than that. I now think that these places are the most loving in the world, and everyone should experience them.”

Lucy Miquel ‘20:

“I have been on sports teams since I can remember, but I’ve never experienced team work like I have on this trip. I learned what it means to dig deeper into myself for something bigger than just a sports game. I wanted to do my best for this family and for my classmates and the trip leaders, more than that though, I wanted to do my best because everyone around me was as well. The support from others in the community from Deerfield pushed me to be better. I also made a lot of friendships on this trip and I made it my responsibility to include everyone. The long, sweaty days just showed me what I can do when I have a team full of people supporting me all the way. I also learned that language is not needed for connection. I got to be fully immersed in a culture I was not familiar with, and I still got to establish amazing connections with the local people, which I will never forget.”

Caleigh Manguilli ‘20:

“I was for sure pushed out of my comfort zone, staying in a country where everyone spoke Spanish, a language that I barely know and it was for sure a little intimidating trying to work and build a house with people you can’t really understand. But I worked through that and despite the large language barrier formed some incredible connections with the people in this community and even learned some Spanish! This trip was a very surreal experience that I am incredibly grateful for.”

Jackie Morrissey ‘20:

“Before this trip, I never really saw how simple it can be to help others and to live a fulfilling life. When I applied, I thought that building a house was an enormous and difficult project to take on. But at the end, seeing the finished home, it didn’t really feel like it had been that hard. With so many people pitching in small efforts, the work went fast and it was never a huge task for a single person. Instead, it was a community task where everyone put in a little bit of work, and at the end we had made a huge impact. Even though the jobs I did were all relatively simple, like moving blocks and cement, in the end I felt that I had made a genuine impact on the lives of the family we build a house for. After the trip, I am inspired to put in little effort to improve the world each day so that by the end of my life, I will have been able to make a positive change with the accumulation of my efforts.”

Kate Landino ‘20:

“This trip pushed me out of my introverted comfort zone. I had to socialize with people I barely knew everyday. It was terrifying, but by the end, even Mrs. Koyama would agree that our group was not only cohesive, but best friends. I was forced to communicate to Spanish native speakers without the safety of Mr. Correa to translate. I’d say my conversational Spanish improved, but more importantly, my willingness to fail. I wasn’t afraid to say the wrong thing or ask a friend for help in translation. I’m really proud of all of us for taking on this challenge and for finding a new family by the end.”

Emma Kimble ‘20:

“I feel like being in the DR has broadened my perspective immensely. It has also changed my beliefs about achieving happiness and making change. I used to think that having a title or huge amounts of wealth is what constituted for happiness, but seeing each member of the San Juan community work as a team, regardless of title or economic status, disproved this. Everyone was so happy, motivated and hardworking, and it meant a lot to see that. We were able to give Lina and her family a home not by being called the leader, but by doing our parts to work hard and also immerse ourselves in the culture around us.”

Connor Guest ‘20:

“I used to think that the Dominican Republic was a country where tourists went in the winter to get away from the cold. I now think that this country is a whole lot more. The experiences of the trip allowed me to broaden my views and exposed me to a new lens of people in the world. Not only that I was able to gain a greater understanding of some of the issues that plague the globe today. Previously, I had never been to a country with such high notes of poverty, and what I was able to see was that there are larger issues in the world than the minuscule problems Americans have everyday. I used to think that working hard was something to do only when needed, but now I have gained a new view from the will the people have all the time to improve their lives, and that’s what I will take away. ”

Regan Hoar ‘20:

“With complete honesty, I can say I was nervous to go on this trip. I was worried how I would adapt to a different country. However, I learned to be carefree and have the most fun. We all worked very hard at the work site and from that I learned the importance of perseverance and dedication, especially when helping others out. Normally being hard on myself, I began to laugh and not be afraid when making a mistake either working or speaking Spanish; this made the trip much more fun. As working days passed, we worked and spent time more cohesively, so the sense of teamwork really shone through on this trip.”

Aidan Philie ‘20:

“I used to think that the Dominican Republic was just another typical Caribbean Island where tourism is off the charts. I now think and realize that it is so much more than that. I now think that the DR is an amazing place with amazing people. I felt a sense of community like none other. The people of the DR opened their arms to us in loving fashion. I now think that the DR is more than a typical island, it is a place people call home. It is a place where everyone helps everyone. The DR is a community and I am happy I was a part of it for a week. I used to not think much about the DR, but now I fully understand how wonderful of a place it is.

I have grown in the fact that I now understand a different culture, a different lifestyle, and a different group of people. I have gained a lot of knowledge on this trip, knowledge about the DR, but also knowledge about myself. I have lived a different lifestyle for a week, and I have changed because of it. I tried new things, and lived outside of my comfort zone for a week. I am grateful for this trip for allowing me to grow and learn.”

Click here for more pictures of the DR trip.