CIEE Santiago Dominican Republic Liberal Arts Spring 2016
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Shana-Kay Hart

Major: Communication Arts & Sciences, Spanish
Minor: Sociology
Hometown: Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

How did you learn about this opportunity?

Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine. When I began my college career, I knew immediately that it was something I wanted to pursue, so I began talking to my advisers very early on. They provided me with the information I needed to figure out where I wanted to go. I spent a lot of time researching different study abroad programs on Penn State's Education Abroad website, attended study abroad fairs and spoke to other students who studied abroad.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I am studying abroad in the city of Santiago in the Dominican Republic. Since I am a Liberal Arts student, I am taking many classes that reflect upon the liberal arts aspect of a study abroad program. There are about thirty students in my program. I live with a homestay family, something I would definitely recommend for anyone who wants to learn a new language. Besides attending classes Monday to Thursday, my program offers excursions and field trips almost every Friday/weekend. These excursions offer us the opportunity to travel around the island and explore all that the Dominican Republic has to offer.

Throughout my time here, I have learned more about teamwork and interacting with people more than I ever had at any point in my life. 

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically, this experience changed the way I view my education. Here in the Dominican Republic, they value collectivism whereas in the United States, individualism is more so valued. Throughout my time here, I have learned more about teamwork and interacting with people more than I ever had at any point in my life. I have learned the importance of asking for help, accepting help and working with others in order to achieve a goal or complete a task. Furthermore, because of the structure of the program and how our classes are scheduled for us, I have learned how to be flexible. It was a little hard at first to manage schoolwork with social activities, because we take many excursions and we are here to participate as much as possible in the Dominican culture. Eventually, though, I adapted and was able to balance my requirements.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

After completing my undergraduate studies at Penn State, I hope to attend graduate school or begin working. I hope to either work for the United Nations or Teach for America after graduating. Furthermore, I aspire to begin my own organization or education center, first in Jamaica and hopefully in other islands such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Last summer, I organized a fundraiser for an education center in Kingston, Jamaica. This encouraged me to further continue these activities in order to provide assistance to children who are struggling to finish their education due to lack of school supplies or the means to do so. After my time here in the Dominican Republic, seeing so many young children who are unable to access the education I believe we all deserve further encourages me to pursue creating my own education center (or something close) and to work for organizations that deal with providing and bettering educational opportunities for children around the world.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this study abroad program to other Liberal Arts students. Too often, student choose places like Spain (or other European countries) for their study abroad experience and although there is nothing wrong with that, I think people should also consider places such as the Dominican Republic. Many people just think of the DR as a vacation or spring break spot, but the country is so much more than that. The people, the culture, the food, everything about this island is something I believe people should be aware about.

For more information about global experiences on Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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