A winter break in the Dominican Republic

  • By Allyson McCullough

    Thursday, February 1, 2018
    Allyson McCullough / Dominican Republic

    The service learning trip to the Dominican Republic organized by the Richard A. Henson Honors Program that I took a year ago greatly impacted me and motivated me to experience it again this past January. 

    One thing I took away from this experience is how much WE impact THEM. All of the students and teachers there remembered me from last year. They were so excited to see me again, and really gave me an extra warm welcome along with the other students who also went last year. 

    We talked about how Dominican Republic students look up to us American students, and find us inspiring and interesting people and role models. After this second visit, I truly believe this statement and received double the amount of attention and care from the people there. 

    Another thing I think we took away, especially those who went for the first time, was how grateful we should be for modern conveniences we have in the United States. Simple things like hot showers, and being able to flush a toilet. It was a shock to some of my fellow first-time travelers. 

    It made us realize how good we have it - and how we should think about how lucky we are before complaining about every little thing that doesn't go our way. 

    We discussed the rankings of countries in terms of happiness. Dominican Republic was in the 40s, while United States didn't make the top 100. We concluded the reasons for this dealt with family, gratefulness/humbleness and ecological footprint.

    Dominicans value environmentalism

    The Dominican Republic is a family-oriented country. Its people spend time with family, and having fun together - whether it be dancing, eating or playing a game of dominoes - is really important to them. 

    They are grateful (for) and focus on the positive and what they have rather than what they don't. The environment is another thing on their priority list. A mission of the school we worked with is teaching the community about the importance of taking care of the environment. The United States has A LOT we can learn from the Dominican Republic when it comes to happiness! 

    One of the biggest realizations I came away with from both of these trips is that I absolutely love traveling - and the Spanish language, culture, and the people of the Dominican Republic. I know this will not be my last time in the Dominican Republic. 

    I crave to be there again - to dance merengue, eat sancocho (a meat and vegetable soup) and play dominoes with the other students. I loved seeing my UMES classmates grow and experience this trip as well. 

    I stay in touch with the students in the DR, and they are already asking me when I am coming back. I hope they realize how much of an impact they have on me, and I can only hope they feel the love and passion I have for them and their country as well. 

    I struggle to find the right words to describe how amazing this country is, and how much the country and its people mean to me. They truly have a special place in my heart.


     Allyson R. McCullough is a sophomore from Crisfield majoring in exercise science.