2019 Work-study abroad in the Dominican Republic

  • Essays by Richard A. Henson Honors Program ambassadors

    Tuesday, February 26, 2019
    Author Rashmi Sharma, left and Danielle Wojeski

    By Rashmi Sharma 

    The service learning trip I took in January to the Dominican Republic was a great way to begin 2019. I am so glad the Richard A. Henson Honors Program provided me this wonderful opportunity, which enabled me to experience a new culture - and learn about environmental conservation. 

    It also allowed me to enjoy some adventurous moments with my peers and interact - despite the language barrier - with the affectionate Spanish speakers. 

    The service I performed alongside fellow UMES students at the environmental institution we visited was the most important aspect of the trip. It made me realize the difference I am making in the environmental community. 

    Through small but significant projects involving a lot of digging in the dirt, I was able to share the environmental concerns with my peers and with the (local) students at the institution. 

    From these projects, I not only began to value environmentalism, but I also began to appreciate my lifestyle in America. I discovered that what we take for granted back home is a luxury in Dominican Republic. 

    Clean drinking water is one such luxury because as we were testing the quality of water from a river in Dominican Republic, we found some level of contamination. We quickly understood that is why we were constantly being told not to drink or brush our teeth (with water) from the tap and that the safest option for us was using bottled water. 

    My experience in Dominican Republic overall turned out to be very memorable one and makes me want to return to that warm Caribbean nation to perform more service - and learn more Spanish.


     By Semaj Fielding

    2019 Richard A. Henson Honors Program ambassadors in the Dominican Republic

    I had the honor of being an ambassador for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's annual honors program trip to the Dominican Republic in January, which proved to me the successes, failures, and future of United States in terms of the environment. 

    Every aspect of my life was impacted by this trip; the most important being my education. The environmental institute we visited directly relates to my major, environmental science, in that Dominicans also are trying to conserve the biodiversity of their country any way they can. 

    I have always valued the environment and the need to take care of it, so being a part of an effort to address environmental challenges in another country gave me joy I have never experienced. 

    Planting, weeding and clearing areas for production of more crops showed me that even in countries that are less fortunate, they see the value in crop rotation. Before visiting the Dominican Republic, I had the impression they did not have a good grasp on agriculture and nourishing the soil. I was wrong. 

    In chemistry classes I've taken, we learn the nutrients in soils, and the students and employees at the Dominican environmental institute also were aware of these nutrients.  This showed me there are people in other parts of the world who (also) realize the impact humans have on the environment and dedicate their lives to protecting it.

    As for the impact the trip had on my education, it showed me that regardless of your socio-economic standing, you can still be environmentally aware. 

    Though the current debate over border protection swirling in our country is focused on Mexico, we saw first-hand the natives' desires to leave the Dominican Republic. 

    Our guide, Gabriel, told us many Dominicans wanted to learn English and were jealous of countrymen who could speak it.  Even though I am fluent in Spanish, many (Dominicans) I encountered wanted to speak to me in English to practice for their own purposes. 

    They did not outwardly express a desire to assimilate to the American culture, but it was evident in their actions that they longed for the American dream. 

    This relates to the turmoil in our country due to the fact that there are so many people who want to come to the United States and will take every opportunity to learn English or learn more about the culture.