Dreaming of a beachfront office and post-work surf sessions? You may not be able to put your desk right in the sand, but interning in the Dominican Republic is about as close as you can get. It's not all bachata and laid-back Caribbean vibes though -- there are plenty of worthwhile, intensive internships to be found on this beautiful, culturally rich island.
Internship opportunities in the DR are mostly based in environmental, health, tourism or education fields, though there are opportunities in other industries like business and media as well.
Internships in the Dominican Republic span a number of industries -- if you're willing to look hard enough and harass a few people, you can probably find a position in whatever field interests you. These are some of the top industries for interns in the sunny Dominican Republic.
Public Health and Medicine
Internship placements in the health and medical sector range from larger hospitals and providers in the capital, Santo Domingo, to tiny rural clinics. Some of the major issues in this sector include mosquito-borne illnesses, access to vaccines, maternal health and public health education and outreach initiatives.
Hospitality and Tourism
The Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination, famous for its stunning beaches and resorts in dreamy locations like Punta Cana and La Romana. If you want to work in the hospitality and tourism industry, you could hardly do better than snagging an internship in hotel administration, management or food and hospitality service in one of these high-profile spots.
Media and Marketing
Someone has to come up with all those campaigns to lure tourists to spend their days on the island's white-sand beaches (and their money at its businesses)! The DR is home to a healthy media and marketing industry, with internships available in areas including public relations, graphic design, marketing and social media.
There's always a need for English and other teachers across the island, so there are plenty of opportunities to intern in local schools and language institutes. You might be coordinating after-school activities, providing support for local teachers or even leading your own classroom.
Planning Your Trip
Santo Domingo is the capital and the biggest city on the island, so there are more internship and housing options there than in other parts of the country. If you're interning in public health or education, you might end up in a more rural region, but internships in most other fields will likely be located in or near Santo Domingo.
Many program providers offer housing options for interns, either through home stays with local families or in shared volunteer housing (a house or apartment). If you're interning directly with an organization rather than through a program, you'll probably be responsible for finding your own housing. There aren't necessarily resources like Craigslist for housing, so you might want to ask other people at your internship if they know of housing options or join local Facebook groups to look for housing before you arrive.
Visas and Other Costs
U.S. passport holders don't need a visa for stays of less than 30 days but do need to purchase a tourist card (US$10) at the airport or online before arriving. If you're staying for longer than 30 days, talk to your internship host organization to find out if you need a visa, what kind and if they can help you get one.
The cost of living in the Dominican Republic is relatively low compared to the U.S., although prices will be higher in Santo Domingo and popular tourism destinations than in more rural areas. If you can arrange a homestay through your internship, you'll only need to worry about costs for food and daily living expenses (and maybe a dance lesson or two!).
Health & Safety
The Dominican Republic has the same health concerns as most other Caribbean islands and tropical locations, including mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and Zika.
Tap water is not safe to drink in most locations, so stick to purified (used at most hotel and restaurants) and bottled water while you're there.
You should check with your doctor or a local travel health clinic to see if you need any vaccines or medication for the DR. A Hepatitis A vaccine is generally recommended for all travelers to the DR, and you may want to get the typhoid vaccine if you're going to be working in more remote rural areas. And of course, don't forget to bring plenty of bug spray and sunscreen!
The biggest danger, though, might come from the roads. The DR is the Western hemisphere's most dangerous place to drive, with fatal motorcycle accidents a sadly common occurrence. Be smart about your transportation choices, and always wear a helmet, even if you're just going a few blocks.