I chose this program because my dad had studied medicine in the Dominican Republic and always spoke very highly of his experience in that country. The welcoming atmosphere and great culture was something that I always found intriguing, so when I had the chance to go there for myself I took it right away. I was really excited to embark on a journey that followed in my dad's footsteps. Another reason I chose this program was the fact that it had to do with Public Health. I knew that I wanted to do something healthcare related in my future and that this would be a great opportunity to experience healthcare away from the United States to gain perspective.
Bisha loves traveling and is always seeking out her next big journey. She believes that changing the world first begins with learning what it has to offer and keeping an open perspective.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
CIEE was very helpful with the entire process, with my study abroad advisor reaching out to me about any questions or concerns I may have had. CIEE helped me plan my trip in the most efficient way possible by giving me all the materials I needed. I was very grateful to receive the High School Global Navigator Scholarship from CIEE, which paid for the program costs for my study abroad journey.
As far as an organization on my end, I just had to make sure I had all the proper paperwork and scholarship essays submitted on time. I also had to get my parents on board with me traveling abroad on my own, since I was only 16 years old. After explaining the benefits to studying abroad, like how it would give me a more competitive edge for college applications, and reassuring them about the safety of the program, they agreed to let me study abroad.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I think the best advice I can give is that if you want to study abroad, you have to plan ahead. Filling out applications take time and scholarship applications take a while as well. Before going on your journey, it is important to make sure you go with an open mind. Studying abroad definitely requires you to venture outside your comfort zone, so be prepared for that as well! I did not realize how much this program would change me and before I knew it, I was on a plane home. It felt as if everything had been a dream. Studying abroad is a great opportunity so make sure to make the best of it.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
In this program, we volunteered two different places. Twice a week, we went to a local government orphanage for disabled children, where we spent time with the kids. At the orphanage, we kept the kids busy, helped feed them, and basically were there for them in every way possible. Three days a week, we volunteered at a camp in the poorest part of Santiago. This was a truly enlightening experience because we got to connect with the kids and practice our Spanish with them as well.
When we volunteered, we got to do so with Dominican students our age that was learning English. We all learned from each other and it was a great way to make more friends. After volunteering for a few hours, we took Spanish classes and also had CIEE give us lessons to learn about the culture of the Dominican Republic. During the weekend, we went on excursions and experienced the beauty of the Dominican Republic. We went white water rafting, jumping off waterfalls and visited beautiful beaches. The week was packed with activities, so there was never a boring minute.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear studying abroad was probably having to venture outside my comfort zone. I did not really realize how much the program would require me to do things I have never done before, like white water rafting or jumping off waterfalls. The first few days I adjusted to the big change in lifestyle, but as soon as I got into the groove of everything, I couldn't have been happier. By the end of the program, I realized that venturing outside my comfort zone really helped make my experience unforgettable. I got to do things that I would never have imagined and faced my fear of trying new things. This program made me think about the countless things I could do if I put my mind to it.
What was the most advantageous outcome from your experience abroad?
I think the best thing to come out of my experience abroad was that it opened my mind to the endless opportunities and adventures that the world has to offer.
My journey abroad also gave me the chance to write my college personal essay about my experience there. I felt like it truly changed who I was as a person and gave me the chance to tell colleges about one of my favorite parts of going to the Dominican Republic. Below is part of my introduction:
I peered over the rocky cliff, looking at the clear blue water below me. My heart rapidly thudded against my chest. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and jumped. The water crashed around me. Disoriented, I flailed under the crashing waves and then rose above the surface. I made it.