If you think of the Dominican Republic you will think of sun, hot weather, the caribbean and clear blue water. But this island has more to offer than you see as a regular tourist. To get to know the life in the Dominican Republic (DR) and fulfill a clerkship for my university I decided to live and work on the island for roughly a month. In the following I want to describe the experiences I gained.
My journey started with the simple idea of going abroad to get to know the daily life in a country very different to my home, Germany. Moreover I wanted to gain experience in my future carrier as a doctor. Therefore I searched the internet and found through studentsgoabroad.com the Aldeas de Paz foundation in Samana, DR. They offered exactly what I was looking for, a voluntary placement in a hospital in Samana with an accommodation among other volunteers in town. Finding the organisation was the hardest part, after that everything went smoothly; filling in applications, booking the flight and packing the suitcases. The Aldeas de Paz foundation gave very detailed information what to bring, especially as a volunteer in a hospital, such as uniform, gloves, etc. and always answered all questions I had concerning my journey. After getting all the necessary vaccinations, I started to freshen up my spanish skills again, which are very helpful for communicating with the patients.
The day of departure came faster than expected and I flew to the Dominican Republic. After a short stay at the capital I was already in Samana, got picked up by Manfred, the headcoordinator of the foundation and introduced to the other volunteers I will be living with. Just two days later, after I settled in and bought all necessities, I was already introduced to Dr. Flor, which is the head doctress of the hospital. She gave me a tour of the hospital and showed me where I will work in the next weeks. All in all a very smooth and fast start in my new volunteer work.
Working in the DR was a great experience. After getting used to different costums, for example that everybody talks at the same time in a very loud voice, I was able to get to know the doctors very well and became friends with them. The illnesses you see in the DR are different and in most cases more severe than in our western countries, such as infectiouse diseases. Overall working in the DR is very different than working in any western hospital. Even though technology is very advanced in the hospital, doctors rely more on basic observation and palpations skills, which teaches you all the basics, doctors in the western civilization may have forgotten. If you want to take the most out of the hospital experience, it helps if you know some spanish, but moreover you should speak up and say what you want. If you have any concernes ask Dr. Flor or Manfred, both of them are very eager helping you and making the most out of your stay. All in all working in such a hospital is a great experience that broadens your personal as well as medical perspectives on medicine and illnesses enormeously.
But the life in the DR is not just work. Weekends are always free to explore the huge variety the island has to offer. Just to mention some peaks: beaches even more picturouse than any textbook can show, mountains with gorgeouse, breathtaking viewpoints and stunning hikes. As well as great waterfalls and canyons which are hikable, or other adventurouse exercices such as scuba diving, paragliding, etc. Everything is possible in the DR and just a couple hours away from where we lived. To make it even better I was able to explore all of that with the other volunteers, new friends I got to know, who make those places even more remarkable than they are.
The huge blend of cultures within the volunteering group, as well as the culture of the inhabitants of the DR, makes you broaden your view extremly. I was able to get to know the locals well enough, thus advancing in spanish, and become friends with them as well as having friends now all over the world, through our volunteering group.
In summary I want to thank the Aldeas de Paz foundation with all the volunteers and espacielly Manfred and Dr. Flor without whom this project would not be possible. For me it was not just a great experience but I also left parts of me there which makes me sure to say that I will come back again to visit. Thanks Dominican Republic!