Going in to this trip, I was scared- worried about anything and everything. To be honest, ISV seemed very disorganized as I first signed up. I realized how wrong that thought was when I received multiple pdfs, hundreds of pages long, all with thorough details of the whole trip, the country, what to expect, how to prepare, and what to pack. I was still unsure of what I was really getting in to. Looking back now, I laugh at myself having worried that I wouldn't have fun. The cultural immersion week was awkward at first- living in a Dominican woman's house, with two girls who seemed to hate me. As the week progressed, I became comfotrable with my host mother, closer with the other participants, and I am blown away at the unbelievable amount of spanish that I learned. Especially considering the price, I would definitely recommend this extra week.
The following volunteer weeks was a very fulfilling experience. The manual labor (putting a cement floor in for a family of 8) was measurable by results (and muscle fatigue), and our accomplishments were obvious, so the fulfillment was obvious. The summer camp that we ran for the children, however, was not easily measurable. But the impact we made on these children was clear. I began this trip hating children, and left loving them. Teaching the children what they don't learn in school is obviously great and helpful, but what made me happier was the social development. For example: there was a hatian boy named Patricio at the camp. He was bullied by most, if not all, of the Dominican students; but by the time we left, he was their star.
I debated wether or not I would sign up for the adventure tour. I'm glad I did, and I enjoyed myself greatly, but the first three weeks are what mattered most to me. Many of the activities we did I had done before, but doing them with this group that I had become close to over the last few weeks is what made it worthwhile. Honestly, I enjoyed going out at night more than the activities, but I couldn't have done that if I went home, so all in all, I would recommend the adventure tour if you have the money.
International Student Volunteers is an amazing organization with incredible organization and talent. It was truly the greatest experience of my life, and I look forward to going again.