The ABC’s of the Dominican Republic

Morgan Quijano is an ISA Site Specialist for the Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

If you are currently searching for a place to study abroad that will offer you a truly unique experience, Santiago should be on your shortlist of potential locations. This Caribbean destination Known as the “Heart City,” offers a vibrant host of activities for city lovers, but effortlessly caters to outdoors enthusiast as well. Studying with ISA in sunny Santiago will allow you the chance to experience Dominican culture in a way that tourists never could, by getting to know the city’s friendly people, delicious food and dynamic history from a local perspective.

The first spot to help you embrace the local culture is Altos de Chavón, a replica medieval village that is truly a step back through time. The village is complete with a medieval style church and even a Roman-style amphitheater, which has held many impressive concerts with its 5,000 person capacity. The best part is, you’ll be able to see it in depth during your included multi-day tour to La Romana!

Beaches in the Dominican Republic are world renowned, and with 250 miles of coastline, you will have plenty to choose from!

The Cave of Wonders (Cuevas de las Maravillas) is an awesome place to learn about Pre-Colombian culture on the island. The caves have been made into a natural museum, displaying nearly 500 indigenous drawings that have survived on the rock walls since well before Columbus discovered the island.

Enroll in Pontificia Universidad Católica “Madre y Maestra” (PUCMM), a private school with a beautiful campus encompassing nearly 300 acres in a great location in Santiago.

Foodies welcome! With an incredible history of diversity, Dominican food draws from Spanish, African, and indigenous roots to create a unique food culture. Nibble on some chocolate at the ChocoMuseos in Santo Domingo or Punta Cana! Here you see the process of creating chocolate, from locally grown cacao tree to chocolate bar. As a bonus, you can even create a few of your own chocolate bars just the way you like them and take them with you.

Go snorkeling off the island’s coast and witness the biodiversity of some of the DR’s coral reefs.

History in the Dominican Republic is absolutely fascinating. Santo Domingo, the capital of the DR, is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the Americas, founded by Christopher Columbus’ brother, Bartholomew, in 1498. Learn about the tumultuous history of the Dominican Republic, including slavery, rebellion, violent dictatorship, and continuing recovery during your time there. It won’t disappoint.

Immerse yourself in a welcoming culture that is proud of its heritage and willing to share it with you. There’s no better way to practice your Spanish than with locals who are thrilled to have you! One way to do this is to learn how to dance, as the DR is the home of Bachata and Merengue, two of Latin America’s most popular music styles.

Jarabacoatake it from a fellow ISA student!

Kiteboarding? Why not!? Grab some friends, head up to Cabarete (which has played host to several windsurfing and kitesurfing competitions), and try your hand at it!

La Aurora Cigar Factory has been in the business of making high quality cigars for over 110 years. Located just a 15 minute drive away from the PUCMM campus, this is a great factory to visit and learn the history behind tobacco farming on the island, and see how cigars are made from start to finish.

Monumento de los Heroes de la Restauracíon (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration) has a very interesting history, and the view overlooking Santiago is icing on the cake.

Organized excursions throughout the island with the ISA program will include transportation, entrance fees tours, and hotels and accommodations, so you can just focus on having a great time and getting the most out of each carefully planned excursion!

Puerto Plata, located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, is famous for it’s 11 kilometers of beautiful beaches. While on the included excursion to Puerto Plata, visit the 16th century Fort of San Felipe or the Amber museum before taking a cable car to the summit of Torres Peak, to a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and coastline. End the excursion with a visit to Cabarete to enjoy the beach. Make sure to come back so you can enjoy all that Puerto Plata has to offer!

Quisqueya was the name the indigenous Taínos had for the island of Hispaniola, which is comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It means “great land” or “mother of all lands.” After visiting the mountains, beaches and lush forest, and witnessing the biodiversity held in this small region, the name may come as no surprise.

Relax! The Dominican Republic, like many Caribbean countries, is known for its easy-going way of life. Schedules are relaxed, and emphasis is placed on living in the moment and enjoying life as it happens, instead of always trying to prepare for what’s next.

Samaná – As another one of your included excursions, Samaná will not disappoint. You will experience rich biodiversity in Los Haitises National Park, as you explore lush mangrove marshes in this protected nature reserve. Then, you will head off to the island of Cayo Levantado and spend a day on its white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Talk to locals, especially your host family! ISA is dedicated to finding great host families with your best interests in mind. Therefore, they often will be more than willing to help you with your Spanish.

Utilize your terrific on-site staff! This goes hand in hand with the last point. Talk to your ISA on-site staff if ever you need any sort of advice or assistance. Arrange for a free (!!!) tutor to assist you with Spanish, give them a shout to ask for travel advice or just speak to them about any questions you might have. They are there to help you.

Volunteer/Service Learning with ELAP during your program can help you gain even more experience interacting with locals in a field that applies to your major while potentially earning academic credit!

Waterfalls are on the agenda for the 27 Charcos excursion! The Damajagua River carved its way through limestone, creating 27 waterfalls that you can enjoy. Find a good pool and slide or jump right in!

Xenophobia, out the window! Xenophobia is the irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries, but that won’t be a problem for you after your time abroad. After experiencing the warmth and welcoming of the Dominican people, you may not want to leave!

Yearn to return. Upon your return to the States, the DR will hold a special place in your heart. The food, the lifestyle, the friends you made, your host family, the university, and the great weather are just a few of the things you might miss when you get back. No matter what it is that you are missing, there is…

Zero doubt that you’ll always remember your experience abroad fondly and gain a desire to further immerse yourself in different cultures all around the world!