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I could not be a luckier girl. I got to be reunited with some of my most amazing friends I met while studying abroad in the Dominican Republic. In Washington Heights in New York. For my twenty-first birthday. 

While walking down the streets in Wash Heights, I felt like I was back walking through parts of Santiago and Santo Domingo. The heavily-accented Spanish being spoken by everyone around me was soul-soothing in a weird way. The piropos being fired at us from the guys outside the restaurants and shops brought me right back to the DR mindset. I never thought I would be happy to hear things like, “Oye mami linda, dejame ver las cosas buenas” or “Que Dios te bendiga mi rubia linda”. I met some great people that showed all of us out-of-towners mucho amor and a great time! 

This past weekend has confirmed my decision to move to New York, and if I’m lucky enough it’ll be in Washington Heights! I swear I must have been Dominican in a past life! 

For those of you planning to study abroad, I have a few tips for you that I wish someone would have told me before I embarked on my Dominican journey. 

1) Go out as much as you can. You won’t remember being tired in class the next morning, but you WILL remember all the fun nights in the discotecas and bars. 

2) Make as many local friends as possible. They act as the perfect tour guide, are wonderful people, and generally help your cause if the police come around. 

3) Try and have a local boo-thang that doesn’t speak your native language. You’ll be forced to practice and you get to have a little fling, too! 

4) Always carry a little more cash than you need when going out. You never know if your card will get declined or if you’ll need a taxi in a pinch. 

5) If you’re staying with a host family, and they’re the type, make as strong of a bond with them as you can. There’s a reason they decided to host students in the first place! 

6) Carry your camera with you everywhere. Take videos of what seems “normal”. Trust me, once you go home you’ll be glad you captured the everyday moments as well as the supreme photo ops of your time abroad. 

7) Don’t take it personally when people can’t understand what you’re saying. Just slow the sentence down, and try again. 

8) Follow your instinct. If something or someone seems fishy, they probably are. 

9) Be ready to experience some anti-Americanism. Confront it calmly and passively (even if it kills you on the inside, like it did me!). The last thing you need is a quarrel with someone who is so close-minded to think that any American they encounter stands up to all the standards (or lack thereof) set by the media they have consumed. If it be the case, be nice so you can prove them wrong. 

10) Watch your finances. Don’t let the exchange rate (even if it’s in your favor) get to your head. 

11) ENJOY IT! It is a unique life experience and will change you for the better! 

Some more treasured moments from my semester in the Dominican Republic. 

I will be leaving this amazing country in less than three weeks.

I have never been less ready to go home and more ready to see my family at the same time. 

One thing I will miss about Santiago, the nightlife! 

The hardest part about leaving your comfort zone is that anticipation/anxiety/flood of questions/fear of the unknown that washes over you as you approach its outer ring. 

But the second your foot crosses over that invisible line, it’s like you’ve been bathed in this beautiful and silent peace. And in that peace you realize that that line is something you created for yourself and it only ever existed inside the shadows of your mind. 

A beautiful morning in Bahía de las Aguilas. My housemate and I shared some wonderful moments as we soaked in a view that so few people get to see. 

I’ll be honest, I had never really heard of International Women’s Day until I met my housemate, Anna. She has taught me so much about womanhood, and helped me realize that I cherish that part of myself much more than I had ever considered. 

Anyway, I just wanted to write this post out now so that I would never forget how today was. Here, the holiday is WAY bigger of a deal than where I’m from in the States. I had friends, host family, and staff at the restaurant we frequent all give me “felicidades” today and how they’re thankful that women are a part of their lives. 

And that made me think of my mom. I called her up all the way in South Cackalacky, and thanked her for being such a positive and strong example of what it means to be a woman on Earth today. We shared a moment of happy tears, then talked about various parts of our weeks. 

I am very thankful that God made me a woman, that he chose that for me. It is such a unique, challenging, and rewarding gift all at the same time. As I saw on a friend’s Facebook post earlier today…

Here’s to great women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them. 

Spent my Friday hiking through the mountains and jumping off of waterfalls! As you can probably tell by the title, there were 27 jumps we could do. Some were chiquitos while others were insane—25 feet high! So thrilling! I couldn’t take my camera with me as it is not waterproof, but I still have the movie in my mind to treasure. To give y’all an idea of how my day was, I have pasted a Googled image of someone else’s adventure in 27 Charcos. 

And another thing, ¡feliz día internacional de la mujer! 

Dominicans know how to spend their weekends, I’ll say that much. And this is how I spent my Sunday afternoon, al play de pelota. Some friends and I went to cheer on a friend during a semi-organized pickup game of baseball. The start time was originally 1:30 pm, but the whole team didn’t show up until after 2 pm. God bless Dominican time.

We watched the game from the dugout on a ripped-out backseat of an SUV, so much better than bleachers in the hot sun! Emotions ran high during several points of the game, with crazy Dominican slang being thrown between the players. One player even bucked up at the umpire yelling about how he had ruined his white pants in the slide to home, and was then declared “out”. 

That’s another thing. In the DR, the majority of baseball terms are the English words, just said with a Spanish accent. El play is the entire baseball field. Caht-chair is catcher. Peet-chair is pitcher. Bola is ball. Ah-oo is out. Honrón is homerun. The list goes on! 

I love seeing cultural aspects such as this, something that tourists would almost never get the chance to see. Real life in the DR, which is beautiful. 

What do you get when you mix together college students, cheap drinks, a front yard, and dominoes? Jueves social. 

Jueves social is a weekly event planned and hosted by three brothers in a neighborhood close to our university. They have drinks at a really good price, all kinds of delicious food on the grill, great music, and a super chill atmosphere. It’s a GREAT way to meet other people from our university with whom we normally may not get to socialize. And it’s also a perfect language exchange—we want to practice our Spanish and they want to practice their English. Win-win!

Carnaval de Santiago, ‘nuff said. 

My host brother and I are worried about her