City Discovery: Santiago, the “Heart” of the Dominican Republic

Santiago is also known as La Ciudad Corazón (Heart City) since it is the heart of the country culturally and geographically. Its location in the center of the fertile Cibao Valley makes the city a great spot for visiting the northern region’s beaches or any other point of the country.

The Dominican Republic is a hotbed for baseball talent.  Despite being just 1/200th of the size and having just 1/30 of the population of the United States, more than 10% of all Major League Baseball players were born in the DR. Santiago itself is home to one of the best baseball teams in the country: “Aguilas Cibaeñas”

Don’t miss these Discovery activities in Santiago!



Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

During their first week, ISA students are introduced to a group of Estudiantes de Apoyo (Support Students) from the International Students Office at their host university, Pontifical Catholic University – Madre Y Maestra (PCUMM). Estudiantes de Apoyo are Dominican students that help international students during their time in Santiago, making the transition to the new environment much easier. A public transportation tour/scavenger hunt, dance classes and language exchanges are just a few of the activities organized with the Estudiantes de Apoyo during the students’ first few days. These activities are a gateway for students to learn about the Dominican culture and language, as well as make local friends in their new host city.

The Dominican Republic is the undisputed home to some of Latin America’s most popular dances including the bachata and merengue. In addition to the lessons they receive from their Estudiante de Apoyo counterparts, ISA students have many opportunities to learn and practice these dances and explore their historical and cultural roots either through organized cultural activities or through the Caribbean Dance course offered at the PUCMM.



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

ISA’s excursion to the country’s capital city will give students a whole new understanding of the history of the New World, as they will visit the Western Hemisphere’s oldest continuously inhabited European settlement, Santo Domingo. The city was founded by Christopher Columbus’ brother, Bartholomew, in 1496 and has been one of the Caribbean’s most important and influential cities ever since. Christopher’s son, Diego, ruled the Indies from Santo Domingo and his castle still stands in Columbus Plaza, at the heart of the city’s iconic Zona Colonial. The city is steeped in history and is home to the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas, among other things. On this excursion, students will learn about the history of the Dominican Republic and how the Indigenous, African and Spanish influences have all contributed to the fascinating diversity of Dominican culture.

During the La Romana excursion, students will visit “La Cueva de las Maravillas” (the Cave of Wonders), a unique, natural museum of cave art and naturally occurring rock formations. It holds about 500 paintings and engravings on the walls made by Tainos, indigenous inhabitants of the island that used the cave for their rituals.  The excursion aims to teach students about Taino culture and history as told by both historians and the Tainos themselves through their artwork preserved in the caves.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

In order to understand many aspects of the current sociopolitical situation in the Dominican Republic, it is beneficial to get a look at its recent past, specifically the Trujillo Dictatorship (1930-1961). ISA students will take a cultural outing to Mirabal Museum which will give them a unique look at the implications and remnants of the decades-long dictatorship through the incredible and tragic story of four sisters who secretly fought against Trujillo’s oppressive regime. Their story was later made famous by the book In the Time of Butterflies. Students will watch the book’s film adaptation of the same name before visiting the museum to get a better understanding of the sisters’ significance in Dominican history.

During the semester, students will attend a lecture about Dominican and Haitian relations, one of the most important sociopolitical situations facing the Dominican Republic historically. Recent events have once again brought the two countries’ relations to the forefront of international attention.  Semester students particularly interested in this topic also have the opportunity to take a class entitled “Dominican-Haitian Relations” for an even more in-depth look at the relationship between the two countries.



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

Students interested in getting language teaching experience can do so by enrolling in the PUCMM’s Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) course. This course combines theory with practice, allowing students to put what they’ve learned in the classroom into action, by teaching English to Dominican students with the supervision and support of their TESL professor.

Another course that combines lecture with practical application is the Community Service Practicum. Throughout the theory component of this class, students will analyze and comprehend the realities facing the country’s public services and institutions as well as the social, political and economic components that contribute to them.  In the community, students will volunteer in different capacities within the Health, Education and Social Work fields through their weekly service practices. In addition to making valuable contacts with organizations and professionals in these fields, students will gain unique, hands-on experience that will contribute to their professional development.



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

During one of their cultural excursions, ISA semester students will get a chance to visit the “Loma Quita Espuela” reserve, meant to protect the region’s great biodiversity and its endemic flora and fauna. The LQE reserve is an important refuge for endangered species and home to the island’s oldest endemic mammals.  During the journey, they will pass through the cocoa forest, where they can see and try the fruit from which chocolate is made.  The LQE foundation promotes self-sustaining subsistence programs for the 11,000 inhabitants of the communities adjacent to the reserve. These programs promote the planting of organic cacao crops, macadamia trees, and vegetables, and encourage the protection of honeybees and animals to ensure a continued positive and sustainable relationship between the country’s people and its natural resources.

Jarabacoa is recognized as the birthplace of the country’s eco-tourism industry. Situated in the highest mountain range in the Caribbean, Jarabacoa is a favorite ISA excursion for many students, particularly those interested in exploring the country’s impressive natural beauty and geographical diversity. With three rivers flowing through the area, there is plenty of adventure to be found. In Jarabacoa, students can hike or ride horseback through the mountains, see and swim in waterfalls, float the rivers in tubes, white-water raft, rappel, and more.


A small country that packs a big punch. Learn more about a study abroad experience in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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