Ikrom Alajoulin is a student at the University of Florida and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
The diversity of the Dominican Republic stunned me from the moment I stepped into the Santiago airport. The variety of races is beautifully linked to its richness in geography. It is a striking match that I will never get tired of admiring. The culture also amazes me. One thing I have noticed since being here is how laid back the people are. I especially see this through the music and dancing that literally never stop! I will never forget one night, while standing at the top of the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration and looking down at the city, there was a different song playing at every corner with plenty of people having a good time.
I learned quickly however, that there was a lot I didn’t know, not only about Dominican culture, but also about myself. Studying abroad in the Dominican Republic has forced me to accept that my idea of “normal” behavior was based on my setting; what I always thought was the correct way to do things, was inspired by the beliefs of my country, my family, and my religion and couldn’t be applied to this new country. Most of the time it was simple things, that I saw as “normal,” ending up having completely different meanings in the Dominican Republic. For example, greetings in America usually don’t go farther than a handshake or a hug. However, in the Dominican Republic, a kiss on the cheek is more common than a hug and almost never includes a handshake. Although it was hard to adapt to this shift in norms, I talked to one of my professors about it and she asked me: “Is it the Dominican Republic or is it you?”. Every issue I seemed to have with the culture came back to my own personal beliefs on what is “normal.”
After a while, it became fascinating for me to step back and see how people live in a culture foreign to me. It allowed me to think about how little I really knew about the world. I would have never have been able to learn and understand the Dominican culture from solely an American point of view. I really encourage everyone to study abroad if they are ever blessed with the chance! This idea of withdrawing from your own culture to further comprehend the diverse people of this world is the only way, in my opinion, to lead the world to a more empathetic, loving place.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.