As I pack (read: stuff to the brim) my suitcase for my journey abroad, I cannot help but take a deep breath and just think, “Wow.” What a whirlwind of a semester. The student visa has been applied for and successfully obtained after no less than four trips to the Dominican Embassy (Dominicans are many things: organized, it appears, is not one of them), finals have been successfully completed and turned in, my mom has officially moved into the heart of Atlanta, and now all I have to focus on is this semester I have ahead of me.
One of the unique and special aspects of going abroad in the spring semester is the complete 365-day revolution that the Earth completes just a few days before. With the ringing in of 2016, I am invited to reflect on the past year as well as on what is to come. It is slowly sinking in that the Hilltop won’t be my physical home again until I return as a senior. I am already starting to get emails about spring semester events that I won’t be able to attend. But FOMO aside, I cannot put into words the excitement I feel for the first third of my 2016, for this immersive experience whose opportunity comes only once in a lifetime. I am ready to dive right in.
In fact, I have already started Facebook messaging with ultimate frisbee players in the DR! I am a member of the women’s ultimate team at Georgetown, known as the Huckin’ Foyas, and one of my goals is to play as much frisbee as possible while abroad. When researching study abroad programs, I was pleasantly surprised to find a strong frisbee culture in the DR. It was actually one of the main reasons that I felt comfortable choosing a smaller program, because I knew I would have the opportunity to meet some amazing people through one of my favorite activities. I hope that meeting ultimate players will help with learning the local Spanish as well (for those of you who are unfamiliar, Dominican Spanish is a thing of its own).
Another way I have been preparing for abroad has been through reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Díaz is a Dominican-American author, and this is the second book of his that I have read. Oscar Wao has been particularly helpful in preparing for arrival in the DR because Díaz includes hilarious footnotes describing key components of Dominican history. I find it ironic that I have managed to get both of these books centered on the tropical island soaking wet in some way or another.
Finally, what would this post be without some new year’s resolutions? For the absolute longest time, I have wanted to keep a journal—something I haven’t done since around fifth grade (those years garnered some prime entries though, let me tell you). This year I have no excuse! A friend who went to the Dominican Republic last fall made me a journal in her bookbinding class at Georgetown (mental note: look into this) to take with me when I go abroad. If you are planning on going abroad, or just want to have something to look back on in ten years, I strongly suggest keeping a journal. Additionally, as someone who admittedly isn’t the best at keeping in touch with loved ones, I am resolving to send my family a video or photo once a day for the entire time I am abroad so that they can stay up to date on my life (and know that I am still alive). Along with these specific resolutions, I also want to challenge myself to be open-minded, stay positive, and remember one of my mom’s favorite mottos: if it’s not fun, it’s funny.
Stay tuned as I prepare for the first day of my program tomorrow, when I will meet my host family, the other six people from around the United States who will become my closest friends in the coming months, and find out what all Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic has to offer.