High School Programs in the Dominican Republic

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High School Programs Abroad in the Dominican Republic

With almost 800 miles of beaches, the Dominican Republic is frequently thought of as only a vacation destination, but it is actually one of the most diverse (and fascinating!) countries in all of Central America! From its beaches in Punta Cana to the Cordillera Central mountain range, this nation has a unique landscape, and not just geographically. Its tumultuous history and resilient people have crafted a culture unlike any other on the planet. Participating in a high school program in the Dominican Republic will be an innovative way to expand your worldview, learn a new language and make new friends, all while creating memories that you’ll take with you to college and beyond.

Locations

Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea lies the island nation of the Dominican Republic. Although relatively small in size, the Dominican is home to over 10 million people, many living in its capital city. The rest of the population is spread out amongst rural areas, where many high school programs take place. 

Located on the southeast coast of the country, Santo Domingo, the oldest European city of the New World, holds approximately 2.2 million people. Throughout the past few decades, the city has grown greatly. It has become the industrial and financial center of the country due to the construction of hydroelectric dams and the tourism industry boom. The city is perfect for exploring history, through beautiful old buildings, and also for quick trips to the beach. Santo Domingo is ideal for young, curious explorers; from its museums to street art, the city breathes a unique Caribbean culture.

Santiago de los Caballeros, otherwise known as Santiago, is the nation’s second largest city and considered to be more traditional than Santo Domingo. Much of the city’s economy depends on exports of processed foods, furniture, and leather goods. Home to San Luis Fort, the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration, and several palaces, this city is ideal for high school students with a heart for history. The true city experience doesn’t end there, but can be found in the street food pastelito, a fried pastry filled with meat, onions, olives, tomatoes, and a variety of seasoning. 

High School in the Dominican Republic

The majority of high school programs in the Dominican Republic take place in Santo Domingo, Santiago, or in one of many rural areas. The focus of most high school programs in the Dominican Republic is on restoration of communities and increasing the quality of living for locals. High school volunteer program opportunities range from working with children to rebuilding schools, with a mixture of museum visits, weekend trips, or Spanish language lessons weaved in between day-to-day itineraries.

Other opportunities to attend high school in the Dominican Republic are centered on language immersion, including developing, using, and practicing interactions in Spanish through everyday life. Language immersion programs will be very different than volunteer style programs, in that they will be more similar to actual school work, with one-on-one courses, standard classroom courses, and preparation for the Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE) exams in some programs. But, you’ll leave high school in the Dominican Republic much more fluent in Spanish; how’s THAT for a sweet souvenir?

High school programs in the Dominican Republic vary in length from weeklong trips for spring break to year-long excursions for full on gap years. You should keep program length in mind when selecting any high school program abroad. Many longer high school programs in the Dominican Republic concentrate on building relationships with community members, rather than completing a quick project. Nearly all program opportunities for high school students in the Dominican Republic will include side trips to see other parts of the country, such as the many waterfalls and beaches. 

Although the summer is a popular time for students to go to the Dominican, winter travelers will also enjoy the nice tropical weather. Keep in mind many high school programs in the Dominican Republic will have specific dates rather than a range of dates available.

Scholarships & Costs

The cost of going abroad at any age, for any length of time, can be very pricey. Although the exchange rate to the Dominican Peso may be in your favor and the cost of living is relatively low, it can still be expensive to live and travel throughout the country. Just think! You have to secure your passport and visas, book your flights, get a swanky new backpack, invest in some high-quality shoes, and that’s before you even leave home!

Don’t let the potential for high program costs deter you, because program costs can range anywhere from $1000 to $5000, depending on the length of your program and the organization you choose. The good news is that many high school programs in the Dominican Republic include the costs of housing, traveling in-country, food, and, in some cases, insurance.

The key is to plan ahead and stay on top of your financial-game. Take your monies from your first job and put them in a savings account. Ask for financial gifts in lieu of the next Justin Bieber album or {insert latest fad}. When planning your high school trip abroad, check out (and apply like mad to!) Dominican Republic scholarship opportunities before thinking it’s too expensive to  consider!

Accommodation & Visas

Many high school programs in the Dominican Republic offer students homestay style accommodations, which allow them to interact with locals and really experience the culture of the country during their stay. Most homestays are located in communities that are not considered 5-star island resort territory, so students will be able to get to know the authentic culture, through traditional meals and activities planned and prepared by locals. However, some long-term programs and those with more than one destination on the docket will provide many different types of accommodations for participants.

Visa requirements vary, depending on your country of origin and length of stay. However, anyone entering the Dominican Republic will need a tourist card at minimum, which is available for a simple entry fee that can be paid upon arrival. For the latest up-to-date information on securing a visa to attend high school in the Dominican Republic, check out GoAbroad's Embassy Directory.

Benefits & Challenges

Studying, volunteering, and living abroad as a teen can present a wide variety of challenges, but also a multitude of benefits that go beyond traveling to a new country. 

The language barrier can be seen as both a challenge and a benefit. For those whose Spanish skills may not be tip top, it can seem scary traveling to a country where it will not be easy to connect with everyone you encounter. But with time, practice, and patience, communication will become easier every day. 

Whether it is your first time leaving the country or your tenth time, you will likely experience some form of culture shock. You’ll be around people with completely different views and beliefs than you, and it will take time and effort to appreciate and understand these differences. Keep in mind that even within different regions of the country, the culture will be different and thus, so will the experience. 

Along with improved Spanish skills, your worldview will likely improve as well. Gaining an international perspective on living, working, and learning can be beneficial to you in many ways. First, it will look great on any school or job application. Having experience outside of the U.S. shows qualities of patience, determination, and passion. In addition to gaining a wider global perspective, you’ll grow personally and discover more about yourself than you ever imagined. When you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, the possibilities for growth are endless.

Before making the commitment to take your high school education abroad, make sure everything from finances to timing are in the right place; however, don’t overthink the process. It will take time and effort, but it will be well worth every penny and hour of hard work. You’ll take this adventure with you for the rest of your life and have stories to tell and inspire others for years to come.

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High School Programs Abroad in the Dominican Republic

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