By Diego De La Peza, MPP ’17
On my last day interning at the Instituto de Sexualidad Humana, I decided to walk back regardless of the rain that had just started. I was filled with conflicted emotions: happy about my overall experience and still on a sugar rush from all the cake from a goodbye luncheon the staff threw for me, but I knew I was going to miss everyone at the institute that I had really built a relationship with. Halfway through my walk, the weather decided to remind me I still had not left the tropics and a downpour began so hard that my umbrella became pretty useless. Regardless of arriving home soaked from head to toe to a studio without electricity due to the storm, I could not help but still feel content from having had an amazing experience in the Dominican Republic for the past 10 weeks.
For the first six weeks interning at ISH, I had conducted data analysis on patients who had a history of sexual abuse. I drafted a report that included these findings and created visuals to be used in future presentations for the subject matter. After finishing with my individual research project, I began working as a data analyst for two other research projects as well as helped draft a research proposal for a future research project that involved measuring the quality of life of patients with a sexual dysfunction. Additionally, I became part of a team designated to propose procedural changes targeted at improving the data collection process as well as the services provided by ISH. Although my time at the institute was over before these projects were finished, I left content with the progress that was made and confident that the implementation of these changes is going to be beneficial to the institute.
Outside of work, this experience allowed me to visit unforgettable places, meet amazing people, and eat some very delicious food. Taking weekend trips to visit other cities around the country allowed me to gain valuable knowledge about the history and rich culture of the Dominican Republic. I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches in Bahia de las Aguilas, witness the hard work of farmers in the Cibao, and saw some of the unforgettable conditions of some of the country’s most poverty stricken areas. I was glad to have been able to witness the beauty of the island, but being made aware of the significant issues that Dominicans face reminded me why I chose a developing Latin American country as the place for my internship.
The Afro-Hispanic mixing of culture really created something unique and beautiful. I enjoyed seeing the amount of pride that Dominicans have for their country. On Aug. 16, the country celebrated El Dia de la Restauración, the day that the war began against the Spanish conquerors that led to Dominican independence. On this day, I was mesmerized by the amount of flags seen hanging from every balcony, people enjoying their holiday and celebrating the inauguration of President Manolo’s second term. Yet, on normal days, this sense of pride to be Dominican was still present and flaunted during casual conversations.
My experience was enhanced by the people who I met on this trip, both locals and tourists. I met about 10 students from the University of Columbia in New York who were doing an internship program in Santo Domingo. We would take off every weekend from Santo Domingo to enjoy the beaches and beautiful sights from other parts of the country. The owner of the studio I lived in was an amazing host. She constantly gave me delicious home-cooked Dominican food and was constantly making sure everything was OK. Her kindness went above and beyond any landlord I have ever met; she made sure I truly felt like Santo Domingo was my home. Lastly, every single person at the Instituto de Sexualidad Humana welcomed me into their office with open arms. The treatment I received was far from what we expect when we hear the word “intern,” as everyone in the office created a friendship that went beyond work and helped me out with anything I needed.
My overall experience cannot be summed up in a single blog. I am extremely grateful to have received this opportunity thanks to the International Pathway Practice Program and Global Public Affairs. I am also very grateful to Dr. Rafael Garcia, director of the Instituo de Sexulidad Humana, for allowing me to intern at his institute and for helping to cater the internship to my needs. I really hope to be able to continue this work in Santo Domingo in the near future. Going back to those Dominican beaches would not be so bad either.