Saturday, June 20, 2015

First To Go Abroad

When I was in college I always dreamed of studying abroad, but I just didn't think I could make it work. I had a full course-load every semester, a job, an apartment, and so many other responsibilities--how could I possibly put it all on hold to travel the uncharted path?

Now that I'm a mentor to other first-generation college students, it's important to me to help them realize just how possible it is to achieve each and every one of their goals. If travel is a dream, it can become a reality.  

This May I had the honor of co-leading a trip to the Dominican Republic for 15 students who are not only the first in their families to attend college, but the first to study abroad. 

Whether I was delivering a lecture on global social justice atop the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración or standing back while my students drew their own conclusions on the subject matter they encountered, I was constantly reminded just how valuable and transformative world travel can be.   

We spent a good deal of time in the classroom learning about the cultural and political histories of the Dominican Republic, but we got to experience the treasures of the island too.  

Here the students are at a Dominican Batey (or sugar workers' town) where they learned about the working and living conditions of the Haitian migrant laborers and their families.  

They loved planting fruit trees with the community. 

This cross sits atop Santo Cerro and represents the gift that Queen Isabella gave to Christopher Columbus as he set sail across the Atlantic. 

Fort La Conception, erected by Columbus shortly after his arrival on the island, was the site of a historical battle between the Taíno natives and Columbus' Spanish soldiers and indigenous allies. 

This monument to the Mirabal sisters--Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa--honors three brave women who gave their lives fighting against the dictator Rafael Trujillo. 

One of Trujillo's mansions is now a government sponsored coffee plantation that supplies local growers. I couldn't have been happier standing in between these rows and rows of baby coffee plants. ( :

On our last day on the island we made a trip to Playa Ensenada. This was the clearest, warmest, most beautiful water I have ever been in!

Our polished toes got a natural pedicure in the fine white sand.

The snorkeling was amazing! 

This little island is really a sandbank surrounded by a coral reef in the middle of the ocean! The water was only waste deep and surrounded on all sides by deep blue sea. 

Even from the shore you could smell the wood-burning fires in these beach huts cooking the fresh catch of the day... these little guys!

And of course I had to bring my favorite travel buddy. Traveling Teddy became a kind of mascot with my students. They just loved his story. Here's one of my students photographing me photographing Teddy. 

And here's our world traveling bear on his latest adventure to Santiago, Republica Dominicana. 

This may have been a life-changing trip for my students, but it truly was for me as well. Travel stretches you as a person, reconnects your senses with the world around you, and reminds you that you're part of something so much bigger than yourself.

~ Nel ~

Note: All of the photographs in this post were taken by my 
wonderfully inspiring students who are the 
First To Go Abroad. 


Susie said...

Nel, What wonderful encouragement to others. Your students did very well with the pictures. Blessings to you, xoxo,Susie

Row homes and Cobblestones said...

Really enjoyed this post, you have a dedicated inspirational heart. I too believe world travel broadens your views and opens up your appreciation towards fellow man. Loved your photos of your traveling 15 in the Dominican Republic, never been there it looks like a beautiful natural wonder, I like how you captured the mist in the waterfall photo. Now be still my heart I adore your traveling Teddy and the picture of you taking a picture of Teddy.
Thanks for your share,

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Nel,
How very blessed are your students to have you.. What a beautiful share today. The photos are just breathtaking, and I LOVE Teddy!

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Beautiful post-this surely was a trip that your students will always remember and I enjoyed the point you made about travel stretches you as a person. Too often we all tend to forget that there is so much around us far greater.
Thank you for sharing this very special trip with us.

janice15 said...

Nel I loved this post.. I really enjoyed it seeing a lot of what they saw.. thank you so much for sharing it the photos are amazing.. I wish I could travel.. with love Janice

Merlesworld said...

As I sit wrapped up my blanket in my cold cold lounge room, I see your pictures and think I would love to be there in the warm sunshine, looks like a wonderful place.


Life experience is the best education there is. No doubt about it it makes you "part of something so much bigger than yourself." Glad you got to partake in this wonderful teaching experience.

Sola Scriptura said...

How exciting. It looks like a trip of a lifetime for everyone involved. If you ever fancy a trip to Scotland you'd be welcome to stay with us ;)

Antee Gurung said...

wow amazing pictures!!! your students are so lucky to have u as a mentor! You must have had a lovely time swell. I hope i will be able to travel to these amazing places like you.

God Bless you


Patricia said...

Fantastic photos - I have never before seen pictures of the Dominican Republic, and always wondered what it looked like. A Texan friend of ours goes there sometimes on mission work. Great post!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Nel, as you well know, there is NOTHING like being there, speaking the language of humanity, and learning first hand from the people. I didn't get a chance to study abroad until AFTER I was married already, about 20 years! But it was worth the wait for I was much more mature.

You are so blessed to have stayed on the Ph.D path. Best of luck and love to you! Anita

mess by us said...

Amazing photos! :) .. I would love to visit Dominican Republic.. one day definitely. :)
hope you had a great time there!

Dee said...

Nel, this was such a great post with so many beautiful pictures. It looks like you had an amazing time with your students... :)

Susan said...

That was a great post, Nel. Oh, that snorkeling shot was fantastic! Wowsers.

I agree with you that travel is fabulous. It's an education in itself.

Not one of the students who took that trip with you will ever be the same again.

Traveling is wonderful.

Take care and thanks for taking us along with you on this unforgettable adventure! Susan

Dewena said...

If I were a young person starting out today I would sink my money in travel and less in "stuff."

And to be a part of these young people's lives will be a lifetime memory for them and for you.

Beautiful pictures!

Teresa said...

All delightful and heart warming.
But that last sentence put tears to my eyes. Tears of Joy but also of humbleness for your wisdom and lovely soul.
Yes, travel is meant to change, touch, you. Deep where "just" pictures, stories and other people's sharing can't reach. You have to go there, feel and love the people, understand their struggles and wisdom and share they joy - many times with the simple things of life - to make you bigger.
So wonderful to enjoy it through your eyes, Pretty Nel! When I grow up I want to be you.
Love always,

Red Rose Alley said...

Nel, I would love to walk through that coffee plantation with you.


Carla from The River said...

WOW, I loved this and thank you for letting us come along ;-)
I would have enjoyed the sandy beach too.

Riitta Sinikka said...

♥♥♥ Happy Tuesday my dear friend!♥

CelestinaMarie@SouthernDayDreams said...

Hi Nel, what a beautiful blessing to be apart of this journey with your students. They will always remember this time and all they learned from your leadership and giving nature. Your pics are amazing and those blue waters are incredible.
Thanks for sharing!!
Hugs, cm

Jody and Stan said...

What a wonderful trip! You are such an inspiration to your students being there, how lucky are they! Thank you for sharing your adventure and all your amazing photos! Loved it!