Jason Armijo, senior English major, reflects on life-changing Dominican experience 

Jason Armijo, a senior English major, was one of 13 students to participate in the 2015 Dominican Sojourn, a cultural immersion experience in the Dominican Republic designed to engage students in issues of social justice. Armijo came away from the weeklong experience – his first outside the country – changed. He shared thoughts about the trip and the perspective he gained. 

A place where love lives is a place worth finding.

This was my first time out of the country. I had never been more nervous in my life. Was it going to be that different? What would the people be like? What if I got lost?

This trip wasn’t about sightseeing or relaxation. We went to experience the culture and understand the lives of the Dominican people. I quickly learned the beautiful part about the Dominican people is their hospitality. No matter our color, if we had curly hair, facial hair, or didn’t speak their native tongue, whatever the difference, they accepted us and treated us like family.

We lived in the rainy mountains of Arroyo del Toro with a host family, got a taste of the city of Santiago, and spent time in the Batey Libertad, a marginalized and impoverished Haitian immigrant community that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Here, there was limited access to food, water, medical care and other basic amenities.

Each day we gathered for a group reflection to process the emotions that we experienced and to begin to understand where we go from here.

My Dominican Sojourn opened my heart. It helped me understand that if we accept people into our hearts, they will change more than that.

In a poem I wrote, titled “My Heart Gets Drafty,” I compared my heart to my host families’ home. The house was boarded, and had spaces in the siding. So at night the wind would blow, and cause a shift in the house. Before the trip, I couldn’t fathom how my heart would change. But when I left, I had a new perspective, new friends and a family. I had experienced solidarity at its finest, all because I let my heart get drafty.

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