Dominican Republic trip Inspires Horticulture Technician Student

Marissa Leavens is a student enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program at Niagara College. She has recently participated in an international field study experience In Dominican Republic.  Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”! 

Marissa Leavens

The Dominican Republic…I haven’t written this because I still can’t put my experience into words nor express my emotion, except for grinning ear to ear when someone asks me how the trip was. Before this trip I haven’t experienced anything like it. When we first arrived in Santo Domingo I felt really overwhelmed. It was nothing like home, no “rules” really. I started second guessing myself as to if I made the right decision to attend this trip or not. I’m not much of a city person to begin with so it was hard to adapt to but I took it day by day and it got better.


Some of the things that made the Dominican so culturally diverse from Canada was their driving. There were no speed limits, motorcyclists didn’t have helmets, truck beds piled with people driving down the highway. To explain it more or less, it was chaos; but more like organized chaos because everyone drove the exact same way. That was the first sign of culture shock, I just had to keep telling myself “it’s their way of life and they’re used to it, I’m the one that has to change and fit in with them”.

The language barrier was also a huge culturally diverse learning environment. Before going I had no idea how to speak Spanish, only a few words mainly what I learned from watching Dora with my nieces. The language barrier was frustrating at first but the week went on and you really start to catch onto little words or even using simple hand gestures helps you connect a lot. After getting my toes wet in Spanish, I plan to take the Spanish elective hoping when I return to Dominican in October 2017 I will be able to have a full conversation with the local people and children.


What made me understand local and international perspectives even more was the fact that everywhere is a completely different place. You can’t travel thinking you’re going to be seeing and following the same laws or bi-laws you do in your country, because it is totally not like that. You have to stay open-minded/hearted at all times changing for them because you are in their country. Be respectful.

Yes, I was able to connect my global learning for my own future career success because not only did we learn a lot about their native plants, natural landscapes and installing greenhouse frames, we learnt a lot about other cultures and how us Canadians with as many resources as we have and our education we can help out around the world with growing tips and tricks to propagating plants to tackling and overcoming diseases. I am a tropical plant lover and would love to go to various different countries to do some studies on various invasive native plants and their diseases, and do as we did in the Dominican. Meet that countries “plant needs” and help them out whether it be building them a greenhouse as well or aquaponics systems that are more efficient.

Needless to say this was the best experience of my life, I will forever remember this trip and I can tell you… was my first time but it won’t be my last!

Doing ordinary things in extraordinary places will assure you of an extraordinary future.”

– Marissa Leavens