Huntsman Post

Dominican Republic Students Adjust, Thrive at USU

By Klydi Heywood

Francisco Santos says that compared to the Dominican Republic, Logan, Utah, is quiet. “In my home country there is music playing on every street corner,” he said. “Here, everything is just quieter.”

The quiet is just one of a number of cultural differences faced by Francisco and a group of some 100 students who have come from the Dominican Republic to USU on scholarships that are fully funded by their government.

Carolyn Coronado

Dominican Republic student Carolyn Coronado graduated in spring 2012 with a degree in MSMIS.

Photo by Russ Dixon

USU started developing a relationship with the Dominican Republic in the 1980s, launching a variety of research studies and projects. This affiliation has grown into a tradition of mixing cultures by sending a group of select Dominican students to USU each year.

The program allows under-served, top students to study abroad. The students must meet all requirements of the Ministry of Higher Education in the Dominican Republic, and then the recommendations are sent to USU, where the final admittance decision is made.

The Dominican Republic government has additionally implemented the English Immersion Program to help students compete in the global marketplace. Every year the top 100 students of this program are selected to attend the USU global academy. These students are not seeking a degree, but come to participate in the program and further their English proficiency.

“The chance to travel fully funded to USU is very prestigious to all students,” said Shelly Hernandez, project coordinator for the Office of Global Engagement.

She explained that at first, many of the students are very culture shocked.

Francisco says one of the biggest cultural differences that he did not expect was the food.

“Everything is very tasteful,” Francisco said, “it is either very salty or very sweet.”

He also admits that the cultural transformation has made him grow. Having left his family for the past five years, Francisco claims to be more independent than when he first came.

“I grew up with a completely different background,” Francisco said, “I’ve really had to adjust.”

Every spring the Dominican Republic students celebrate their national independence at a USU event called Areito. The students host a native dinner and cultural presentations. This gives them a chance to share where they came from and to highlight some of the cultural differences between home and their new home-away-from-home.

Although the experience can be challenging for these select students, “they have a special place in their heart for Utah and USU,” Shelly said. “They really learn to value it.”