By Linnette Cruz 9-III
Imagine being an 11-year-old girl living in the city that never sleeps. Then, one gloomy spring morning your parents announce that your family will be moving to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. You begin to get excited; I mean come on, you’re moving to a new country! But on your last day of school, you say goodbye to all of your friends, and saying farewell to the memories and people who made up your childhood. You begin to think about the smell of a summer breeze, the fresh-baked bagels you used to buy every morning on the way to school, and the people you usually say hi to when you walk by. The day finally comes; you’re moving! You pack up the last of your things, seal up some boxes, and you’re on your way to JFK to start your new life in the Dominican Republic. On your way to the airport, you might start thinking if you will actually pull this off. Being an 11-year-old makes everything feel bigger than it actually is, and changing schools doesn’t make it any easier. Leaving friends, beloved teachers, and a school environment that you got used to and finally began to feel comfortable indefinitely takes a toll on your wellbeing.
Living abroad is something that everyone dreams about doing some time in their lifetime. Experiencing living in a new country, exploring new cultures, and meeting new people may sound fun. However, whether you are starting your freshman year in a new college, or visiting family for a while, you start to really validate and think about what you’re missing back home. While my time in the Dominican Republic has been remarkable, I have been missing my home in New York a lot.
Sure, don’t get me wrong, living by the ocean is amazing, but there are just certain things that I miss from back home. First of all, I miss my NYC friends and family. Despite the fact that I only knew them during my years of elementary school, they still feel like family today. It’s not like I saw them 24/7, but during those 7 hours of school that we saw each other, we created many bonds that will last a lifetime. Not just my friends, but my family too. I have a brother and a sister, both above the legal age and both college graduates. I never really get to spend time with them, unless I visit them or they come during the summer; and let me tell you, goodbyes do not get easier over time.
There is a multitude of obvious disparities in standards of living in the United States and the Dominican Republic. The first one might sound conceited, but it is definitely something to consider: It is always hot here! Like, it is getting hotter and hotter. Take it from a person who has lived through the 2016 New York blizzard and is used to the cold weather being too cold to handle, it is hot.
New York is just one of those places that wherever you go, you can hear several languages being spoken, finding that every street you walk down is filled with diverse multiculturalism. And let’s not even mention New York street food, where you can find cuisine from any culture. There is nothing like a slice of New York Pizza, usually costing and although it could only cost you $2 dollars, it still tastes amazing. There are many stereotypes claiming that native New Yorkers are rude, arrogant, and uncaring, but this is not the case at all. We are usually in a hurry, and also have to deal with a lot of noise, traffic, and that smell that comes with living in such a busy city. Not to sound biased, but we do recognize that we might be a little more aggressive than non-New Yorkers are used to, but we are definitely not mean.
Moving schools is a big change in any child’s life. Being transferred to a school where everyone has known each other since kindergarten – or lower! – makes for a hard time to make friends, since everyone has their friend group sorted out. Occasionally, you do get to meet that very open group of people that would change your life in a big way. I have been lucky to make some very nice friends that I know I can trust and lean on if I ever need support. I even managed to make a best friend, despite the fact that she finds me annoying sometimes.
The Dominican Republic is known for its blue waters, white-sand beaches, and beautiful resorts, but there are also many downsides to living on this island. Dominicans are friendly and hospitable, always up for interesting conversations and big parties. Finding a colmado wherever you go is nice, but that shouldn’t distract you from the fact that poverty, government corruption, and criminality lurks behind this wonderful, touristic island. It is said that you usually find happiness where you were last happy, and that is not an exception for my parents. Growing up in the Dominican Republic back in the 1970s sure wasn’t easy, but my grandparents made it work for their children. My parents both got enrolled in extremely good schools and managed to gain their high school – and later college – diplomas. Coming back to the country where you grew up and made many of your life relationships truly brings back many memories along the way. Despite the good and the bad, they don’t care, they love their country all the same. It’s true what they say, you always find your way back home.
I am now a freshman student at Colegio Bilingüe New Horizons, located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. These past three years that I have been here I have truly been fascinating, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss my old lifestyle back home. While I do miss the sweet, tongue-burning, cheap hot chocolate sold at each corner of New York streets, I am very grateful to have the experience of learning about Dominican culture and make important bonds with people along the way. In a matter of a few years, I will be going off to college, headed towards the Big Apple once again. Despite the fact that I will be appreciative to be back home again, I don’t doubt that I will be missing this beautiful island.