I had the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Global UGRAD Program, representing the Dominican Republic. I spent four months at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, where I was the first and only Dominican.
I don’t even have to mention how amazing and unforgettable my experience was. Before going abroad I read a couple of articles about “the hard part no one talks about after an exchange experience.” I honestly thought it was all overreaction. Now I openly say I was mistaken.
After I came back, I spent two weeks recovering from the shock of leaving the friends who became family to me. There is nothing that compares with the feeling of leaving someone you love, like best friends and even the person who used to serve you lunch every day.
Now I know that what I read before about going abroad is real – it’s not overreacting, it’s just reality.
It has been 9 months since I came back. I miss everyone I met and all the places I visited. Even though it makes me a little sad, it also makes me happy and gives me the strength to keep moving forward. Why does it make me happy? Because I changed, and with me the lives of many other Dominicans will also change.
I’ve taken an active role in the alumni association since I came back, which not only helped me get through the post-exchange sickness but also let me serve my country as an alumni ambassador. I participated in International Education Week, promotional talks for exchanges at my university, fun activities with kids, and even in the selection panel for the 2017 Global UGRAD candidates. For all that work, I had the honor of being named Alumni of the Year by the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.
So I invite you to email your Alumni Coordinator at the Embassy right away so you can get active in the alumni association. If there’s no alumni association, create one. Why am I saying this? Because this kind of experience brings us closer to the people who are in the same boat. It is a relief to find empathy and rely on those who feel what we feel. To serve your country is the main goal of the exchange programs. What could be a better way to help others who have lived similar experiences?
Mónica Pérez Eró (Dominican Republic), Global UGRAD Spring 2016