Outreach360 Caminos Volunteer Intern Guest Writer: Dallon Asnes
My name is Dallon Asnes. I’m a senior physics major at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. In the summer of 2015, following my first year of college, I spent eight weeks in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic as a Caminos Intern with Outreach360.
Living for a summer in Monte Cristi was an incredible experience. It was my first time out of the U.S., my first time without the luxurious amenities to which I had previously grown accustomed, and my first time being immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment.
I had studied Spanish throughout high school but, once I got to Monte Cristi, my Spanish improved by leaps and bounds. I helped plan and direct the baseball-softball camp that summer, which meant most of my days were spent on a baseball field – which I loved – and I often had long, spontaneous conversations in Spanish with campers who all shared a similar passion for sports. Campers shared some of their favorite music with me and I’ll never forget our group sing-a-longs to Daddy Yankee or Prince Royce after a long day on the field. I was continually impressed with how well the campers could dance. Although I loved the bachata and merengue classes we had at the program center every week, I don’t think I ever learned to dance as well as them!
I often think back to hiking El Morro with our group and photographing the gorgeous beach right below us, or laughing along with the workers at the Salt Flat as I translated for our group tours. Living in Monte Cristi wasn’t all easy, however. Between mosquito bites, heat and the initial adjustment of being out of one’s comfort zone, there were times that challenged me. However, the Outreach360 staff remained open, accessible, and incredibly supportive whenever a situation arose. Many of my fond memories come from the strong sense of community those of us working with Outreach360 felt.
When I returned to college the next fall, I was craving another opportunity to live abroad. I decided to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) and the Boren Scholarship, programs that would fund either a summer or full year abroad with an intensive language study component. When I met with fellowship advisors at my school to begin discussing my application, it dawned on me how significantly my experience with Outreach360 would strengthen my applications. I had lived for an extended period in modest conditions, I had demonstrated that I could adjust to new cultures and communities and I did so while leading our summer program and other volunteers.
These experiences from Monte Cristi helped me stand out in application essays and prove myself in subsequent interviews. One of the more challenging interview questions I faced was, “What will you do while living abroad to decompress or relax?” In Monte Cristi, I frequently journaled and regularly made time to read in a quiet space. Referencing this in my response helped show what I’ve learned from this past experience and how I’m ready to apply it to future ones. Furthermore, I should mention that the staff from Outreach360 wrote me great letters of recommendation to bolster my applications.
Thanks to some of these scholarships, I’ve since had the opportunity to study in India for ten months and volunteer in Madagascar for three. While my experiences with Outreach360 helped me to earn these scholarships in the first place, lessons I learned in Monte Cristi taught me how to manage what can be difficult cultural adjustments and gave me the confidence to push through new challenges.
While I was in Monte Cristi, every day was filled with exciting, new experiences. When I think back to the summer, in addition to these fond memories, I can’t help but appreciate the influence of Outreach360 and the opportunity that a Caminos Internship proved in propelling me toward more diverse, international experiences. I encourage you to be involved in whatever capacity you can!