Dominican Republic

Karla Estudillo

Where did you serve? 
I served in the Dominican Republic, more specifically the rural communities surrounding Santo Domingo. Every clinic day we would visit a different community- some were a half hour drive away and others were an hour and a half drive away. The areas we served in were impoverished and evidently lacked the same benefits as we held in the city.


Were there any moments of culture shock that really stood out? 

Although the Dominican Republic is extremely different from my home here in the United States, I believe I was a lot more prepared for the culture and poverty in the Dominican Republic due to my Mexican background. I was reminded very much of the living conditions and difficulties of my family and friends in Mexico who also live in rural communities. In comparison to my U.S. home, there really is no comparison. The commodities and comforts of home that we many times take for granted were definitely missing, but the happiness and friendliness of people was much more abundant although they lacked these things.


What organization did you serve with? Does it have a UCLA connection?

I served in the Dominican Republic through Global Medical Training (GMT). This is an international non-profit organization designed to give students the ability to learn about medicine and health through firsthand experience while also giving back to communities in need. GMT at UCLA is one of the chapters that serves in various countries and is connected both nationally and internationally to other chapters.


Why did you choose this organization and location?

I chose to join GMT because I felt as if I could gain firsthand knowledge of the very conditions that I want to help improve later on in my career. This organization gives students a lot of liberty and connections while on the trip to be able to learn and experience both the culture and the medicine. I specifically chose the Dominican Republic because it is one of the countries that I have always dreamed of visiting. I love the music and vivaciousness of the people, and I was definitely not disappointed while actually on the island. I saw the friendliness of the staff as well as the patients, and they made you feel like you were part of their family. I also wanted to visit a Latin American country because I speak Spanish and come from a similar culture, and therefore, I feel I could be of better service because the culture boundary wouldn’t be as pronounced.


What lessons have you learned from your volunteer experience?

I have always loved community service, but this volunteering experience truly cemented my career goals. I learned about the opportunities available to me and what it takes in order to be able to coordinate a trip such as this one. I also learned a lot about the gratitude of others. It is easy for myself or those in wealthier countries to take things for granted, but in those clinic days I saw the gratefulness in every person we served. Although some patients were forced to wait in line for hours in the sun, heat, and humidity, they never failed to smile despite the pain. We saw over 800 patients in those clinic days combined, but in reality we saw one overwhelming wave of gratitude from every individual who walked through our doors.

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The More You Know

Country Served Dominican Republic
World Ranking for Per Capita GDP 121
Service Organization Global Medical Training UCLA
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