Friday, July 27, 2012


By: Justine Burke
Justine has completed her first year of study at the University of Georgia School of Law and is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program. She is participating in the 2012 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about her, her interest in the Correspondent Program and her career ambitions here.

When I tell people that I am a rising second year law school student, after congratulating me on being so brave, the first question that they usually ask me is “So what kind of law do you want to practice?” And the truth is, up until now, I had no idea. I’ve always had an idea of the areas of law in which I could see myself practicing and those that I could not. Criminal law? Not for me. Some realm of international or property law? Maybe. Day after day, I waited for some kind of sign or some realization to hit me… and that time has finally come.

This week at my internship, I worked with a lawyer, R, who is the manager of the litigation and settlements department of the company. The insurance company that I work for, being the largest in the Dominican Republic, insures many of the hotels and resorts that are located throughout the country. And where there are foreign tourists, law suits are sure to follow! I reviewed endless cases about tourists sustaining personal injuries stemming from small slips and falls to burns resulting from bar fires. Because many of the hotels and resorts have their headquarters or principal places of business in the United States-- Florida to be exact-- many of the complaints were being litigated in the United States. While this may sound boring to others, I found myself absolutely enthralled!

Complaints, answers, and motions to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens? I couldn’t get enough. Page after page, I found myself completely absorbed in reading the case details and imagining how I would begin to prepare memoranda discussing both the particulars of the cases and possible outcomes at trial. I was so excited to see abstract concepts that I had learned during my first year of law come to life.

By the end of my first day working with R, I knew that this was what I wanted to do! Working as an attorney for a firm that represents large corporations such as hotels and resorts incorporated in the United States, but with locations abroad, would allow me to combine my interests in both torts and international law. Who knew it would take traveling to the Dominican Republic for me to discover what I wanted to do following graduation!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hello bold, brave world!

By: Lindsay Tatum
Lindsay has completed her first year of study at the University of Georgia School of Law and is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program. She is participating in the 2012 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about her, her interest in the Correspondent Program and her career ambitions here.

As usual, I am here to update you on my time and travels in the Dominican Republic. And further, per the usual, those time and travels have been fruitful and enjoyable. I have spent these last few weeks traveling and as you can probably guess from the title of this post... working HARD! La Universal Seguros has set me up with another fantastic working opportunity with yet another prestigious law firm in this country. For the past two weeks, and for the rest of my time here, I will be working at this law firm. And when I say working.... I really mean working! I was recently given the monumental task of translating one of the firm's attorney's billable hours from Spanish to English!

Now some of you may think to yourselves... Translating? I mean, how bad can that be? WELL LET ME TELL YOU.... It takes forever!!! Not only am I translating from a different language into my own, but I have translating the professional, legal usage of this language (And if you don't already know...NO! This is not the Spanish they teach you in school!), and FURTHER, I'm trying to translate the attorney's Dominican slang into regular Spanish AND THEN into English!!!


While this is taking me a while to complete, I am learning quite a lot! For example... The word hipoteca means, "mortgage". And the phrase en ocasión does not mean on occasion. In fact it means, "regarding". I am so proud of my newfound knowledge and I look forward to continuing to work through the EIGHT PAGES of translation I have to complete.

The other good news about this task is that the deadline for its completion is after I will be gone. Therefore, I do not feel ridiculous pressure to finish this task in two days. I can take my time and make sure it’s correct. Not only that, I can learn in the process! I mean... isn't that what they are "paying" me to do?! "Paying" me in experience!

So I will remain at my little desk... working hard, but not for the money... but for the EXPERIENCE!!!


The beginning is always hard, but nice!

By: Ioana Pescaru
Ioana has completed three years of her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, French and Media and Communication at Newcastle University in Newcastle, Great Britain. She is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program, and is participating in the 2012 10-week Caribbean Summer Program, with special dates beginning July 1. You can read more about Ioana and her participation in the Correspondent Program here.

WOW! I would have not have thought that the Caribbean would be completely different to from Europe, but surprisingly a bit similar to my country, Romania! The differences between the DR and Western Europe are more than obvious in terms of transport, traffic, architecture, landscape and daily life. However, my Romanian “Latin” roots help me identify similarities between these countries, considering facts like people’s way of dressing, their passion for being elegant and good-looking or the fame of being a nice and kind nation. Even if I was aware of the fact that this country is in the process of developing I was surprised to face the fuss on streets, where the traffic is crazy and the buses, known as “guaguas”, don’t have fixed stops. Even though the disorganized state of traffic initially made me feel unsecure, I realised there is nothing to worry about, as one gets accustomed to it little by little. It is just a question of time and adaptation.

I find it funny that I began this “Dominican adventure” on the 1st of the month and the same day I went to the beach for the first time in the D.R., I had my first dip in the Caribbean Sea and I had my first- ever fresh green coconut. What I mean by this is that I had many desired, but unexpected experiences for the first time on the 1st. Cool right?

The Orientation week that InteRDom provides us at our arrival in the country consisted of helpful one to one sessions about the essential things one has to be aware of in order to get used to the daily life and customs of the country. The most interesting part of the whole introduction program was the transportation tutorial. Accompanied by one of the InteRDom representatives and their new intern, J. I felt the pulse of public transportation, taking one by one the metro, “el carro publico”( public car) and the “guagua”. Funny times, as neither me nor J. have used any of those before and suddenly we found ourselves squeezed in an uncomfortable “carro publico” or sharing the same small chair in a “guagua”, even if there were free seats for each of us.

Anyway, as a recompense for the full week I have had, trying to settle into my new life, I decided to join the other 4 interns in Punta Cana, for a girlish weekend. I said Punta Cana! OMG…everybody’s dream is to get there and I finally made it, thanks to the girls. We had a short, but great weekend enjoying the sunshine and the blue water on a silent beach with a fresh coconut during the day and trying our dancing abilities in local clubs at night.

This is not all about having fun and being on holiday. This week I have started my internship with the Chamber of Commerce I mentioned in the last article. The only thing I could say for the moment is that I am very excited about an event that will take place next week. More details coming soon. ;)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Working in the Dominican Republic

By: Lindsay Tatum
Lindsay has completed her first year of study at the University of Georgia School of Law and is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program. She is participating in the 2012 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about her, her interest in the Correspondent Program and her career ambitions here.

Hey guys!

I know it has been a while (3 weeks) since I blogged last, but my schedule has become so hectic! Everyday is so full of trying to see and experience everything. But alas, I am a blogger and therefore blogging is what I must do!

Let me give you a quick update on my schedule.

8:30 - Go to work at La Universal Seguros (actually right now I am working at one of the top law firms in the country. I will be here for a total of three weeks.)
9:00am-12:30pm - WORK! WORK! WORK AWAY!
12:30-1:30pm - Lunch
1:30-4:30pm - WORK! WORK! WORK AWAY!
4:30pm - Quitting time

This is pretty much the schedule that I have daily, with variations sometimes, depending on if I have a special trip planned for the day or another special task. My work at the law firm has been so meaning and I have been learning so much. These past two weeks that I have been there, I have worked on two movies contracts for films soon to be released in the DR. I spent my time going through the contracts and making sure all of the small details aligned together. I have also worked on power of attorney agreements (where an individual or an entity gives their power to complete certain tasks and make certain decisions to an attorney). The kicker about all of this, other than the fact that all of the contracts are in Spanish is that I have done none of these type of agreements in ENGLISH!!! I am sure you can imagine how intimidating it is to conquer such intricate matters in English... but Spanish is a whole other battle. However, I am proud to say that the attorney's offices are still standing and I have not burned anything down.

The Senators

I have also been lucky to visit the Dominican Congress. I went to the Senate and the House of Representatives. While there I was able to meet both Senators and Representatives. While the type of law practiced here is different from the United States (the US exercises English Common Law and the DR exercises French Civil Law), the separation of the state powers and the means by which they operate are quite similar. I know I have bored you to death with all of these facts, here is what you really came for... AWESOME PICTURES! These photos are from my time in the Senate. I attended a public viewing that was discussing a new piece of legislation regarding the Dominican peoples involvement in their daily decision making processes.

Another Senator and the only female Senator in the public meeting

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fundraising for International Opportunities

By: Malika Jones

When was the last time you saw someone fundraising? If you’re a New Yorker--like me--you see this everyday! On a small scale from those in need begging in the subway stations to large scale charitable organizations “tabling” at community fairs in hopes of raising funds for a much-needed cure. The truth is that fundraising has become ingrained into the global culture of our society-- it propels the altruistic intentions of humanity by enabling us to make a difference where it’s most needed. When we fundraise, we are not only raising funds, but we are also raising social accountability--the mindfulness and conscious awareness of some of the emerging social concerns in the world. We may not be able to solve all of the world’s problem’s at once, but little by little we can make this world a better place. This was the impetus for my fundraising initiative.

The Inspiration
InteRDom/CCNY Study Abroad Program in Urban Farming was the program of my dreams! It has always been an aspiration of mine to develop a sustainable urban organic food gardening project in my hometown of Far Rockaway, New York. It’s very difficult to find organic food in my community and if you’re lucky to find it, it’s very expensive. Many people want to eat organic, but unfortunately they don’t have the budget to eat as healthy as they should be able to. Therefore, the opportunity to partake in a service-learning based course on urban farming would 1) Enable me to develop urban gardens for 50 families in impoverished areas of the Dominican Republic 2)Grant me the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience necessary to develop urban farming systems in NYC 3) Opportunity for cultural enrichment. I was going to seize the opportunity by any means necessary. Unfortunately, financial complications were a major challenge in my ability to participate in this program that would complement perfectly my lifestyle and professional goals. With the knowledge and experience that I would gain in this service-learning program, I could return to my local community of Far Rockaway, NYC to educate residents on how they too could learn to grow their own produce using urban methods.

The Method
Originally, I assumed that I would find a department within the CUNY system to fund my study abroad experience. I went to every department and office I thought would be able to support my effort. Some of the departments I approached include: Biology, International Studies, Office of Student Affairs, Office of Student Life, the Dominican Studies Institute and the Dominican Studies Library. The answer from all the above-mentioned places was: “Sorry we can’t help you. We have no money.” It was pretty hard to believe that they didn’t have any sources to help fund my trip, but I kept on searching. The problem was that I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be getting any money from these departments only 3 days before I was scheduled to leave for the Dominican Republic. I had to think quickly. I consulted with a dear friend of mine who suggested that I start a fundraiser two days before the money was due. As bizarre as this sounds I was motivated to do it! He encouraged me saying “If you do not try you will not succeed.” Immediately I began fundraising on campus. reached out to other students and faculty members and tapped into the networks that I had: a non-profit of which I’m an active member , representatives from my councilman’s office, community activists I’ve worked with in the past, and other business professionals who I knew could get the word out and also contribute to my efforts.

I used to bring immediate awareness to the cause and my fundraising campaign. I did this by creating a flyer that I thought would attract people’s attention (you can view this flyer at the bottom of this blog post). The flyer was simple and straightforward. It included a picture of myself, a title succinctly expressing the action I wanted readers to take and two subtitles -explaining how studying abroad would help my community and my involvement in community projects. I highlighted my active participation in the Rockaway Youth Task Force non-profit organization. I encourage anyone fundraising to tap into the wealth of their social networks-- whether it’s the non-profit of which you area member, soccer team, religious institution, council-member's office or your parent/(s) job. It took me approximately 2 hours to go through a series of edits/revisions of the flyer until I was satisfied. This time may be more or less for you depending on the vision you have for your flyer and your skill level of achieving that.
I was elated to see all the positive feedback I was receiving. I had approximately 5 people who offered to donate within hours of seeing it on Facebook. I motivated people to donate by explaining how the trip would also benefit them as members of the community because I have plans to start an urban gardening project in my local community.

It was unfortunate that by then, I only had one more day to raise $800. If you consider fundraising online--which I highly recommend-- it is necessary for you to set up a paypal account for donors to easily deposit money. It was difficult for me to collect the money donated because I had to travel to different people dispersed across the 5 boroughs in one day. I remember having to go to Brooklyn, then Harlem and then two opposite ends in Queens to pick up donations. It would have been much more time-efficient to have the money deposited online.
Another method of fundraising would be to physically go to the institutions and people that with whom you’re affiliated. Let them know what you’re doing, how they can help and how they will benefit. The benefit can be as simple as a sponsor on a presentation that you’ll show about your experience when you return. Get creative!

The Results
The results were that I raised approximately $500 in the two-day fundraiser. If I had begun fundraising from the time that I applied to the program I would have been able to raise funds to pay for the full program cost, the flight and the tuition-- something I wish I would have done. The only reason I didn’t start an initiative like this in advance is because I wanted to be certain that I was accepted to the program before I began to solicit funds. I received a letter of acceptance on May 14, which gave me approximately 3-weeks to fundraise. I’m so happy that I pressed on and did not give up. That’s one thing any student conducting a fundraising should always remember. There were many people who said “no” but I knew that there were plenty others that would say yes. “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” always remember that.

I would like to send a special thank you to a dear friend, Amalu Jenkins, for encouraging me to initiate this fundraiser when I thought there was no solution to this problem. I learned there’s always a solution. You just have to find it--by any means necessary.

Also thank you to everyone who supported this initiative through encouragement and monetarily. You have helped me to better the lives of 50 families in the D.R. in a small but significant way. I will continue to make you proud!

And the gardening continues!

By: Amber Brookmire

Amber is a graduating senior at the City College of New York, majoring in Anthropology and Jewish Studies. She is participating in the 2012 CCNY-InteRDom Service Learning Program, and will serve as the InteRDom Correspondent in the CUNY system. To read more about Amber and her participation in the Correspondent program, see her profile

We have continued our gardening project this week in Bayona, an urban community neighboring Cielo. Most families do not have a space with soil to begin a garden, so we have shifted our approach to accommodate their situation. Rather than planting directly into the ground as we did in Cielo, we have created raised boxes within which a vegetable garden can successfully grow. Upon completion of our first box, one of the beneficiaries was so thrilled that she wrote her name on the side to claim it as her own!

Although we are no longer digging in the ground, we must use our strength to carry the heavy boxes and 150 lb. bags of soil to rooftops and back patios. So far, we have completed 9 gardens in Bayona. Only 16 left until we reach our expected goal!

Aside from the gardening project, I have been enjoying the beauty of island as much as possible. On our first InteRDom excursion we headed north to Santiago, the second largest city. We had an excellent tour of Central Leon, a cultural center in Santiago where we learned all about the country from its beginnings through present day. We then headed to visit Reyna’s (the InteRDom Internship Coordinator’s) parents’ home. Her father showed us how to chop down a plantain tree and uproot cassava – two main staples in Dominican cuisine.
Our second InteRDom excursion was to La Cueva de Maravillas. As we ventured deep into the cave I could feel the temperature drop in the darkness that surrounded me. Motion-sensor lights lit the way as walked through to see the naturally formed stalagmites. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was hard to imagine how something so beautiful was naturally formed below the earth’s surface. The tour guide pointed out the various cave paintings created by the Tainos, wonderfully preserved in this cave of wonders!

My personal exploration finally came to a full circle when CV (a CCNY intern) and I decided it was time to test out the chaotic public transportation! We headed toward the busy street of Máximo Gomez with no prior knowledge on how to get around. Within minutes we were squeezing into the back seat of a carro publico with two other passengers, on our way to La Zona Colonial! Despite the discomfort with no air conditioning and little space, it was exciting to finally understand how everyone moves about this city without emptying their pockets (only RD $25 for a ride!).
The carro público left us at el Conde - a pedestrian street lined with vendors, shops and restaurants. I soon realized this would be the place to buy souvenirs (and practice my bargaining skills!). Once we worked up an appetite, we hopped in a guagua and headed toward Barra Payan – a 24-hour spot famous for their sandwiches and fresh juices. I ordered one of the combo meals, complete with a sandwich, fresh juice and to my surprise, a KitKat bar!
As I enter my last week in this exciting country, I look forward to reaching our gardening goals and making more memories with my wonderful new group of friends. The adventure doesn’t end here…

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Who would have thought gardening is quite an adventure!

By: Amber Brookmire

Amber is a graduating senior at the City College of New York, majoring in Anthropology and Jewish Studies. She is participating in the 2012 CCNY-InteRDom Service Learning Program, and will serve as the InteRDom Correspondent in the CUNY system. To read more about Amber and her participation in the Correspondent program, see her profile here.

After spending two weeks working alongside the families of Cielo, we have successfully reached our gardening goals! Each day, we divided ourselves into two groups and headed into the depths of the village to meet a new family and to discover new plot of land. It was quite an adventure to reach some of these gardens. This week alone, I traveled through plantain forests, balanced on logs to cross streams and trudged through a large river with my backpack over my head!

Using a pick, shovel, gardening hoe and rake, we must first till the soil to prepare the canteros and camellones (soil beds). This has been the most challenging aspect of the project because it requires strength and stamina. Thankfully we have a very motivated group of volunteers, so the hard part goes by quickly with lots of laughter! The next step is to plan out our grid for planting. I have learned which vegetables can grow next to one another and how much space is needed between them. We then fill the soil beds with spinach, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, cilantro, peppers and tomato. I have been encouraging the families to help us with this process so that they can learn to do it themselves. Everyone, from elders to children, is excited to help transform their land into beautiful vegetable gardens!

In addition to gardening, my CCNY peers and I have been conducting interviews to find out more about some of the families we are assisting. I could see the excitement in their eyes and hear the appreciation in their voices as they described their reasons for participating in the project. Many families have some gardening experience from attending to their corn and plantain fields, but this project brings a positive new element to their life. The creation of these gardens gives them access to organic vegetables at no cost and improves their nutrition by filling their plates with color!

It has been a wonderful and challenging experience to create the gardens in Cielo. After all of our success these past two weeks, I look forward to meeting and working with the families of Bayona next week!

Laws, Food and History!

By: Justine Burke

Justine has completed her first year of study at the University of Georgia School of Law and is one of three students participating in the 2012 pilot of the InteRDom Correspondent Program. She is participating in the 2012 10-week Graduate and Gap Year Program. You can read more about her, her interest in the Correspondent Program and her career ambitions

We have finally started working! I know you guys were probably thinking I'm here in paradise on vacation all summer long, but we actually have an internship. We work in the legal department of the largest insurance company in Latin America and our supervisor, Doña Josefa, knows everyone who is anyone in Santo Domingo, so we’ve done a lot of rotating between different legal departments within the city so that we can, in her words, "saber todo de la ley dominicana! (know everything about Dominican law!)." We've been to both traffic and criminal courts to observe the differences in the legal systems (as compared to the American legal system) and there are definitely a lot. Judges and lawyers here have to wear special robes when in the court room which feature berets adorned with colored balls on top. (Judges wear one color, defense attorneys, another, and so on). Besides that, we generally work in the office and assist the attorneys in the department with whatever tasks they ask of us. Our biggest responsibility is to review policies to ensure that the general and specific conditions of the policies offered by the company are in accordance with relevant Dominican law. No matter what, though, we aren't allowed to speak English in the office. Our coworkers are so excited to help us better our Spanish!

Outside of work, I finally made it to the beach. My roommates and I have been to Boca Chica twice, and although I thought it was beautiful, apparently it’s nowhere close to being the nicest beach the country has to offer. The sand was white and the water, the most beautiful turquoise I have ever seen, so I can't even imagine anything being more amazing that that. It was more gorgeous than any beach I've ever seen in the States. How nice it must be so nice to live here and have your pick of alluring beaches! Anyway, while we were lounging on the beach vendors came up to us selling everything ranging from fresh seafood and coconuts to CDs and wooden sculptures. There were also food stands that sold fresh fish which the vendors fried on the spot. Being the adventurous eater that I am, I just had to try. L and A were too scared to try, so my newest roommate and I split a plate of fried fish (it was HUGE) and tostones. It was so delicious!
                                                                                                                                              In cultural excursion news, last weekend we took a three and a half hour tour through the Colonial Zone. We visited a cathedral in the heart of the zone which I was told was the oldest gothic cathedral standing in the Americas, dating back to the 16th century. I thought it was absolutely beautiful despite the fact that laid within the floors and walls were the tombs of countless men who had been buried there centuries before. The most interesting part about the cathedral, though, was that it housed the tomb of Christopher Columbus! Yes, the Christopher Columbus that we all read about in school books who “sailed the Ocean Blue” in 1492! Although we couldn't actually enter the tomb since it was roped off, it was still cool to be that close to a piece of history that I have heard so much about.