A Year to Remember

Since 1998 students taking a year out after school with the charity Project Trust have been volunteering with COPA. Here Alice Creasy reflects on her experiences.

ALICE CREASY taught art in La Hoya in 2013—2014

When I left for the Dominican Republic in August of 2013 little did I know that the year ahead of me would be one of the most important and influential years of my life so far. It is only now while I start to prepare for my next big adventure (a year studying at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver) that I can appreciate how much my year teaching at COPA has made me a
stronger, more confident, self-aware individual who is just that little bit more prepared to take on and make sense of the world.

Months of preparation were followed by the heartbreak of leaving my mum at the airport and arriving tired and apprehensive in the sweltering heat, unsure if I was ready to face the huge challenges ahead of me. I remember struggling through the first few months, slowly breaking language barriers, trying new food, learning the names of students, planning and delivering lessons
and coping with bouts of home sickness.

By Christmas, although I was happy, I still didn’t feel comfortable and I was starting to worry that I never would until just after we returned from a holiday at New Year when it all seemed to click into place. I could have conversations and even joke in Spanish without really thinking, I had the confidence to make real friends with the people the I wanted to be friends with (many of who I am still in contact with today), names of students aligned with faces and I felt accepted, comfortable in a place that had seemed so overwhelming and different. From not wanting to leave Scotland, after twelve months I didn’t want to come home again!

I had the privilege of getting to know members of an amazing community

From my fabulous, exhilarating, unforgettable year in this wonderful country I have gained so much. I had the privilege of getting to know members of an amazing community, I taught some of the
cheekiest, funniest, most resilient children I have ever met, I overcame my own stereotypes of other cultures and saw people as people rather than the distant ‘other’ as they are so often portrayed. I am well aware that as an individual I learned more from the people I met than I gave to them but at the same time I was able to see the amazing work that comes about when
people come together and are able to make a real difference. I saw that it isn’t a case of give and take but a balance, mix and sharing of different skills and resources from different people and parts of the world that helps to foster change. COPA work so hard in these communities to provide the best educational experience they can and it is a organisation I am proud to have had even a small part in.

COPA work so hard in these communities to provide the best educational experience they can and it is a organisation I am proud to have had even a small part in.

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