10 Life Lessons Learned in 10 Days

I was nowhere prepared for everything my trip the Dominican Republic was going to change me to be. I’ve traveled to foreign counties alone in the past; in fact I spent five months away from home studying abroad. Parts of the Dominican Republic are indeed like parts of the places I traveled to while I was abroad. However, working and living in areas with extreme poverty taught me significantly different life lessons than the ones I learned abroad. Every single day I was there taught me something a little bit different, so here are the 10 life lessons my 10 days in the Dominican Republic taught me…


Day1: Today was full of lots of traveling, and a long day at that. 6 hours later than we were supposed to, we were finally on our way to the Dominican Republic. Although frustrated on a number of levels that day, the long wait was well worth it in the end…

Life lesson #1: Patience is key – life is better, and easier, when you just go with the flow.


Updated Group PicDay 2: Today we got the opportunity to visit the Joe Hartman School for the first time, which is the school I will be doing construction on a majority of the week. We didn’t do any physical construction, but we got the chance to meet and play with some of the kids who lived in that area. We also got to see some families who lived close to the school. I watched the way that siblings took care of each other and how close some of the families were…

Life lesson #2: Spend time with your family, for they’re the ones that are there for you in even the toughest times.


Day 3: Today we returned back to the Joe Hartman School and got the chance to meet the children who attend the school. In order to afford going to this school, a majority of the kids are sponsored, meaning they have someone who pays a set price a year that covers everything they may need for school, such as textbooks and uniforms. Today I made the decision to sponsor a child, a little girl named Wilna who is twelve years old and in the third grade, and it may be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made…

 Life lesson #3: You may not be able to change the entire world, but every little bit counts (even if it just means changing one person’s world).


Day 4: Today was the start of actual construction at the Joe Hartman School. We are building a cafeteria to allow these kids to go to school for more than just a half a day. A handful of these kids live over 40 minutes away, walking distance from school so they can’t really go home for lunch and come back. Meanwhile, in America we get to choose which school we go to, such as choosing which university we go to. These kids are lucky if they can afford going to school up until the 5th grade…

 Life lesson #4: Don’t take what you have for granted, like education, clean running water, food on the table, shoes on your feet, a meal 3+ times a day, etc. It seems cliché and pretty obvious, but trust me when I say you really don’t know the value of it all until you see what it’s like living without it.


Day 5: Today I decided to try doing construction in Batey 50, which years ago was one of the poorest areas in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to mission teams that have been coming the past 5 years or so, these people went from having nothing to having a school, garden, and 50 houses with a place to cook and an actual roof over their heads. The people of Batey 50 were all so cheerful and incredibly appreciative for the work we were doing there. Even with the work we’ve done, they still don’t have a lot. They still live in poverty and struggle every day. However, I promise they were all still smiling, happy as can be…

Life lesson #5: You can find happiness anywhere, with anyone, or with anything – there is always a reason to smile. Some of the happiest people are the ones who have the least in life.


Med TeamDay 6: Today I decided to try being a part of the medical team. I was in charge of giving out an anti-parasite juice that would hopefully prevent a lot of the people from getting a parasite in the future. This lasted about an hour, so the rest of the time I shadowed a few of the medical professionals and played with the children. At first I was unsure of how I was going to like all of this. A reason I liked doing construction so much was because I felt as if I was making a physical difference in the world. Later on, though, I realized that being a part of med team, even if my role was so small, was also making such an amazing difference in the lives of so many people…

Life lesson #6: Everyone has a purpose – whether it’s to build houses, provide medical care, hand out food, or even just play with children, everyone in the world has an ability that makes them so special and gives them that purpose in life.


Day 7: One random thing that stood out to me today was the lack of technology I had been using the past 6 days. The Wi-Fi was very limited, and I never had it when I was out working. Even when we would get back at night it was difficult to use, especially because everyone would try to use it at the same time. I eventually decided to ignore the Wi-Fi and play cards with some of the other people on the trip instead of staying up in the room to check social media and all of that. It was definitely a change, but a very nice break from the world…

Life lesson #7: It’s important to spend time disconnected from the rest of the world (yes, that means away from technology and social media…I promise it’s doable).


Day 8: Today was the last official workday. This meant it was also unfortunately the last time I was going to see a lot of my Dominican friends meaning I had to say goodbye to everyone, and I hate goodbyes. When we had a class meeting earlier in the week, our professor mentioned that it would eventually be Friday and we would all be sitting here wondering where the hell the time went. Well, he wasn’t wrong. They’re not kidding when they say time flies when you’re having fun…

Life lesson #8: Don’t take time for granted, because it does go by too quickly, always.


Day 9: Today was Batey 50 Day, a day to celebrate the fact that all 50 houses were officially complete in Batey 50. It was a day full of games music, dancing, and definitely a lot of smiles. At the end of the night people were asked to share an experience from the trip that made the most impact on them. There were some pretty astonishing stories, such as this 8-year-old boy who shared about how he had used his birthday money this past year to sponsor a child. After hearing everyone’s stories, I came to the conclusion that…

Life lesson #9: This world is full of some pretty incredible, and big-hearted people. Even though they may be becoming scarcer, I promise they’re out there and they’re out there to make a difference in this world.


Day 10: I’m sitting here on the plane ride home thinking about all of the emotions that are running through my head. I’m sad to be leaving the beautiful country and the beautiful people I met there. I’m happy to be going home to my family and a few of the luxuries I will admit I missed a little. I’m excited to share my story with the rest of the world. I’m nervous no one is truly going to understand everything I have gone through the past 10 days. And I’m confused as to why more people don’t go out and do these types of things. Imagine if every single person in this world gave a little something to someone who has far less than him or her; imagine the impact that would make. I may not have changed the world while I was there, and I’ve come to accept that. However, I am also determined to continue trips like these, eventually making a difference in the world…

Life lesson #10: It’s important to go out there and do something. Take advantage of the fact that you might have the opportunity to make a difference in the world even if you’re just changing the world for a small group of people. Big or small, I promise it matters and is important in a crazy world like ours.


QUAlthough a lot of these may seem cliché to some, I realized while I was in the Dominican Republic that all of these lessons became more valued in life after physically experiencing everything for my own. I can read about the hardships of other countries in the world, but it’s hard to actually know what these people go through without seeing it with your own eyes. In these short 10 days I helped build a cafeteria so children can go to school for more than half a day, provided medical assistance to those who don’t even have access to something as simple as Tylenol, helped build a playground for children to play on, distributed food to families who had none, decided to sponsor a child to go to school every year, and experienced so many other incredible things and met so many amazing people along the way. Just think about the world, and the people in it, and what little difference a positive attitude and a big heart can make. I’m grateful for the things I have, for the people who constantly support me, and for everything this trip made me to be.

-Brianna Nork

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