Be the Change: Learning through Service

Summer 2017

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
May 16 - June 6, 2017 (tentative) 

Program Highlights

  • Learn about Dominican culture
  • Enjoy beautiful Caribbean beaches
  • Volunteer in the community (service projects are yet to be determined but may include painting houses and/or murals, directing games/sports/crafts for local school children, building/repairing playgrounds, beach/park cleaning, and working in the library)
  • Hike to El Salto del Limon waterfall
  • Go ziplining in Samana
  • Take Bachata lessons and put them to use in the local dance clubs
  • Practice your Spanish language skills (proficiency is not required, but familiarity is helpful)

Program Description

"Be the change you wish to see in the world" is a well-known Gandhi quote. On this program, students will learn how one family has been living out this quote to make a lasting impact on the community of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. Students will be both challenged and inspired by this experience: challenged by the social justice issues they will encounter and inspired by the spirit of the Dominican people and the realization that every person has the ability to positively impact others and make a difference in the world. 

Las Terrenas is a small tourist town on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, where an Afro-Caribbean culture and more than 40 nationalities converge in a community of 20,000 people in the midst of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. The nicest beaches, greenest pastures, waterfalls, springs and wonderful sunsets are part of the day-to-day experience that also includes daunting poverty, sexual exploitation, too much garbage and the challenges of a town that has grown too much, too soon, too fast.

Students will participate in a variety of service projects in collaboration with Fundación Mahatma Gandhi (FMG). FMG is a volunteer organization co-founded and directed by José Bourget and his wife, Annette Snyder. José was CSB/SJU's first director of the Cultural Enrichment Office, which is now the Office of Intercultural and International Student Services. Since 2007, more than 200 CSB/SJU students have volunteered at FMG through Alternative Break Experience (ABE) trips and Nursing programs.

This program will be very similar to an ABE trip, although the longer stay allows for a greater variety of service projects, more excursions, independent exploration of the local community, and apartment-style living in which students will experience shopping at local markets and cooking meals together. Participants should be prepared to do a significant amount of walking as well as manual labor in weather that is typically sunny and 75 to 90 degrees.

While all students are welcome to apply, this program is an especially good choice for first year students and students who have never traveled abroad. Experiencing a new culture for the first time, particularly that of a developing country, can be emotionally overwhelming. For this reason, tourist accommodations were chosen so students would be able to return to the "comforts of home" each night to reflect upon their experiences of the day.

Program Cost

The estimated Program Fee is $2,300. Students will not earn credits for this program, so there is no additional charge for tuition.

This price includes:

  • Round-trip international airfare from Minneapolis to Santo Domingo
  • Tourist fee (required to be paid upon arrival)
  • Accommodations during the program
  • Shared grocery budget and group meals
  • Local transportation
  • Scheduled excursion expenses
  • Program administrative costs and fees

The Program Fee does not include:

  • Personal spending money for souvenirs or snacks/beverages in addition to what is provided
  • Cost of meals/snacks in the airport(s)
  • Activities, housing or transportation not associated with or included in the program.


Students will stay in two furnished condos in a gated community located just across the road from the beach. The complex has a swimming pool, modern conveniences (including WIFI), housekeeping 3 days per week, and 24-hour security. 


Tracy Gust first traveled to Las Terrenas in 2010 as the staff co-leader for an Alternative Break Experience (ABE) trip over spring break. She has since been back for five more ABE trips, two family/friend service trips, a four-week "mini-sabbatical" in May 2015, and last year's inaugural May term service program. Tracy has worked as a Senior Accountant in the SJU Business Office since 2005, is a member of the Intercultural Directions Council, serves on the committees for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and Sex Trafficking Awareness Week, and is facilitator for Bystander Intervention Training.