Johnna Belkiewitz

Location:  Las Canas, Dominican Republic
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Term Abroad: Spring Break '17

Major: Neuroscience

Career Plans: Physical Therapy: Nonprofit Management

What’s your best memory from your time abroad?

My best memories from my trip to the Dominican Republic were the patient interactions during clinic. Having the opportunity for one-on-one interactions allowed me to gain valuable insight into what my future career may encompass.

Academic Planning

The Timmy Global Health Medical Brigade is a one credit hour class. We had seven pre-trip classes where we learned about Dominican culture, the history of the Island of Hispaniola, and public health issues affecting the area. After our trip, we had two additional class periods, during which we had the opportunity to reflect and share our personal experiences.

Initial Thought on Arrival

I have traveled quite a bit outside of the United States; however, each experience is unique for different reasons. From initial arrival, I was swept up in the rich and vibrant history of the Dominican culture. It was neat to see the things that I had studied in class come alive before my eyes.


Each morning we would eat breakfast and jump on the bus to travel to our clinic site for the day. We provided general medical services in five different communities—three rural Dominican communities and two Haitian bateyes. At clinic, we had the opportunity to rotate through roles in triage, scribing, and pharmacy. Not having any prior experience in a clinic setting, I learned a lot! Over the course of the week, we were able to provide care for over 475 patients. At the end of each day, we were allowed time for group reflection and personal journal writing.


We stayed at the 7 Elements Lodge in Las Canas. This beautiful eco lodge provided separate rooms for males and females. We each chose a bunk and made ourselves a home. The Lodge compound had two outdoor pools, a ping-pong table, and several covered shelters that provided the perfect setting for late night card games. The only caveat about staying in an eco lodge was that we weren’t allowed to kill anything, including giant spiders.

Leisure & Travel

The lodge that we stayed in was a five-minute walk from the beach, so after a long day at clinic we were able to relax and enjoy the waves. On our free day, we bused over to a popular tourist beach, Puerto Plata, for a fun day of sun and shopping.


We worked alongside Dominican doctors and both Dominican and Haitian translators during clinic. Through this experience we were able to compare and contrast physician practices between the Dominican Republic and the United States. Several of the students on our trip were fluent in Spanish, but it was not a requirement. Even as an elementary-level Spanish speaker, it was a valuable experience to gain exposure to native use of both Spanish and Creole.

Money Matters

In country, we paid out of pocket for very little. Some students brought extra cash for our beach day and for souvenirs. I was very fortunate to have scholarships that helped pay for my study abroad experience. I had financial support from the International Experience Scholarship and from the Honors College Study Abroad Stipend. For students who are interested in an international experience, I strongly suggest looking for scholarships through the Office of Study Abroad and your specific school. 


Take advantage of the opportunity to travel internationally while you’re still in school. It may seem overwhelming to apply to a study abroad program when you feel bogged down with general coursework, but I can almost guarantee that the only regret that you’ll have is not doing it!