Dominican Republic Reflections - Jocelyn Robertson

Reflections on the Dominican Republic

by Jocelyn J. Robertson

Traveling to the Dominican Republic with ODI has easily been one of the top defining moments of my Ohio State experience. I could not be more thankful for the opportunity I had to travel outside of the country with some of the top performing ODI scholars at Ohio State.

While in the Dominican Republic, we had the wonderful experience of staying in Santiago de Los Caballeros. This gave us the opportunity to truly be immersed in the culture and witness the dynamics we learned about in lecture play out in everyday Dominican life. I learned a lot in a short amount of time, but I would say there were a few things that stood out the most:

1) Race dynamics and race classifications look differently depending on cultural context.

A majority of the island is considered to be “mixed” with many of them showing visible traits of their African ancestors. However, I found when I asked people to describe their race or ethnicity, it was rare that someone described themselves as Black or Afro-Latino.

2) It was rare to see someone rocking their naturally curly hair.

All of the girls who traveled with us from Ohio State wore their hair in natural hair styles whether that be curly or in braids. But when observing the women around us, most of them had their hair straightened. I initially thought this may be a product of Eurocentric beauty standards, but, when visiting the schools, some of the girls mentioned that they loved our curly hair. This provoked curiosity about the reason women and girls in the Dominican Republic straighten their hair and why curly hair was initially seen as “pelo malo.”

3) The conversations we have about diversity and inclusion here in the United States are not necessarily the same ones they have in the Dominican Republic.

This is likely because diversity and inclusion looks different depending on the demographics and psychographics in an area. Additionally, I noticed that when the topic of diversity was brought up, the first response was usually to talk about the ratio of Dominicans to Haitians. I found there to be parallels with this response to how people view diversity in the United States. Often times when talking about diversity and inclusion here in the United States, the go-to response is to look at the ratio of White people to African American & Latinx.

I could not have been more thankful to have gone on this trip. Not only has it given me a new perspective of another country, but it has also helped to shape my personal and professional goals in pursuing international marketing. First goal on that list is to become fluent in my family's mother tongue, Spanish, and I can't wait to get started!