Daniel Mendez Martinez, March '16

Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student/scholar by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to intnl@lehigh.edu.

1) Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying here at Lehigh? When will you be done with your studies? 

Well… I am from the Dominican Republic, I am from a very small coastal town that is called Enriquillo Barahona.  My parents moved to the city of Santo Domingo in order for us to get an education. Here at Lehigh, I am studying to be a teacher. My masters is in Teaching, Learning and Technology but focusing on K-12 education and curriculum design, and I’ll be done with my masters in May this year. Also, I am an INICIA-Fulbright scholar.


2) So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The faculty? The students? Your housing?

About Lehigh, it has been a very nice experience since I started. When I came here, I was welcomed by Bill Hunter and also all the Fulbrighters. The first person that I met was Fayaz. People showed me the campus… it was beautiful experience... I thought Lehigh’s campus came out of a Harry Potter novel. On the other hand, the faculty has been very amazing. I have enjoyed working them, they have been very helpful. And for housing, I live very close to campus. I have some mixed feelings, but I like the experience so far… even if it’s not “on campus”, I feel like it’s still on campus.

3) While you're only just beginning to discover America in terms of the culture, language, ideals, and traditions, what have you learned so far?

What I have learned so far is that I cannot assume things related to stereotypes. Because I do not look like the typical Dominican. I mean, people in my country will believe that I am from Mexico, Central America or South America, and now, here at Lehigh, people believe that I’m from India or middle eastern which I find very funny. But anywhere I go people just assume things so I have taken that into consideration, not to assume what I have heard and what I have listened to. Instead, I just like to ask, but in a... in a political correct manner. So I have practiced that a lot since I came here… and yeah, that’s actually what I learned... my insight here about North American culture.

4) What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?

I would say that we are very loud… like TOO loud haha. Like you would be… people having a conversation from one corner to another, yelling at each other and that would just be the most normal thing about that. And also it is... it is warm the whole year. That’s weather wise but people are… I would say they are friendlier, they are warmer, they will visit you without being announced and I mean that’s fine. Just like “oh how are you? Let’s have some coffee or have some juice!” But yeah here you need to definitely… if you’re gonna go to someone’s house, you need to call them and let them know that you’re gonna be there. But Dominicans we don’t respect that kind of privacy haha!

5) Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country.

Daily life for me was just wake up very early because the traffic jam, it’s just crazy! I mean the city has just become very cramped and there’s a lot of people around! Not everybody has a car and so we use public transportation… I am just the typical Dominican that takes public transportation and in order for me to go to work... I need to leave my house before so I can cross the other side of the city in order to get to my job… otherwise it would take me like 1 hour and a half or two hours just to get there. Because if I just get stuck in traffic, it would be crazy. But either way, I mean after you finish your job, you can go hang out with your coworkers and during the weekends, we definitely try to get together. There’s a lot of music around... On Thursdays, you see people already celebrating anything, it doesn’t matter what it is… but celebrating anything. And like during the weekend, we just… it’s just a party that starts on Thursday and finishes very late on Sunday.

6) What are your hobbies? Interests?

I belong to J-FEST group that organizes events for geeky Dominicans. It’s like COMICON but in Dom. Rep check our website on Facebook.  That being said… I’m a very geeky person… So I like a lot of video games and board games. This is not something, I would say, very common in Dominicans. Video games, Anime, board games like Dungeons and Dragons, magic… I like to watch a lot of TV series and read books. I like science fiction books and also fantasy books like Harry Potter… or The Hobbit. All that kind of magic stuff, I just love it. Something that I really liked before I came to the Dominican Republic is inside tourism, just to get to know my country. I like to go outside and explore… explore things that are available to me.

7) What kinds of adventures have you been on here in the US?

Well as I mentioned, I like the outdoors. I like to explore. I have taken all the opportunities that Lehigh provides… sometimes there are trips to different places and if I have time, I would take it. I visited some parks and water parks nearby that are available only in the summer because of the winter. And also, I have taken trips to DC, to New York, to Philly and anything that Lehigh has provided to me. Now I am taking another opportunity. I haven’t been in Broadway so next weekend, there is the Chicago musical and I want to go to Broadway. That’s something that I’ve always been dreaming to go to!

8) What do you miss most about your home country?

Food! And I would say also my friends. Food so far, I have found like two places here at Lehigh that reminds me to my home country so I would say that I do not miss it that much because also I can cook that food haha. But yeah I would say the weather and it’s so funny, I mean in DR you can... you can ask somebody and tell “hey, how you doing? You wanna hang out?” - “Sure! Let’s get together. Let’s do something together” then we would do that. We would start a gathering out of nowhere. That is something that is very nice about Dominicans. We are very friendly so if we get the choice to party or just to hang out, I mean we will definitely get together and do it.

9) Would you like to share one tradition that is unique and important in your home country?

Easter – I found that Easter… it’s a Catholic holiday and the Dominican Republic is a very religious country. In Easter time, there is something that every Dominican looks forward and is to have sweet beans. So sweet beans is a dessert, obviously made of beans – I love it. Last year I made sweet beans for Easter time and I shared with everybody like how delicious it is to have sweet beans. But Easter, something funny about Easter, I don’t know how they do it in the U.S. but in the Dominican Republic, this is just another way to escape from the city. People leave the city and they go to the countryside to visit their families and sometimes they have… if you’re very religious, you’ll follow the rules of Catholicism that you will not eat certain specific things when that season starts until the end of it. And also, I don’t know if also they do it here but I like to do something special for New Year ’s Eve. Dominicans like to go the beach. When it’s New Year’s eve, you go to the beach during sunrise and when it’s sunrise, you put yourself from the back and you throw yourself to the beach and then that means that the sea take everything bad from last year. And then everything bad will be washes away from the sea so that you can start all over.

10) If someone was going to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?

Depends on the interest obviously. If people wanna visit the Dominican Republic, they usually go to the tourist towns, to the resorts. If you just like that, that’s totally cool. But if you like adventures, that’s not the place to go. If you like adventures, if you like to visit places, I would tell you go to the North. I would tell you to go to Cayo Levantado in February. Like right now in late February and the beginning of March, it’s like when the whales start to visit and then at night you can listen to them getting together with each other. You can listen to them, it’s very beautiful so they’ve… sing in that particular area, the waters are very warm, that’s when they deliver their babies. So… and on the north side, if you like watersports, the beaches are amazing. Now if you like mountain climbing or climbing mountains, or go hiking, you go to the middle because it’s very mountainous. There’s a lot of adventures and caves that you can go to. The Dominican Republic has a lot of things that you can do but it depends on your interest.