Bethel students in the Dominican Republic.

For Krissy Hershberger (’13) and Garrett Penn (’12), spending 14 weeks in the Dominican Republic last fall as part of Bethel’s semester abroad/task force (SATF) program was an eye-opening experience. It truly embodied the SATF mission statement: Discover a world that will move you beyond your limits, stretch your comfort zone and reveal your potential. And though both spent time learning Spanish, exploring the island, engaging in ministry and living with host families, each learned different lessons.

Krissy’s Perspective

As part of her course work, Hershberger, who wanted to pursue social work in the Dominican Republic, was placed at a Microfinance site. And it proved to be a rewarding experience despite it not being her first choice.

“When I found out I was working at the Microfinance site, I was a little disappointed,” says Hershberger. “However, God had other plans for me, and it was so much better than I could have imagined.”

The site consisted of six small groups of women and a few men who owned a small store, shop, salon or other business in the city of Jarabacoa. Though the site’s main focus was on financial and business issues, weekly meetings provided her with a time for fellowship and support, including prayer, Bible studies and songs.

“As a business major, I loved learning so much about small business and working with people; however, the site was more than just finances,” says Hershberger. “It showed me how to work and communicate with people better, improved my Spanish skills and gave me an opportunity to work with women and build relationships.”

Garrett’s Perspective

For Penn, being the only guy from Bethel in the Dominican presented some challenges.

“The most difficult part of the trip was not having another student living with me in my host home — someone with whom I could share experiences or speak to in English,” explained Penn.

However, he found the experience to be very rewarding because he did not have the added distraction of living with another American. Penn instead focused on getting to know his host family and the people in his community.

“The relationships I built with them far outweighed the initial discomfort of being the only male,” said Penn. “The experience also forced me to rely more heavily on God, especially in difficult and uncomfortable moments. I grew a lot in my faith during my time in the DR because at times God was the only one I could talk to in [my] language.”

Watch students share their Study Abroad experiences:

Watch a chapel promo for Study Abroad – PacRim vs. DR: