Q&A WITH GEORGIA CALIMERES, VISIONS LEADER

Georgia’s time with VISIONS as a leader and director in the Dominican Republic solidified her decision to pursue a Master’s in International Development. 

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Georgia, and I have been working as a leader and program director for VISIONS for the past three summers in the Dominican Republic. As a child to two immigrant parents, cultural exchange and international learning has been a part of my life since birth. I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from Eckerd College, where my love for Latin America was born after a semester abroad in Costa Rica. I am currently based in Washington DC, and am pursuing my master’s in International Development at American University. My academic and professional interests lie in urban and slum development and extreme poverty alleviation. Working my first summer solidified my passion for international development, and the importance of participatory development with VISIONS’ emphasis on community voice and involvement in their educational infrastructure projects in the DR. 

What is your advice for students today who are considering a VISIONS program? 

After leading programs for nearly 150 students over the course of my three summers with VISIONS, I have consistently heard how life-changing of an experience it was. The VISIONS summer is challenging, but will expose you to different cultures, relationships, and experiences that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. For students considering a program in the Dominican Republic, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and speak Spanish with Dominicans regardless of your ability, because you won’t be able to learn or grow unless you try. Language learning can be awkward and difficult, but once you bring down your barriers and speak Spanish regardless of whether it is grammatically correct or not, you’ll find that your immersion experience will be greatly fulfilling and fun!  

In what ways did VISIONS help you develop life skills? 

One of the most powerful skills that VISIONS taught me is authentic, honest, and ethical communication. The program’s emphasis on self and group reflection in spaces like Circle really pushes participants and leaders alike to re-evaluate how they navigate the world and their interpersonal relationships with others. VISIONS has helped me build stronger active listening skills, and the ability to see complex issues from different perspectives. 

How did VISIONS change your perspective of the world?

Working in the Dominican Republic has taught me to slow down and be more mindful in my life. The concept of “island time” is very prevalent in the DR, where things are generally done at a slower pace. This was something that was very difficult for me to adjust to, as American culture is very fast-paced and intense. I began to find a lot of simple joy in simply sitting with our Dominican neighbors and friends and enjoying a cafecito and chatting with them for hours. In these moments, I felt that I could truly connect with the people around me and be present, something that I continually try to implement in my daily life. Living life too fast can make you miss out, and Dominican culture has taught me to slow down and appreciate what’s around me. 

Do you actively volunteer? If so, how?

I am in the process of getting my EMT certification, and plan to devote some of my free time working as a first responder in my local community. I also am a volunteer at American University’s Immigration Lab, where I assist in their ongoing research and conduct qualitative interviews with immigrant diasporas in Washington DC. 

Flathead 1995, Lee Conah, VISIONS Former Director
Dominica 1997, Lee Conah, VISIONS Former Director

Owen Clarke is a writer for VISIONS. A career outdoor journalist, his work appears in 30+ international magazines, including Iron & Air, Climbing, Outside, Rock and Ice, SKI, Trail Runner and The Outdoor Journal. He is also the executive editor of Skydiving Source and Indoor Skydiving Source.

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