For me, Preclinical Sciences in Antigua did not come with culture shock or homesickness because Antigua was already my second home. I stayed with my parents, understood the dialect and did not have to acculturate. For the few of us who are Antiguan at AUA, being in Antigua for sixteen months was no big deal. However, for the other 98% of students, this move was no doubt a scary adventure to a place with no family, and whose locals speak a language that did not sound like English.
How do you cope with all of that, plus focus on studying? Fortunately, homesickness can easily be overcome with the internet and video chat. Many people use Vonage or Skype VOIP services – I prefer Skype because if you can convince your parents to download Skype, you can chat for free anytime and can even see each other with video chat. Now, to get used to the new culture, there are four important points.
- The official language in Antigua is ENGLISH (shocker?). Yes, there is a dialect, but no one will address a tourist (which is what students are) in dialect unless they get carried away or excited. Don’t be offended. If you don’t understand what someone says, it is perfectly okay to say so and ask them to speak slower.
- In any Caribbean island you visit, things run on Caribbean time, not American time. Relax, take your time, and be patient – things will get done eventually.
- An important saying in West Indian culture is “manners maketh the man.” Growing up, youth were taught to respect their elders and to be friendly to everyone. A simple “good morning” when entering a room will reap more positive experiences with people encountered.
- All West Indians love to party. Antiguans are no different. During your time in Antigua, you will likely experience Carnival, Independence, and Sailing Week, as well as countless parties and holiday celebrations. Get involved! Experience the fun side of living in Antigua, but don’t party too much – remember why you are here!
Finally, take some time in-between studying to explore the island. Discover a new beach; check out Devil’s bridge, English Harbor or even Barbuda. Eat local Antiguan food like Pepperpot, Dukuna, Saltfish, and Fungee. This is a unique opportunity, and you want to be able to say that not only did you study there – you truly experienced Antigua.
by Jasmine Riviere Marcelin, Class of 2011