The Delta Airlines, Boeing 737-800 jet lurched and the tires chirped as it touched down on the runway of Antigua’s VC Byrd Intl. Airport. My face was glued to the window as I was surveying the area that was going to be my home for the next few years. From 30,000 feet, it looked pretty nice. White sandy beaches, clear turquoise water, and lush green hills. It looked nice and comfortable from the air-conditioned cabin. That all came to an abrupt end when the door opened and the heat and humidity of the Caribbean air came rushing into the cabin. I had come straight from a ski resort at 10,000 feet above sea level not even a full two days prior to this. I was wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. As I made my way down the air stairs, I felt like I had walked into a wall of humidity. I quickly realized my clothing choice was a huge mistake! I would not see those jeans or a sweatshirt till the next time I landed in the United States.
Yes, life did take a bit of adjustment living here. The humidity was killing me and it was only January. After a couple of years, I realized it to be one of the coolest and nicest times of the year here. Before I lived here, I used to describe cool in January as a temperature below zero Fahrenheit. Now I describe it as when the temperature falls below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I guess that shows what happens to you when you’ve lived here for 3 1/2 years. Now the only times I wear pants and closed toe shoes is when I have a meeting or small group class. Normally it is shorts, sandals, and the ever present sunglasses – I have the sunglasses tan to prove it.
I am a ‘non-traditional student,’ so I came back to school after years of working. I chose to start in the pre-med program at AICASA and matriculate into AUA College of Medicine. Even though it has required me to spend 3 1/2 years here, I am still very glad that I did. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to study and truly be prepared for the rigors of medical school. I fully realize that the title ‘Caribbean Medical School‘ is not always synonymous with the most prestigious of medical educations but the curriculum is every bit as difficult and demanding. We learn to compete with the best medical students any U.S. school will produce.
My life has changed since I’ve been here. Antigua has most of the modern amenities of home, but it is still nothing like living in the U.S. The things we take for granted in the U.S, you quickly learn to not take them for granted here. I don’t say these things to scare anyone or paint a picture that life is bad here. It is just different but in a good way. It gives you a better understanding of the world and different cultures. Yes, I see goats on my way to school nearly every single day – occasionally they even cause traffic jams. I also ride my motorcycle by a pristine beach every single day on the way to school. I try very hard never to take that view for granted, but I know I have made that trip well over 1000 times now and I do occasionally forget to enjoy the scenery. I don’t get to spend much time on the beach here, but I do get to at least ride by one on the way to school. I have to remind myself that I am here for a medical education, not for a vacation.
I landed here for the first time on January 2, 2010, and I will admit I didn’t like it much when I first got here. Now, 3 1/2 years later, I realize that I will be leaving here for good in a little over 4 months from now and I know I am going to miss it. As much as this rock in the middle of the Atlantic has not always been the place I’ve always wanted to be, Antigua has become my home. I know a lot of people here and I wave at countless people anywhere I go on the island. Even people in the line at the bank or the checker at the grocery store say hello. Although they don’t know me personally, they have seen me around. I have had challenges and struggles beyond my wildest imagination here, but I have been able to overcome them. In the end, they have made me a stronger person and I hope they will make me a better doctor.
by Ryan Groshon, Class of 2014