What Makes AUA (and Antigua) Unique
I’ve never blogged before. That’s why when I was asked to blog about my experiences as an AUA student, what excitement I had was short-lived and promptly replaced by a foreboding sense of apprehension. I realized I wasn’t sure I had anything to say and imagined myself staring catatonically at my laptop screen. If I did manage to find something to say, how would it be received? Would AUA’s administration rain hellfire and damnation down on me if they didn’t like what I had to say? Yikes. After some soul searching, I eventually came to the realization that my cluttered medical student brain had more to say than I may have suspected and that I’d take my chances in the name of the truth! As it turned out, it wasn’t so bad.
We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Notwithstanding my biases as a native Antiguan, Antigua boasts miles of golden sandy beaches with cerulean waters that stretch on like something from a Derek Walcott poem (for those of you who don’t get the reference, the Antiguan in me had to make a region-appropriate reference—think Yeats). Thousands of tourists come here annually to tan-red on our seaboard, eat shellfish, and escape the helter-skelter of metropolitan living or the humdrum of daily life. The land is littered with vestiges of Antigua’s colonial and pre-colonial history—stone sugar mills and Scottish war-cannons are common sights here— and there is no shortage of things to see and learn. With our ducana, fungi and saltfish, and rice pudding (not exactly what it sounds like), Antiguan cuisine offers something uniquely Caribbean for the most adventurous and discriminating diners to enjoy.
Before I get carried away, I should say that I don’t mention all of this to harp on about the merits of the tourist industry here. What I do want to talk about is the fact that on most days (with the exception of the days after minis), many of us do not get the opportunity to bask on a beach or get engrossed in the sights in our Caribbean Shangri-La – we are happily confined to the cubicles of our library.
I personally chose to come to AUA because, after 4 years of undergrad in Atlanta, I wanted the chance to study at home, closer to my family. I knew that there were certain challenges inherent in attending an offshore medical school but decided to cast my lot with the faculty and staff of AUA and it’s a decision I’ll stand by. One of the first things I noticed when I started was how incredibly diverse the school was. There were as many accents in our walkways as one would hear at a train station in downtown New York — okay, maybe not as many but you get the picture. Even our professors seemed to come from everywhere— England, Russia, Tanzania, Germany. It became very apparent once classes had begun, however, that getting used to unfamiliar accents would be the least of our struggles and that my classmates and I would have a colossal task ahead of us and for many including myself, the first semester was a baptism of fire.
It’s been just over a year since then and I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve also learned a lot about AUA and its students. It’s been quite the journey, for students and for the administration, faculty, and staff. I think the most important thing to say, however, is that where passionate people are gathered, for any reason there will be conflict. That when both hope and stakes are high, there will be disappointment. What makes us special is that we at AUA have a peculiar gumption in the face of challenges and disenchantment; we are here because, in spite of our backgrounds, in spite of our limitations, in spite of our circumstances, we have a goal we are determined to achieve— to become physicians. I believe that same gumption is held by the faculty members at AUA, who are personally invested in our growth and success. I really do believe that.
Whenever my conviction is shaken, I know that all I’d have to do is turn to the left and to the right to look at the students all about me. Some who would have come before me, others who would be there long after I’m gone, and I see the way we fill the library like a left ventricle at the end of diastole. Even on public holidays. Even when it storms. These small things remind me that the best among us at AUA will be the best wherever we go.
by Charles Seaton, Class of 2014