By Stephanie Vazquez, Class of 2018

When I got my acceptance letter to the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine, I was incredibly excited. It wasn’t until I started packing that it hit me—in just a few short weeks, I’d be leaving my family, my friends, and my home and moving to Antigua. Instead of allowing the unknown to make me nervous or homesick, I wanted to make the most of the adventure ahead of me. These are a few things I did to make that possible:

Arrive early

I arrived a few days before we were expected in Antigua for Registration.  My sister traveled with me and we purposely chose a resort far from campus so I’d have the chance to experience this beautiful island as a vacationer and not as a student. I spent a couple days exploring the island, wandering around downtown St. John’s, chatting with locals, enjoying the beach, and eating delicious Caribbean food. Because I arrived early, I was able to begin acclimating to my new home at my own pace.


I came to Antigua not knowing anyone from home or what to expect from my peers.  When I went to the airport to meet the incoming students, I suddenly became anxious. As we greeted everyone at arrivals, I noticed that we all had that same nervous, puzzled look on our faces and at that moment I realized that though we all come from different cultures or different parts of the world, we are united by a common goal—to become successful doctors. Keeping that in mind and recognizing that we all had the same trepidation helped me overcome those “first day of school” jitters.

Don’t be afraid to make the first move, we’re all looking to make friends. At Registration, I took the initiative to introduce myself, make conversation, and coordinate plans. You always remember the friends you make on your first day. We spent a day at the beach, had dinner at a local favorite restaurant, and went dancing downtown.

Keep an open mind

Antigua is going to be my home for the next two years and I knew that if I didn’t appreciate every dirt road and understand the people who live here, I wouldn’t be able to fully commit myself to this adventure. Admittedly, it is scary when you first get here and you feel all alone with no internet, no friends, and no direction, but everyone is going through the same thing.  We are here to become doctors and that means it’s our instinct to take care of others, but that starts on the first day by taking care of each other.

You go to medical school to study hard and learn how to become a successful doctor, but going to a Caribbean medical school is about so much more.  Immediately, we learn how to adapt to a new environment and embrace other cultures and I believe this will make me a more compassionate physician.  If we don’t cherish our surroundings and appreciate the people who have allowed us to come to their island, how can we ever be good doctors? Instead of worrying about the unknown, I started classes loving my new island and excited for the journey to come.

Meet Dr. Vazquez on Oct. 5

Want to hear more about Dr. Vazquez’s journey? Come meet her at our upcoming enrollment event in Puerto Rico, slated for October 5, 2019. Learn more and register.