New Country, New School
A few weeks ago, I moved to Antigua and Barbuda to attend American University of Antigua School of Medicine. Although, I was sad to leave my friends at SGU I’m excited to start my new journey at AUA. I haven’t told many people because everything has happened so fast. Now, I get a chance to document my time in another new country. Yay!!
February 12, 2017
So my transition to American University of Antigua is coming along and I’m beginning to learn my surroundings. I’ve opted to lease a car for the semester to make my life easier. I wasn’t trying to play any games with dealing with the transportation system here. If the bus system is anything like SGU’s transportation system, I’ll pass.
Driving has taken some adjustment since Antigua drives on the opposite side of the road from the US. Even the driver’s side sits on the right. Luckily, the drivers aren’t as terrible as other Caribbean islands.
Orientation is typically the week before classes start. During this time, we confirm we’re on the island, sign up for classes, finalize things with financial-aid, and get the lay of the land. That was Monday & Tuesday. Wednesday was the official welcoming ceremony and the school greeted us with welcome speeches and a bar-b-que. Thursday we sat through a day of introductions from the administration learned important information about the school. Friday we learned we’ll be in debt for the rest of our lives. Some call it financial aid. Friday ended with workshops that gave helpful study tips.
The school ended our orientation week by offering a variety of excursions to attend. We had the option to choose from paddle boarding, Stingray City, sight-seeing at Nelson’s Dock Yard/Shirley Heights or zip-lining through Antigua’s Rainforest.
I chose zip-lining. I had never done it before and well…..I’m adventurous. I wasn’t scared to zip-line but I was scared to hold the rope behind me. The first time I did it, I felt like I was burning my hand so I decided not to hold the rope. As a result, I ended up speeding out of control, flying backwards, and knocking the attendees over because I didn’t know how to brake. 😁
Things were going well until they threw us in an unexpected obstacle course. In order to get back, we had to bungee jump off a 50 foot platform, At the end, tight rope across part of the rainforest, and darn near monkey bar the rest of the way. I’m not kidding. That’s when I started questioning my decision and wondered if I was going to make it back safely. Obviously I did and I’m here to talk about it.
February 14th, 2017
The first and second day of class was pretty light. I know from experience this won’t continue. Yesterday’s classes were mainly reviews of things we should’ve learned in undergrad. All of the professors seem nice. My anatomy professor is a real pleasure. Right off the bat this man came in regulating. All I’ll say, is he snatched my class up real quick. He plays no games.
My only real challenge is the financial aid process. Prior students told me to expect the worse. Unfortunately, they were right. Dealing with financial aid here is awful. I’m now on day 2 and I have yet to receive my award letter or any update when I should expect it. After numerous emails, office visits, and phone calls, nothing. I feel like the entire office is avoiding me. I’ve been in customer service most of my life and lack of effective communication is in the top three of things not to do.
Besides the nightmare of not knowing if I’ll have money, things in my new school are running pretty smoothly. My left side driving gets better everyday and I’m no longer using the windshield wiper as the blinker. I noticed my self leaning on the middle counsel the other day and that’s when I knew I was getting comfortable.
February 18th, 2017
It’s Saturday and I have officially completed my first week in my new school. I started today with sleeping in (8:00 a.m.) and then I got up and headed to the library to spend the day reviewing the weeks material. Luckily, the class material so far hasn’t been challenging. Some of the things I covered in undergrad in two weeks was in a 50 minutes lecture. I’m thankful for taking extra time doing an additional pre-med program.
Back to this financial aid issue. Four days later and still no answers. I’m about 2 more “we don’t know” responses to snapping. I’m trying to be patient and professional but I really feel like this FA department is trying me. I will give them until Monday to get it together until I change my tone.
The problem is a large portion of the prior class last term had to repeat their first semester and that raised red flags with the United States Department of Education for financial aid. I’m not sure of the details but it doesn’t look good. I pray they are able to work things out and get it together. Now the school is trying to make every effort to do everything right. In the mean time, many students are left in limbo.
Why do so many students have to repeat?
Repeating the first semester is extremely common in all Caribbean medical schools. I saw it first hand at SGU and I know it happens at Ross and AUC. In my opinion, most students from the United States that end up in a Caribbean school have a weaker pre-medical foundation upon starting their first semester. Caribbean schools are second chance schools for people like me who really want to follow their dream.
Students tend to have lower GPAs, lower MCAT scores, have been out of school for a while, and/or don’t have a science back ground. So when students get accepted into a Caribbean school and then start the heavy course load it becomes overwhelming. Many schools have bridge programs that will prepare them for the first semester. However, not every student goes through a program. I was lucky enough to complete a bridge program and I pray it helps me at my new school.
Bridge programs are designed to help you succeed in medical school. In my situation, I graduated with a degree in finance, worked for 10 years, and then came back to school. My back ground was not science. Also, my GPA was not 3.75 because I didn’t care to go to medical school 10 years ago and my MCAT score was just average. Plus I’m older. I NEEDED a bridge.
Unfortunately, many people fail because they treat medical school here like undergrad. It’s not the same. If anything, Caribbean schools are waaaaayyyyy harder because now you have to prove yourself to make it back for a chance at a residency in the United States. We work hard. I see kids partying and I think to myself, they are on an expensive vacation.
This year I set a few goals for myself. Although I have not been perfect, I can honestly say that I did a good job this week with sticking to my plan.
- I have been keeping up with my daily devotional
- I worked out 4/7 days this week
- My diet has not been terrible
- I stuck to my schedule 80% of the time and I’m sleeping
- I’ve been blogging more
I have not started vlogging yet. Hopefully, I can build up enough courage to get that together. There’s always room for improvement and hopefully I can stay on track.
Striving to make practical changes for healthier lifestyle.