SXM Abroad

Hi everyone! So a few months ago it was St. Maarten's day and I came up with this idea for a blog post, I was thinking about the challenges of being away from home and about all the people I know who have left St. Maarten to pursue an education. When the times get rough it can make a huge difference knowing that you're not alone! I also wanted everyone to see what amazing things the St. Maarten youth are doing abroad in various countries from America, to Canada, the Netherlands and France! So sit back and enjoy reading about the amazing St. Maarteners who contributed to this blog, seriously they're amazing!

Whitney Duggins

Whitney is from the Dutch side, specifically Union Farm, Dutch Quarter, Now she is currently living in Berrien Springs, Michigan. She's been away from home for 6 months, but it feels so much longer than that. She is 18 years old and is a Freshman. She attends Andrews University and is majoring in Psychology with a hope to work with children in the future. She plans to return to St. Maarten because the island doesn’t have much psychologists, especially those that specialize in young people.

What has been the hardest part of being away from St. Maarten/St. Martin?

The hardest part of being away from St.Maarten would be family, and there are not many people like me. Most of the Caribbean people are from the bigger countries, like Jamaica or the Bahamas. I also miss the culture and food. To add to this, living in the Caribbean, especially a small island like St.Maarten, made me realize that the people are more unified. I truly do miss that unity.

What do you like best about the country you are in?

Although the people are different, they are very friendly and I consider AU my home. I have adapted and transitioned better than I thought I would. I was nervous about the terrible winters Michigan has, but to my surprise I really do enjoy the snow!

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

"Just because you are leaving your island to study, you should never forget your island. Represent your island in a positive way. College is a wonderful experience and it will be one of the best experiences you will encounter in your life."

Jade Durand

Jade is from the Dutch side of the island, currently she is in living in Arizona and has been away from the island for a few years. She is 19 years old and a sophomore in college at Arizona State University. She is studying landscape architecture, and her career goals are to become a successful architect and bring her work anywhere that needs it. She says, "I would like to return to the island. If I do, I can imagine myself bringing new ideas and strengthening old ones to better the island"

What has been the hardest part of being away from St. Maarten/St. Martin? What do you like best about your country?

"The hardest part of being away from Sint Maarten has been not being around family and friends, not being near the beach, and not living that island life style. I like that there are a tremendous amount of opportunities"

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

"Advice that I would give to a young Sint Maartener leaving the island for school would be to keep your mind open, network as much as you can, meet new people and try new things"

Genesis Meyers

Genesis is from the Dutch side and is currently in Leicester, United Kingdom and has been there for 5 months now. She is 17 and a freshman in college. She is studying Advertising and Marketing Communications with hopes to become a top notch Public Relations Officer, and then move up and become the marketing leader for her own brand as well as other high brands!

Do you plan to return to the island? If so what do you envision to do on the island?

"I do not plan to return to the island right away. I want to travel the world and gain more knowledge so that when I do return - I can give the most I can to my island. I envision myself helping the recognition and tourism of the island. I want to bring bigger franchises to the island and help St. Maarten become more well known. I've realised that when people say that they're from here, no one knows where and what St. Maarten is. I hope to change that."

What has been the hardest part of being away from St. Maarten/St. Martin? What do you like best about the country you are in?

"The hardest part was leaving the community and culture I know so well. It's hard leaving the familiar, but I soon learnt that it's good to step out of your comfort zone and be open to new things, people and places.My favourite thing about living the UK is learning their colloquialisms. What we normally say could have a totally different meaning here! I really enjoy learning new things about different cultures. I literally learn something new every day and the people are really helpful with it as well!"

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

"I would say to try not to waste your time and money when leaving for college. Set your goals from now and try your best to achieve them."

Aesha Gibson

Aesha is from the Dutch side of the island. She is currently studying in London, before that she was studying in Florida and has been away from the island for two years now. She is 19 years old and is a first year in University. She is studying Fine Art at the London Metropolitan University, at the moment she is selling the art that she makes and she takes orders from people (I've seen her work she's amazing!) When she graduates she is interested in becoming a painting restorer. She does not plan to move back to the island in the near future.

What has been the hardest part of being away from St. Maarten/St. Martin?

"I am used to being away from home by now, but I get hit with home sickness at Christmas time. Just to not be surrounded by your family around this time of the year is a bit hard."

What do you like best about the country you are in?

"Absolutely everything. From the people to the food and the cleanest transportation I’ve seen London has been great so far. The amount of things that you can do in a day is absolutely insane".

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

"I would say know exactly what you want to do with your degree because that is the hardest thing you will experience in your three years (or four of you are in America). Once you know what you want to do you are set."

Dejah Doncher

Dejah is from Philipsburg and is currently in London, England and has been away from the island for 3.5 years. She is 19 years old and is studying Dance at the British Dance Organization, her goal is to be a professional dancer. Eventually she would like to return to the island to give dance lessons. The hardest part of being away from the island has been missing the sun, sand and food!

What do you like best about the country you are in?

The enormous plethora of opportunities available for people of my major

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Don’t forget your culture and USE it to your advantage we are diverse and unique and our island gives us more of a head start than we realize

Celine Mayeko-Coklee

Celine is 19 years old and is in her first year at university. She is from the Dutch side and is currently in Edmonton, AB, Canada. I've been away from the island for just under 5 months now. She is a Biological Science Major at the University of Alberta and hopes to apply to Medical School upon completion of her degree. The hardest part about being away is that it's really cold and she would love to be back home at a beach (feel you girl), but she is enjoying being around open minded attitudes. She enjoys hanging around other university students, specifically members of the Faculty of Science because it's really nice to be around other driven and like minded individuals.

Do you plan to return to the island? If so what do you envision to do on the island?

"I would like to return to the island eventually, possibly to open my own clinic and to be able to inform the government on what we can be doing to improve the general health of our people. I also hope to inspire some of the younger generation to explore career paths in STEM because I see a lot of potential in our youth."

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

"I would tell them that it won't be easy. University is incredibly difficult and you get what you put in. You cannot get away with poor study habits and little discipline. I don't say this to scare anyone off from university but to let them know that it's a transformative environment. You definitely learn to take responsibility for your actions and to have pride in your work. I think that going away to study is indeed difficult but every minute of your time that you invest in your education will be worth it as long as you stay focused on your end goal. I would also tell them that sometimes being away from home can be depressing but it's important to remember that you have family and friends and the entire island routing for your success."

Is there anything else you would like to share?

"If you are the first person in your family to go off to university and you have questions, there is a whole community of students from sxm studying abroad that would be more than willing to guide you through your process. Whether you know us personally or not we are always willing to help out where we can."

Domonique Fleming

Domonique Fleming is from the Dutch side, right now she is living in the Netherlands and has been there for about 13 months. She is 19 and is in HBO, she attends Homeschool Arnhem/Nijimegen where she studies Communication Studies and hopes to be a Psychologist. At the time she does not plan to return to the island. Domonique says that the hardest part about being away from the island is missing the weather, her family, and her old routine lifestyle. She likes the vast opportunities that the Netherlands offers her. Her advice to other young St. Maarteners is to "Make sure this is what you really want and your mind is stronger than your emotions."

Shaniqua Fleming

Shaniqua is from the Dutch side and is currently living in the Netherlands, she had been away from the island for a year and a half. She is 19 years old and is in HBO. She studies social work at Homeschool Rotterdam, with this degree she hopes to help youths with intellectual disabilities. She isn't planing on returning to island but if she does she would like to work at school and help children who learn slower than most. The hardest part about being away from the island has been being away from her parents. She likes the cold weather in the Netherlands, the freedom and the help that students get from the government.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Stay focused. Remember what YOUR goals are, and what you are going away to do. Ofcourse, college life is also about having fun, but set your priorities. Also, take the time to get to know yourself.

Marshelique Fleming

Marshelique is from Dutch Quarter, she is currently in the Netherlands and has been away from home for 3 years. She is 19 years old and is in MBO nv 3. She is studying nursing at Albeda College, Verzorgende IG. Her career goal is to become a Pediatrician. She is not considering moving back to the island but would like to return for vacations. The hardest part about being away has been missing her family members. She likes being in the Netherlands because it gives her a better chance in life (school wise). She would like to give the advice of staying focus on your goals and to never give up.

"I would like to share my two most favorite inspirational quotes: If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again!

Don’t quit, remember why you started."

Franchesqua Janga

Franchesqua is from the Dutch side of the island, she is currently living in Holland for the past year and a half. She is 19 and is in HBO. She attends the Hague University and is studying to be a nurse. As an RN she would like to specialize in either oncology or psychiatry. She says "Being in Holland has opened my eyes because I'm an island girl everything was definitely exciting and refreshing for me." The hardest part about being away from the island has been missing her family and food, but she likes the food Holland has to offer and the access to public transportation. Her piece of advice is "move at your own pace"

Do you plan to return to the island? If so what do you envision to do on the island?

I do plan on returning. I plan on trying my best to make a difference with certain aspects concerning the health of our people but also try to put us on a certain standard as well starting with the hospital.

Samira Hemraj

Samira is from Simpson Bay, she has been living in Florida, US for about 6-7 years now. She is 19 and is a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is studying Marketing and hope to be a marketing manger for a nonprofit organization. To her, the hardest part about being away from the island is leaving the culture. She likes the country she lives in because there are many opportunities for growth and development, she doesn't plan to move back to the island.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Do not feel the need to adapt to the "American culture". You're uniqueness, culture and eduction are what make you who you are.

Kenila Hyman

Kenila lived and went to school in French Quarter but she also grew up in Grand Case. She is currently living in Toulouse, France and she has been there for a littler over 5 years. She is 20 years old and is in Licence 3 (which corresponds to a Bachelor's degree) She is currently taking distance courses (e-learning and is registered to Moma Montpellier University where she is studying hospitality and tourism management. When asked if she wants to return to the island she says she would like to return as soon as possible. "I would like see a sustainable tourism develop on the island meaning one that respects the environment and the population by including our culture and our specificities." What she likes about France is the infrastructures that are developed such as means of transport and public areas.

What has been the hardest part of being away from St. Maarten/St. Martin?

It’s very hard to be away from my family. I’ve missed important events like weddings, birth, birthdays, funeral 😭. Family is definitely what i miss most and it doesn’t get better with the years where that is concern (in my experience).

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Advice : get yourself a support system that would help you through the tough times. (Friend, family, school mate). Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I think joining an association can also help a lot with dealing with the fact that you are far away from home. Though it’s very good to explore the place your in and get to know different people, it’s important to be around people you can relate to. I know that there are several associations formed by sxmers abroad (like Pelicarus in France and USC in the Netherlands)

Jahmicah Jeffers

Jahmicah is from the dutch side of the island, she is currently in Delft, Holland and has been there for 2 and a half years. She is 22 years old and is in Niveau 2 year 1. She goes to ROC Mondriaan and is studying fashion, her goal is to become a fashion designer or an assistant to a famous fashion designer. At the moment she is not planning to return to St. Maarten. She has really missed the nice Caribbean food, but she liked that its easy for her to get plus size clothing in Holland.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Don't do/studying something for other people. You will be unhappy and want to give up, do what makes you happy.

Jesse Templeton

Jesse is from the French side of the island, she currently lives in Brighton, England and has been away for about 1 and a half year. She is 19 and is studying International Hospitality Management at the University of Brighton with a goal to own her own hotel one day. She really misses being away from the beach, her family, and the food. What she likes best about England is that it's very international which reminds her of SXM. If you're leaving the island soon she says "Soak up every last drop of sunlight, especially if you’re coming to England.

Tanya Swanepeol

Tanya is from the Dutch side and has been living in England for about 5 month now. She is 18 and is in her first year of school at Anglia Ruskin University where she is studying interior design. Her career goals are to get a masters in Architecture and become and architect. She says she can definitely see herself retiring on the island one day. She says the hardest part about being away from the island is missing her family, the weather, the food, EVERYTHING! She likes England because its easy to travel wherever she wants via the train. She shares her advice "make the best of the time you have on the island."

Jakisha Brooks

Jakisha is from the French side, she is currently living in Tampa, FL where she's been living for about 2.5 years. She is 20 years old and attends the University of Tampa where she study biology. She hopes to become a cosmetic plastic surgeon in the future and to return to the island to open up her own clinic. She says the hardest part has been being away from family and friends, especially the ones she grew up with.

What do you like best about the country you are in?

The weather in Tampa is similar to home as it is tropical; however it can get cold at night time. Nevertheless, Tampa reminds me of home with its stunning sunsets.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Success is a little piece of effort repeated day in and day out!

Alisha Daryanani

Alisha is from Madame Estate on the Dutch side of the island. She is 18 and is in her first year of university in Cheltenham, UK where she studies graphic design. She plans to return to the island to do free lance jobs and volunteer work with her graphic design skills. The hardest part about being away has been missing the beaches, but she liked the UK for the lovely people and because there is a lot to do.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Be thankful for what you have on the island now, you’ll never get such nice weather and beaches anywhere else.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I love SXM. It will forever be my home ❤️

Gabriella Tackling

Gabriella is from Colebay and has been living in Groningen, Netherlands since July 2018. She is 18 years old and is in year one of a three year bachelor program at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. She is studying International Business and would like to continue her education to get another bachelor's degree in Law. She hasn't yet thought about returning to the island but explained the hardest parts about being away in three words: 1. Food 2. Beaches 3. Weather! She likes the Netherlands because it is organized and everything is on schedule (we all know thats not SXM like haha) and she likes the many opportunities available to her.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

The first few months will be the hardest, but you have to push through and know that life only gives you what you can handle; all the challenges you face are there to better you.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

If someone reading this is studying in the Netherlands and knows how to make johnny cakes, PLEASE come visit me!

Ryan Schonenberg

Ryan is from both sides of the island with her dad living on the French side and her mom living on the Dutch. She currently lives in Minnesota, US and has been away for 6 years. She is 20 years old and is in her junior year at the College of Saint Scholastica. Her major is nursing with a psychology minor, her goals are to become an RN and then become a traveling nurse and see where that takes her. She misses the sun, beach, people, and food, and the hardest part has been being away from her family. She likes the US because she is able to receive the education that she has always wanted.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

It is so hard to leave, almost seems impossible at the time, but give it your full effort to make the place you are moving to your home away from home. It is so hard being away from St. Maarten but the opportunity we are given to study shouldn't be taken for granted.

Dipti Budhrani

Dipti is from the Dutch side and is currently living in Switzerland since 2016. She is 20 years old and is a senior at Les Roches Global Hospitality School where she is studying hospitality with hopes of one day having her own establishment. She misses the warmth of the people and the place as well as the food and the beaching adding "it's home at the end of the day." In Switzerland she enjoys the nature, cheese, and chocolate and feels lucky to be in a school with 90+ nationalities.

Do you plan to return to the island? If so what do you envision to do on the island?

Someday perhaps, but I hope to see the people we place in charge truly want to see a difference for the country. I would absolutely love to see more commitment to education on the island for everyone of every age as I firmly believe it will help us improve in all other aspects.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young St. Maartener leaving the island soon for school, what would you say?

Never forget where you come from and all the struggles that might have come with it. Remember to be humble, allow yourself to learn from everyone, some will teach you how to improve yourself and some will teach you what you don’t want for yourself.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t be scared to leave the rock, venture out and see all that the world has offered. I left SXM and have since lived in 3 different countries, visited countless more and even learnt a language on the way. There is so much out there, let yourself be apart of it all.

Before I say my ending remarks I thought I'd answer the questions too, especially since I may have new readers to the blog:

Kyeisha Laurence

I am from the French side of the island and am currently living in Maryland, US since 2013. I am 19 and am a sophomore at the University of Maryland where I am studying Microbiology and French. My goal is to go to medical school and become a physician, specifically an Ob/Gyn. Do I plan to return to the island? I REALLY want to, but unfortunately with the career track I'm on I'll have to stay in the states for more years. I would love to return to the island and open up a Women's Health Clinic.

The hardest part of being away from the island is the intense homesickness and that feeling that you somehow don't belong on the island anymore because you've been gone so long. I miss my family a lot and of course the beaches and the food. What I like about the states is all the opportunities available to me, its amazing! It is the best feeling to be able to receive an education and learn things that excite me, I'm very grateful for that.

My advice to someone who is leaving the island soon would be don't forget where you came from, its going to be hard but it's not impossible and there are so many of us who have gone through the same things who can help you.

Wow, thank you all so much for sharing your stories in this article. I am so proud of all you ladies and hope you accomplish everything you set out to. There is some really amazing advice in this blog and I hope it can be a resource for those who need it. We need to continue to support and praise SXM Youth, even if they aren't physically on the island there are so many of us representing the island all around the world and doing amazing things! I think something that we need to address is the struggle to move back home, the truth is that the island lacks the opportunities that are available to us elsewhere. I don't know what the answer is but I hope we, the younger generation, can come up with a solution.

I know there are even more amazing SXM students out there, maybe we can do a part 2 in the future!

I hope you all enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks again to all the participates!

xoxo,

Kye

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