You're finally accepted into AUC, YAY! Congratulations!
Now trying to figure out how to pack up your life and move to a Caribbean island where you have probably never been before...
Even after Hurricane Irma, this island has COMPLETELY bounced back. Pretty much everything you can get in the United States and Canada you can get on the island. Although many essential items can be found on the island, some of the items you want to find may be at multiple stores AND it could be slightly more expensive than in the United States or Canada. There are some essentials you should think about bringing from your home town. Lets just say, pack enough so you can carry your bags in the airport and you can store the luggage in your apartment when you finally make it to the island. I have seen students bring as many as 13 bags and as little as 1. Truly I believe there is a strategy to packing moving everything you need thousands of miles away. The best thing to do is to find a balance between things you absolutely need and things you can find on the island for a reasonable price.
Before you start packing, check with your airline you booked your ticket with and see how much it will cost for extra baggage, the number of bags you're allowed to have, and the weight limit per bag. Most checked bags are only allowed to be 50lbs so also keep this in mind when you're packing. If your bag does go over the weight limit, sometimes it is better to add another bag than to pay the other bag free.
After you look up these cost, start a list of all of essential items you think you need for the island. I included the following from below to help you prepare for the move.
You can't make it to the airport without this. It is a good idea to check and make sure the expiration date is not within the next two years. If it does expire soon, it is probably a good idea to get it renewed before bringing it to the island.
Letter of Acceptance:
When arriving to the island, immigration will often ask why you're traveling to the island. Since you will not have your residency permit at this time, it is important you bring the letter of acceptance with you to the airport. I believe you're better off printing out your acceptance better before leaving than having the acceptance letter on your phone.
If you're planning on renting a car or buying a car while you're on the island you will need a drivers license to do so. You do not need an international/Dutch/French drivers license to rent a car.
School Supplies and Electronics:
Preferably a laptop that isn't too old. There are not many electronic stores on the island where you can go buy another MacBook (or Hp, Dell) if you need one. Make sure your laptop is reliable, and you have a source to backup your computer to (Google drive can also suffice).
This is honestly my most used electronic in medical school. It is much easier to write notes during class and I feel like I retain information from class better because I am physically writing down my notes. Having a larger iPad also makes it easier to read electronic books offered by online sources. Most of the books offered are going to be on a pdf - it will make easier much easier the larger the iPad you have (TRUST ME ITS WORTH THE INVESTMENT). More on this in a later blog.
Bring your phone but also bring an old back up. This is essential when you're in a foreign country and live near an ocean.. I have already seen more than 3 people lose their phones due to some sort of water damage. If you cant bring a backup, buy a waterproof case or just be VERY careful.
These will come in handy if you're studying in the library or at home. Since the hurricane, there has been loud construction which makes it difficult to concentrate at times. From the construction, AUC supplied the students with noise canceling headphones. After recieving them, I don't know how I would study without them.
MOST books are going to be offered on an online source you will get to the island. Usually books for medical school throughout the semester are thousands of dollars. Fortunately, you will NOT have to pay this. Although I recommend you get something large to read pdf files off of - iPad, Surface Pro (whatever works for you). For your first semester in Anatomy, I do recommend purchasing the Netters Anatomy Flashcards. This can save you a lot of time studying for anatomy, without having to make any extra notes.
Different pens, paper, and other stationary items are offered in various stores around the island - Ace and other office supply stores. Bring only things you absolutely need.
If you have one at home, then pack it. If you do not have a dissection kit wait to buy it at the store on campus. Dissection kits usually are around $35-$40 (or much cheaper from upper semester students looking to sell their used ones) and contain all essential dissection tools for Anatomy dissection your first semester.
Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) Equipment:
The only piece of equipment you need for first semester is a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) and stethoscope (most of us have Littmann Classic 3 or Littmann Cardiology but any will work). You do not need any other ICM equipment until your 2nd Semester. If you are not planning on coming home during break the rest of the items listed in your Welcome Packet - including ophthalmoscope, otoscope, modified Snellen Chart, reflex hammer, tuning fork, and medical measuring tape.
Sheets, blankets, pillows:
Most apartments offered to you on the island are going to come fully furnished with linens offered. Linens are usually large and take up too much space, because of this, I believe you will have a more efficient way of packing if you wait to buy these items on the island. Ace hardware has many different household items with a large selection to choose from. If you're worried about the humidity and heat, you might want to bring a higher thread count sheet with cooling feature for your bedding (they do not have this luxury on the island and most thread counts are around 400).
Beach towel/Beach Equipment:
If you have goggles or any other equipment you like to use at the beach (that is light) pack it. There are also many different items including beach toys at Ace Hardware and a few outdoor sports stores on the island.
I'm pretty sure you're aware that the Caribbean is HOT. You're going to want to pack clothes that you can layer. You will want to bring clothes that are appropriate to wear to class and around the island. There are NOT many clothing stores on the island. Most of the clothing stores are small touristy boutiques that cost a fortune for one item. Make sure you bring attire for any occasion you plan to have on the island.
Let me first start off by saying that the AUC library and classrooms are absolutely freezing. In classrooms, you will want to bring a sweater almost everyday.
2 pairs of scrubs are needed for anatomy dissection in your first semester. If you have scrubs at home, pack these with you. If you do not have scrubs, the store on campus sells scrubs for $25-30 per set. You can also buy scrubs off of the 2nd semester students who have finished anatomy dissection.
Business Casual Clothing
The first semester of ICM you will only have 6-8 sessions that you will need to dress in business casual attire. After second semester the number of ICM classes will dramatically increase. You will want to have enough business casual clothing to wear change of 2 outfits per week. You can also use this attire at your White Coat Ceremony.
You will need 2 white coats at the start of first semester - one for ICM and the other for anatomy dissection. White coats can be purchased at the student store for $30-35 dollars.
Surprisingly there are a lot of drug store makeup locations throughout the island. Ace Hardware, pharmacies, and Beautylicious offers a variety of drug store brands including - LA girl, Maybelline, Revlon, NYX, Milani, Ardelle, L'Oreal. If you have essential or high end makeup you want to bring do it - you will find most drugstore items but you are not going to find anything close to a Sephora or Ulta on the island.
Bring any of your essential styling tools from home. Also, Beautylicious sells almost all styling tools - all size curling irons, flat irons etc. - brands such as Hot Tools and Baby Bliss.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Beautylicious offers a LARGE variety of all bathroom products you can imagine. This is the Target or Walmart of everything bathroom products. Most things you can get at Target, you can get here this includes Paul Mitchell, Garnier Fructis, Aussie.
Don't waste your weight packing many bath products. Beautylicious has absolutely anything and everything you could need. This includes shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner, dry hair shampoo, lotion, facial cleansing wipes, brushes, combs, gel, nail products, deodorant, razors, toothbrush, toothpaste, and anything else you can possibly think of. CarreFour also has a smaller selection of bathroom products however there is less variety and they are more expensive.
When packing to move to the island, make sure you bring some personal touches to keep from missing home.
Many students forget to bring an empty re-useable water thermos to the island. Stores on the island do not sell heat resistant water thermos that are as good of quality as in the states or Canada - like Hydroflask or Yeti. Since most off campus housing does not have ice machines inside the apartments, having a water thermos will help you fill up with ice on campus and have cold water throughout the rest of your day. This may seem trivial now, but when you're sweating from humidity it is an absolute must.
How to pack!
After you have comprised your list, its time to start packing! The best strategy I found was bring a roll carry-on and put all of the heaviest items you are planning on bringing into the small roll carry-on suitcase. Then pack all other heavy electronics in your backpack. In my carry on, I packed some books, ICM equipment, and any other dense, heavy items that would weigh down my large suitcase.
In my large suitcase, I packed everything else. Try not to pack more than 2 large suitcases as it may be harder to store at your apartment in Sint Maarten. Although, I truly believe packing all of the heavy items in the small carry on is the easiest way to bring a large amount of items with the smallest amount of space and the least amount of bags. Also try to keep bringing bath products to a minimum since most can be easily purchased on the island. When packing clothing, try to roll each set into tight cylinders to use to the least amount of space possible (Click here to check out Howdini hacks to help optimize space). Check your bag weight before leaving to the airport to ensure you are not charged an over bag fee as this will usually be more expensive than packing another bag.