TABLE OF C ONTENTS
Suggested Items to Bring 2
Medical Care 6
Food Shopping 7
A/C, Fans and Breezes 8
Island Customs 9
Domestic Help 9
Elementary/Preschool Children 10
Spouse’s Organization Sur vival Guide
W ELCOME TO S T. M AARTEN !
The Survival Guide, developed by AUC’s Spouse’s Organization (SO), is intended
for significant others, families, and all other loved ones in order to better inform
you of life in St. Maarten. Medical school alone can bring about tremendous
change and adjusting to St. Maarten can bring on even more. There is no way to
totally prepare you for the change you are about to experience; however, the
Spouse’s Organization has gone to great efforts to make your transition to island
life as smooth as possible.
It is the SO’s goal to provide support to one another during our stay on St. Maarten.
Being here can be a wonderful experience for both you and your student. The SO’s
members are active in many ways on the island. We keep one another company
with book clubs, playgroups, and a variety of activities (both educational and fun).
We volunteer in the community and within the SO’s many committees.
This Survival Guide is a simple outline to get you started through the initial stages
of your adjustment to life here in St. Maarten. Our organization offers a Sponsor
Program that is open to all spouse’s, significant others, single parents, and families.
A sponsor will guide you through your move, offer advice and assistance in finding
an apartment, Internet & phone services, renting & buying cars, and many other
aspects of island life. Your sponsor will also pick you and your family up from the
airport upon arrival, and keep in contact with you as you adjust to your new life.
If you have not already done so, we advise that you contact the Spouse’s
Organization immediately at email@example.com to receive a sponsor.
St. Maarten and AUC can be a memorable time in your life. The SO is here to
make sure you get the most out of it. This Survival Guide is only intended to help
get you started. Both single students and students bringing friends and/or family
with them can find helpful information in this guide. Please carefully read through
it and take note of the many things you will need to adapt to while living on the
island. The Spouse’s Organization would like to wish you a comfortable move and
a memorable experience here in St. Maarten!
S UGGESTED I TEMS TO BRING TO S T. M AARTEN
You do not have to bring everything on this list. These are just suggestions to help
you decide what is best for you and your family while living on the island. Keep
in mind, there is a 5th Semester Sale (usually the month before the semester ends)
as well as a 1st Semester Sale held during the weekend of orientation, that would
allow you to purchase many items (used from outgoing students) that would cost
more to ship or purchase new on the island. You can buy most items here; however,
many items can be quite expensive, relative to prices in the states. Also, once you
have chosen an apartment—since most of them are furnished—you will need to
check with your landlord to see what “furnished” means to them. Check with your
airline for baggage restrictions before you begin packing, and use your good
judgment. The items that have an * are available here on the island and can be
purchased for a reasonable price.
Clothing I Light clothing (shirts, shorts, sundresses, bathing suits, cover-ups, etc)
I Sandals, flip flops, and sneakers. Comfort is key!
I Light rain coat, umbrella.
I Nice dress and/or suit & tie for White Coat Ceremony.
I “Dressy Casual” attire (see Island Customs on page 9).
I Light jacket (lecture halls and other rooms on campus have AC and can be quite
cold at times).
I Laundry bags.
I Sunglasses—a necessity so bring an extra pair.
Kitchen I Water filter/purifier. Some apartments have them on the kitchen faucet. Check
with landlord to be sure. Filtered water pitchers can be purchased here but are
pricey, the filters however are reasonable.
I Non-breakable dishes and cups.* Most floors are tile and very unforgiving to glass or
I Plastic mixing bowls.
I Airtight canisters and storage bowls (to prevent access by ants and weevils).
I Cutting board. *
I Assortment of cutting knives.
I Cheese grater.*
I Electric hot plate (only if you won’t have a stove—most places do)
I Can opener.*
I Lunch size cooler, medium cooler (for beach), and freezer packs.
I Bake ware - cookie sheet, bread pan, muffin pan, cake pan etc.
I Cook ware – pots & pans, casserole dishes, etc.
I Vegetable peeler.*
I Coffee maker.
S UGGESTED I TEMS TO BRING TO S T. M AARTEN
I Measuring cups and spoons.*
I Electric hand mixer and whisk.*
I Dishtowels, pot holders, and sponges. *
I Cookbooks/recipes. Keep it simple as availability of ingredients is not dependable.
I Microwave. Check with landlord as most places have them.
I Floor rugs.*
Household I Bath mats (to prevent slipping on the tile floors).
I Shower curtains. Most stores have them, but you may prefer a higher quality or
I Towels. At least one bath and beach towel per person.
I Sheets and bedding. Check with landlord on availability and size.
I Desk lamp. Again, check with landlord.
I Battery operated radio and alarm clock. Radio needs to be small and handheld—
very important in hurricane season.
I Extra batteries. These are a good thing to buy in bulk at home and bring, if possible.
I Mosquito netting. Most people choose not to run AC due to the high
price of electricity and some of the apartments do not have screens to
protect against mosquitoes and gnats when windows are open.
I Decorations for your house. Most walls are cement, so wall hangings may not be
allowed, but if they are, familiar items can help with the feeling of missing “home.”
School Supplies I Anatomy requires the student to wear scrubs and/or a lab coat.
I One to two boxes of surgical gloves.
I Sturdy backpack and computer bag.
I 3 ring binders*, paper, and dividers.
I Highlighters. *
I Pens & pencils. *
I 3 hole punch.
I Scotch tape. *
I Paper clips, rubber bands, etc. *
I Post-it-notes. *
I Stationary, envelopes, greeting cards. Those coming from the U.S. should bring
I Computer CDs and DVD+Rs. (make sure you bring +Rs)
I Printer cartridges. Very expensive here.
I Computer paper. *
S UGGESTED I TEMS TO BRING TO S T. M AARTEN
General I Camera, video camera, digital camera.
I Film. Advantix is hard to find here and therefore developing the film may be difficult.
Remember to carry your film in your carry-on as the luggage x-ray damages both
developed and undeveloped film.
I Calculator. Perfect for $$ conversions.
I CD player, stereo, and music.
I Novels or other hobbies for leisure time.
Children I Light weight clothing and swim suits (to keep children comfortable and feeling fresh).
(infants and toddlers) I Washable sneakers, sandals, flip-flops. Remember to bring multiple sizes to
allow for growth if necessary.
I Water shoes. The cement around the pool and the sand at the beach can be
I Disposable diapers. Very expensive here. Use them for padding when packing
boxes to be shipped and in luggage to save on space.
I Baby wipes. *
I Baby food. *
I Play pen and sheets.
I Portable highchair.
I All terrain stroller. Some people use umbrella strollers but they do not always do
well on the roads here (some areas do not have sidewalks) and you walk a lot.
I Sippy cups.
I Bottles and brush.
I Toys, books, puzzles, arts & crafts.
I Blow up bathtub (most apartments only have showers).
I Beach toys, arm floaties, blow-up kiddy pool (can also serve as a bath or be
used for water storage in a hurricane).
I Teethers and teething medicine.
I Baby medicines – Tylenol, Advil, Gas drops, Robitussin, etc.*
I Diaper rash medicine.
I Talc-free or cornstarch baby powder.* Due to heat and humidity, neck and bum
rashes occur often.
I Bug repellent.*
I VCR/DVD movies. Depending on your needs.
I Car seat. Whether you rent or purchase a car, make sure you have back seatbelts
that work properly before leaving the lot.
I Cloth diapers and covers if you prefer these.
I Baby front or backpack carriers. Again, you will be walking!
I Church attire. Dressy occasions other than church will occur, especially for the
S UGGESTED I TEMS TO BRING TO S T. M AARTEN
Older Children I Most schools here require uniforms that can be purchased through the school.
The elementary school run by the Spouse’s Organization (AUC Kids) does not
I Plenty of clothing for both school and play.
I See above list.
Personal Items I Prescription medication for your entire stay.* Medications are inexpensive here
on the island at the local pharmacies but they may not carry all name brands.
I Feminine products. Available but expensive.
I Contact lens solution, saline, etc., extra pair of glasses and/or plenty of disposable
contacts. Some lens solutions are also very expensive.
I Cosmetics. Your brand may not be available here.
I Bug repellent. Bring a lot.
I Sunscreen. Bring a lot as you are likely to use this every day. We recommend
a high SPF (30+ and for children 45 or 50).*
I Mending kit.*
I Hair color, gel, mouse, hairspray, etc. Again, brand availability is not certain.
I Hairdryer, curling iron, etc. Also, ponytail holders are a must for those with
I First aid kit. This is VERY important during hurricane and flooding season. Keep
in mind that most medicines are not much more expensive than home.*
I Razors, blades, shaving cream.*
I Shampoo & conditioner. Available depending on brand.*
I Nail clippers, tweezers, etc.
Tools I Hammer.
I Duct tape.*
I Screwdrivers (both Phillips and flat).
I Sticky wall hangars. These come in handy on concrete walls. Check with landlord
before using concrete nails.
I Extension cords and surge protectors/battery backups for computers. Surge
protectors/battery packs are very important as the electricity may go off at any
given time. These are also heavy so you will want to pack in luggage rather than
M EDICAL C ARE
Medical care is very affordable in St. Maarten. The two clinics near the university
have a $25 office visit fee. Prescriptions are also affordable and tend to even be
less expensive than in the States. There is a hospital on both sides of the island
however, we suggest getting an international insurance plan that includes medical
evacuation, just in case. International medical insurance plans can be found on
the Internet or through your sponsor. As an aside, the insurance plan offered by
the school can be expensive (especially for families and older students) therefore
most choose independent companies for health insurance. Regardless of where
you obtain your health plan, it is important to know that the government of St.
Maarten requires that a student show proof of existing comparable global health
insurance coverage in order to receive a student visa.
If you come to St. Maarten pregnant or become pregnant while here, very good
prenatal care is available through an OB/GYN here on the island. However, most
SO members choose to go home for the birth, as some who did have babies here
have said they wished they had gone home. But the choice is up to the individual
and their comfort zone. Also check with airlines as some will not allow women
past 7 months gestation to fly, and may require a doctor’s note specifying due date.
According to the May 2004 Crime Statistics report, no crimes were reported on
the AUC campus. However, crime does occur on the island, though most crimes
are petty theft. The area in close proximity to the university is a calm area and
many security guards walk the apartment grounds at night. Still, do not leave
laptops, digital cameras, etc. in plain sight. Keep in mind that crimes can occur
during the day when security guards aren’t around (i.e. robberies). Therefore, it
is good practice to always lock up your home whether you plan to be out in the
evening or during the day.
F OOD SHOPPING
Food products are expensive. Let’s get that clear from the beginning. However,
as we discover new bargains, and share them with each other, our members have
found cheaper ways to purchase food. There is a main grocery store that is a 30
minute drive away from the university (depending on the traffic). There is also a
Cost-U-Less just across the street from the grocery store where bulk can be purchased
at a better price. Closer to the university there is a small grocery store that we tend
to use for quick runs. Cold/hot bags can be purchased at Cost-U-Less to keep your
frozen foods and other perishables in so that they remain cold, as it is a long drive
back to your home in the heat. Perishables such as milk do not last long here and
some of the students and their families have switched to using “shelf milk”. Shelf
milk can be purchased right from the shelf and kept in your pantry until you open
it, and then it will last a week in your fridge. This milk can be purchased at a fair
price in bulk and stored. Most U.S. brands are available at one time or another;
however, there are no U.S. generic brands. Remember that an item you see today
may not be available next week or for months to come. If you have a favorite food
item (such as mixes, ethnic foods etc.) you may choose to have friends and family
send them to you in care packages.
If you are planning to bring a family to St. Maarten, the best advice is to arrive at
least a week before school starts. This will leave time for finding a home (if you and
your sponsor have not done that already) and getting settled before your student
begins medical school. Rent runs anywhere between $800 (a small one bedroom
or studio), $1200 (one bedrooms), $1500 to $2400 (two bedrooms), and $1800
to $3000 (three bedrooms) a month. Of course, deals can be made and found. It
is important to communicate with your sponsor about your family’s needs so that
they can help you find a home to fit those needs. Many places do not allow pets,
so ask if this applies to you.
Cell phones can be purchased here from a number of local companies. However, if
you own a cell from home, then you may want to bring it and see if the companies
here can put in a new chip. Phone cards with minutes can be purchased in several
locations. Most SO members are on the Internet and choose to IM or e-mail each
other, as this is free and per minute charges start at $0.30 for cell phones.
Internet is almost a must in your home. There are Internet companies—Caribserve
and IDL—with local offices near the university. Unfortunately, Internet start-up costs
run around $400 and there can be a waiting list up to a month (and in some cases
it has been longer) before someone can come to hook up your service. It is best
to put your name on the list as soon as possible if you intend to have Internet in
your home. Again, this is how the members of SO communicate and announce
Cable TV is available and runs around $50/month. This service also has a waiting
list and has been known to take three months before service is provided. Some of
the students/families have chosen to own cable boxes. Though this does provide
free cable, this method involves piracy and is illegal. The SO does not condone
or suggest this method in any manner.
The main company for both water and electric is GEBE. You should receive bills
on a regular basis, but check with them immediately to determine when your bill
is due each month. The electric and water go off in our homes often (depending
on where you live). They usually stay off no longer than a few hours. Always
check your water after an outage, if it is brown or dirty after letting it run for a
second or two, call GEBE and have a technician come out and flush your meter.
A/C FANS , AND B REEZES
Due to the high price of electricity, many families choose not to run their A/C.
Some choose to close off their rooms and run the AC only at night. In addition,
there are apartments that have the utilities included in the rent price and then the
A/C can be run all the time. However, if you are not one of the lucky ones, then
fans are your next best bet to keep you moderately comfortable throughout the day.
The truth is, it is hot and humid most days, even with a fan. Just know that you will
eventually become accustomed to the heat. Depending on where you live also, you
may have a strong breeze available to you during certain times of the year.
I SLAND C USTOMS
The islanders are wonderful people. Just remember that you are in their country.
Be respectful of their customs. Before you ask someone a question or speak to them
at all, say “good morning/afternoon/night, how are you?” Greeting people
before you get to your point is a very polite and proper way to communicate.
Also, be mindful that in the public areas, proper attire is NOT swim wear, short
shorts/skirts, or tube tops. The Caribbean people dress nice casual during the day
and dressy casual at night. You will find the driving here to be “crazy” as the rule
of thumb tends to be “first one to go gets the right of way.” It has been said that
the drivers are courteous but not cautious. Most intersections are roundabouts, and
you may need your sponsor to help you learn the proper way to navigate them.
Honking your horn is done in kindness, whether to let someone know it is okay to
merge in or just to say hello.
Ants, palmetto bugs (big cockroaches that fly), centipedes, and mosquitoes are the
most common insects you will encounter while living on the island. Ants can be
controlled by properly storing your food in tight containers and spraying often.
Palmetto bugs aren’t an everyday occurrence for most SO members. Spraying can
keep these nasty little creatures outside. The best advice we have for centipedes is
to have all your drains equipped with covers, and to check in all clothing and bedding
that has been on the floor before picking them up. As for mosquitoes, spray yourself
(and your children) often. Also, check and make sure that there are screens on
your windows before you sign a lease. Open windows are a must here, and without
screens, the mosquitoes will take over.
D OMESTIC HELP
Domestic help is actually readily available and affordable on the island. Many SO
members have help come in once a week to keep up with the concentrated cleaning.
If you are interested, word of mouth is the best way to find the help. Just let your
sponsor know you will be looking to hire someone. Also, keep in mind that some of
the condos will require that you hire domestic help whether you wish to or not.
Check with your landlord to see if the house you are considering has a washer
AND dryer. Some places only have washers, and some have nothing. Most SO
members have a washer in their home and hang their clothes on the line to dry. If
you find a place that has neither a washer nor a dryer, there is a laundry room in
the dorms on campus. There is also a full service laundry mat near school. There
are other public laundry mats around the island but none near school.
E LEMENTARY /P RESCHOOL C HILDREN
If you have elementary or preschool aged children, there are actually a few options
available to you. The Spouse’s Organization runs both an elementary school
(AUC Kids) and a preschool (Little MDs Preschool) on the AUC campus. AUC is
kind enough to provide those facilities and classrooms for us. AUC Kids is
subsidized by the university’s Medical Education Administrative Services (MEAS)
and we also charge tuition for each child. We have a committee set up to run the
school, and employ certified teachers. Even though we have had positive results
with children returning to the States and testing above average, please note that
our school is not recognized by the U.S. and it is likely that your child will have to
test back into the educational system when you return home. AUC Kids is on the
same schedule as AUC, meaning we run year round. Another option is CIA, which
is the Canadian International Academy. This is a private school located very close
to AUC, and they offer AUC students a tuition discount. CIA is 1-12 and is out
during the summer. They offer summer camps at an additional charge. Learning
Unlimited is yet another option for your elementary school needs, and is the only
U.S. accredited school on the island though it is farther from AUC. Just communicate
your needs to your sponsor so that he/she can get you the contact information as
soon as possible.
A CTIVITIES /E NTERTAINMENT
St. Maarten is an island full of fun things to do! However, as a medical school
family, entertainment is not always in the budget. The SO has an activities committee
that plans many different activities every month, ranging from free to affordable.
The Student Government Association (SGA) offers a free movie night at AUC every
weekend; free popcorn is available as well! And if you just cannot help yourself,
there are diving/snorkeling tours, rentable jet skis, kayaking, movie theatres, and
many other activities to keep you entertained.
C ARS /I NSURANCE
Rental cars are moderately priced (comparable to the US). The average cost to rent
a car is $25/day. There are plenty of car rental places on the island, which also
sell their older rentals at good prices. An island car (smaller, less “pretty” cars such
as Daewoos, Hyundais, and Kias) can run between $1500 and $4000. The car
you buy will probably have a little rust on it, and perhaps a dent or two, but the
main issue at hand is “does it run, have A/C, and decent shocks”. Those are very
important commodities in island cars! Car insurance is very affordable here, running
on average $200/year, and even cheaper if you bring a clear driving record for
the past 5 years from your insurance agency back home. You will need your US
State driver’s license for all drivers, so bring them with you. Registering and getting
your car inspected is an all-day process here, but the SO knows the procedure and
someone will be more than happy to consult with you regarding the steps that you
need to take.
There are many ways to find work while on the island. If you find work at AUC
or within the SO, then you will not need a working permit. However, to work within
the community you will need to apply for a working permit. Another choice is to
nanny for single parents and working parents. SGA employs several SO members
at Note Service as well as with AUC News. There are also many opportunities to
volunteer. One of the ways to get involved is to run for the many offices/chairs
within the Spouse’s Organization. Elections are held when positions open after
terms have ended. The SO is a wonderful way to keep busy and pass the time
PACKAGES /L ETTERS
There are many different ways to have packages and letters sent to you. The
Mailbox, located in Simpson Bay, provides you with a U.S. mailing address for a
small fee, so that you may send and receive letters and packages. If you have a
letter to send and have a U.S. stamp, just drop it off at the Registrars Office and
they will send it for you. Some students have letters and packages sent right to
AUC. Fed Ex is another choice for letters, but tends to be too expensive for packages.
4-Star Cargo is a great way to receive your care packages and have items shipped
to you. You will need to contact them at 4-starcargo.com and set up an account
with them. With 4-Star, anyone sending you a package will Fed Ex or UPS the
package to you c/o 4-Star (and their Florida address) and then 4-Star ships it on
to you and you pay their fee once the package arrives. Tell whoever is shipping
it through Fed Ex or UPS to include the phrase “SXM by Sea” so that you will
receive the cheaper sea rate as opposed to the air rate.
There are a few places that you will almost always tip: grocery store, gas station,
and deliveries. The men who assist you with your grocery bags work only for tips.
If they carry out your bags, a $1 tip is appreciated. At the gas station, the pump
attendant will expect a tip. If you are at a station on the Dutch side, the gas is in
NAF, meaning $20 US dollars is about $36 NAF. So if you ask for $20 gas, and
your attendant pumps $35, then they have just tipped themselves. On the French
side of the island, they use Euros. $20 US dollars is about $16 Euros. Another
thing to remember is that if you received help with your bags at the SXM airport,
the gentlemen with the luggage cart will charge you $1/bag.
Remember to tell your sponsor when you will be arriving so that they can greet you
at the airport and assist in any way possible, including grocery shopping for the
first time, touring the island, and meeting other SO members.
After arriving, you will be receiving a Welcome Packet that will include even more
valuable information, including FAQs and contact lists.
We look forward to having you here on the island and becoming one of the gang!
Please let us know how we can assist you further during your transition.
Best wishes on your upcoming move!
Vina Lybbert Ashley Kent
President Vice President
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit us at: www.aucspouses.org