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Spouses-Org-Survival-Guide Powered By Docstoc
                   Welcome                                          1
                   Suggested Items to Bring                         2
                            School Supplies
                            Older Children
                            Personal Items
                   Medical Care                                     6
                   Security                                         6
                   Food Shopping                                    7
                   Housing                                          7
                   Telephone                                        7
                   Internet                                         8
                   Cable                                            8
                   Utilities                                        8
                   A/C, Fans and Breezes                            8
                   Island Customs                                   9
                   Pests                                            9
                   Domestic Help                                    9
                   Laundry                                          9
                   Elementary/Preschool Children                   10
                   Activities/Entertainment                        10
                   Cars/Insurance                                  10
                   Employment                                      11
                   Packages/Letters                                11
                   Tipping                                         11
                   Reminder                                        12
                   Contacts                                        12

                                      Spouse’s Organization Sur vival Guide

                       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 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!


                      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.
                      Happy packing!

           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.

                      I Hats.

            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
                      stoneware dishes.
                      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 Colander.*

                      I Cheese grater.*

                      I Electric hot plate (only if you won’t have a stove—most places do)

                      I Toaster.*

                      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.

                      I Teapot.


                          I   Measuring cups and spoons.*
                          I   Electric hand mixer and whisk.*
                          I   Dishtowels, pot holders, and sponges. *
                          I   Blender.
                          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

                          different style.
                          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.”
                          I Flashlight(s).

        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 Stapler.

                          I Scotch tape. *

                          I Paper clips, rubber bands, etc. *

                          I Scissors.

                          I Post-it-notes. *

                          I Stationary, envelopes, greeting cards. Those coming from the U.S. should bring

                          postage stamps.
                          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

                                 extremely hot!
                                 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 Hats.

                                 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



        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
                         require uniforms.
                         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 Contraceptives.*

                         I Feminine products. Available but expensive.

                         I Vitamins.
                         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

                         longer hair.
                         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
                         ship them.


                 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.


                   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.


                      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.


                   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.

                   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.


                     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.

                     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.

                     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
                     away faster!

                     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 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:
            Visit us at:


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