One of the top questions we’re asked from prospective students is, “What is it like to go to a school in the Caribbean?” Of course, you can do research on the internet about the differences between life in the US and the Caribbean, but SJSM alum Joyce Cheng, MD has even better advice, “Go early and experience it for yourself!”
After deciding to attend Saint James, Joyce moved to Anguilla a month before classes started to give herself a jumpstart on island life so she could be prepared and focused for the rigorous school year ahead.
“Going early, I was able to figure out where everything was. I found a place to live, knew where to get groceries and gas, where to hang out, where to get books and had a chance to visit all the beaches before school even started,” she explained.
For Joyce, the adventures were abundant — from discovering a beautiful hill of conch shells that she often visited to purchasing a car that was unique to say the least. “It was older than I was, the wipers didn’t work, and it shut down if I went in reverse,” she laughed. But it was something she wouldn’t have otherwise experienced and she loved it!
Also, the beauty and fun of island living is so new and exciting it’s easy to get distracted – so an early arrival can help you pack in all the fun so you can stay focused once school starts.
“When you start school all the older students are telling you about all the cool things to do on the island – the best beaches, the best mimosas, and everyone wants to go check those out,” she adds with a chuckle. “But I had already had all my fun in that month prior, so I was able to just focus on my studies.”
And she was also able to familiarize herself with some of the coursework in the time leading up to school starting. “I started reading the anatomy book two weeks prior to class so I was really familiar with the material,” she explained.
All of this preparation helped ease the transition to medical school life, making her more comfortable, allowing her to focus and be more efficient in her studies.
“It really requires a lot of hard work and consistency to achieve what I have now,” she explained – also noting that success requires a lot of self-discipline. Students need to be proactive, asking the right questions, studying on their own time and seeking out their professors for help.
So, when it comes to choosing to pursue your medical degree in the Caribbean, the early bird does get the worm… and the fun, the familiarity, the focus, and for some like Joyce, a car that you’ll remember for a lifetime!
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