Formal Orientation

Today was formal orientation where the higher officers of the school officially welcomed us. For three hours, they introduced us to the honor code, the school policies, activities and services offered on campus, and general information. Here are some of the speakers today:

  • Director of Community Services
  • Associate Dean of Medical Education
  • Chief Academic Officer
  • Interim Dean of Basic Sciences
  • Associate Dean of Student Affairs
  • SGA President
  • President of Spouses Organization
  • Head of the St. Maarten Police Department
  • Director of Physical Plant and Housing + Director of Hurricane Preparation
  • One of the Librarians
  • IT Director
  • A representative from The Mailbox
  • A local doctor about health services in SXM
  • A professor talking about the faculty adviser program

Here are some things I learned about AUC:

  • AUC gives students a lot of help. During all the steps along the way, students are given numerous personal resources. During application, i was given an admissions adviser. During orientation I was given an orientation adviser. And now as a Basic Sciences student, I will be assigned a faculty adviser. The faculty advisers are not paid extra to be an adviser but are volunteers. They provide a great opportunity for students to develop a relationship with at least one faculty member on a more personal level. They listen to questions and concerns one may have during their studies and facilitate in decision-making. They will contact the students at least once a semester. In addition to faculty advisers, many other help is available, whether from professors, TAs, tutors, or seeking the wellness counselor (all for free) if one has anxiety or stress problems.
  • Every Monday and Thursday from 11-12:30, representatives from The Mailbox will come to campus to deliver or send mail that students may have.
  • AUC has an attendance policy but if one has any important reason to miss class, i.e. wedding, son’s birthday, religious holiday, etc., one can fill out a form for short-term leave of absence. Long-term leave of absences are for medical reasons only.
  • The AUC campus is a hurricane shelter and will offer students who live off campus a safe place to stay, store their important items, and keep their pets (all for free of course). The campus has its own power generator, water facility, and ten-days-worth of stored food.
  • During late hours, AUC security guards can offer rides to students who want to go home after a late study session at the library.
  • The library is open from 8am-11pm on most days and 8am-2am during finals. It is 10 cents to copy or print. A refundable deposit of $10 is required to get a copy card.
  • The library has over 6000 books, 80 journals, as well as online journals like pubmed, ovid, and In addition, numerous movies/DVDs are available for checkout.
  • AUC has research facilities and there are faculty members who perform research on campus. Some students have the opportunity to perform research on campus, publish, and attend research conferences. However, unlike U.S. med schools, AUC does not award professors by their research but by the success of their students.
  • The spouses organization not only organize activities for spouses to do while on the island, they also provide services for students. For example, they offer a grocery delivery service in which students can submit their list 48 hrs in advance. Groceries are delivered every Tuesday and Friday for a fee of $20/delivery.
  • Vonage does not work in campus dorms.
  • There are 13 student organizations on campus: Spouses Org, AUC Muslim Students Organization, Christian Students Org, Jewish Students Org, American Medical Students Association, Dale Von Wormer Student Judiciary Committee, some honorary society… sorry I don’t remember most of them. In addition there are also sports teams (no competition, just for fun) and a dodgeball tournament between faculty and students. Personally, I can’t imagine what it’s like smacking one of my professors with a ball!

Here are some fun facts I learned about my Entering Class:

  • With 199 students, we are the largest entering class in AUC history.
  • 118 male/ 81 female.
  • 16% from California, 15% from New York, 6% from Michigan.
  • 35 Countries are represented. I saw there was 1 from Taiwan!

I was impressed with some of the community service projects and organizations that students have started here. Living on an island that is battered by hurricanes every year, where poverty is more rampant, and resources are limited offers a unique opportunity for community service. As future doctors, helping the community is essential to our mission. Here are some examples:

  • A former AUC student started a Breakfast Program for the local elementary school children in St. Maarten. He surveyed and discovered that most kids do not have much to eat, if anything, before going to school. Knowing that the brain runs on sugar and protein is needed to make neural connections for forming memory, he realized he needed to do something to help these kids. So he created an organization, recruited volunteers, raised money, and partnered with Cost-U-Less to set up a charitable fund that would provide free breakfast to these kids.
  • AIDS is a huge taboo in SXM and many HIV victims are afraid to come forth and seek help or use protection. To the locals, it is an “anti-man’s” disease. To combat the AIDS problem in SXM, AUC students run a free, confidential AIDS-screening to everyone on the island every year. In addition, they hold awareness classes, as well as a radiothon that raises money to support the local St. Maarten AIDS Foundation.
  • A former AUC student started a tutoring program in which volunteers bus local students who have trouble in school in St. Maarten onto the AUC campus and tutor them in a variety of subjects ranging from biology to physics, to English composition. Many local schools may not have the resources to provide extra help for these students and so AUC students do whatever they can to contribute to the greater good.
  • There is also a team of students who help people after a hurricane. AUC also sets up scenarios like bus crashes, airplane accidents, etc. along with a lot of red paint and student volunteer actors to train VIKS and other disaster relief teams to prepare for possible incidents.

These are some things I learned about the laws of SXM from the head of the Police Department of the island:

  • Unlike the motherland of the Netherlands, drug trafficking (including marijuana) is illegal and is punishable for as much as life in prison.
  • There is no right for self-defense. Any injuries caused by the victim to the attacker is still prosecutable under the law, and so the possession of tasers and pepper sprays are illegal.
  • Driving while talking with a cell phone is illegal and policemen will ask you to pay the fine right then. If you are unable to, then they will impound your car.
  • There is no right to bear arms. A possessiosn of a gun is a felony and is punishable for one year of prison.
  • Policemen here are straightforward and tough. Do what they say!
  • Usually people who live on the island need an SXM Driver’s license to drive if over 3 months. But recently a deal was made between AUC and the local government and so AUC students can drive with the license issued to them by their home country. Not all policemen may be aware of this fact, however, so if you get a ticket, don’t argue with them. Pay it, and then bring it to school so they can notify the police department and handle the issue.
  • Emergency contact is 911 on the Dutch side and 00-590590-15 on the French side. However, I think I’m going to stick with the Dutch number…

After the orientation, we got onto 4 large charter buses and went on a free island bus tour for three hours, learning about the history and culture of the island. We visited Marigot, Orient Beach, Philipsburg, and stopped by Cost-U-Less for students to get groceries. It was nice not having to worry about driving, just soaking in the info while enjoying the scenery.

Now, I’m going to the “Welcome Mixer” to see what that is all about. I’m most interested to see AUC’s very own band, Dengue and the Fevers, playing, and of course, meeting new people! More about this later!

Check out the pictures from the Island Bus Tour!