Guide to AUC: What to Pack?

An important thing to know about packing for St. Maarten is that things on the island in general are more expensive compared to the State and Provinces (on average about 1.2-1.5x more expensive). But an even more important thing to know about packing for St. Maarten is that you can pretty much find anything you want or need on this island. Therefore, the strategy is to pack just enough so that you don’t overpay for extra luggage worth of things you could have easily bought on the island for cheaper.

Before you pack, make sure to check with your airline to see how much extra luggage costs and what the weight limit is per luggage!! You don’t want to pay $150 for an extra suitcase that you fill with cheap things that take up a lot of space that you could easily buy on the island.

Because you can find most everything you need on the island, the most important things to pack are:

  1. Important documents.
  2. Things that you feel are priceless or have sentimental value, like a gift your mom gave you.
  3. Things that you are particularly picky about, like your clothes.
  4. Things that are particularly expensive, like electronics, that are worth more than the costs needed to bring them to the island, and cheaper than buying on the island. (i.e. It’s worthwhile to bring $300 worth of electronics in an extra bag that costs you $150 vs. buying the same things on the island for $400).
After you bring these 4 types of things, if you have more space, bring whatever else you can stuff into your luggage without going over the weight limit that airlines often have.

Disclaimer: This list is by no means complete or exclusive. I’ve listed things I recommend bringing as well as things I recommend not bringing. It is compiled only through my own experiences here on St. Maarten. I understand that each person may have individual needs. If you have any other suggestions, please add them here to share with everyone!


DOCUMENTS

  • Passport — Keep this in a safe place. This will be your pass on and off the island.
  • Letter of Acceptance — Since you don’t have a student ID yet, bring your letter of acceptance as proof to show customs at the airport that you are a student. If you have proof that you are a student, you can stand in the “residents” line at the airport and go through customs quickly rather than wait in the long “visitors” line.
  • Letter from Chief of Airport Immigration — As an AUC student, you can enter St. Maarten with just a one-way ticket, and the airport should know this. However, just in case they don’t, print out this letter from the Chief of Airport Immigration that shows that you don’t need a return ticket to travel to the island. On the letter, don’t worry that the letter is addressed to Sumita… she is the one that works in the AUC immigration office that handles all the student immigration paperwork.
  • Driver’s License — To drive in St. Maarten, you do not need a Dutch or international drivers license. An American or Canadian drivers license will suffice.

ROOM AMENITIES

  • Bed Sheet, Blanket, and Pillow – This is something you’ll want the first day on the island. You’ll need an extra-long twin sized bed sheet if you are living in the dorms. The dorm mattress size is 77-78″ X 36-37″, and so any bed sheet around this size (i.e. 80″x39″) should be fine. If you choose to buy bed sheets, blankets, or pillow on the island, you can get them at ACE’s in Cole Bay or Bush Road. But remember, as a general rule, everything here will be more expensive that what you pay in the states.
  • Wireless Router – As of May 2012, wifi is available in the dorms, like pretty much everywhere else on campus, so you won’t have to worry about having a wireless router. If you’re going to live off-campus, there are many internet options. Some companies may offer satellite internet while others may offer WiMax USB sticks that connet you to internet anytime and anywhere. For me, I decided to get CaribServe internet ($60+ a month), and use a wireless router to share the wifi signal with my neighbor, and split the cost with my neighbor so we both only pay $30/month each. I’d contact your landlord for internet options at your apartment to decide whether or not you should bring a wireless router.
  • Desk Lamp – They don’t provide desk lamps in the dorms and the rooms can get kinda dark! If you decide to buy one on the island, you can check out the lamp selection at ACE’s or wait for the First Semester Yard Sale to buy one cheap from a fellow student.
  • Swiffler – The floors in most apartments on-campus and off-campus will be tiled, and will be easy to clean with a Swiffler. Again, this is something you don’t have to bring if you are going over your luggage’s weight limit. If you can’t fit one in your luggage, you could always just buy one at Cost-U-Less here on the island.

BATHROOM AMENITIES

  • Bathmat – This is just one of those things that are nice and hygienic to have on the first day here on the island before you settle down and go shopping for more supplies. If you decide not to bring one, you could always find bathmats at ACE’s in Cole Bay or Bush Road. I got mine for $10 at Kwik Bargain on Bush Road.
  • Shower Curtain + Rings – If you are living in the dorms, don’t worry about buying shower curtains or rings, since the dorms come with them. However, if you are planning to live off-campus, it’s likely that you may need shower curtains and rings (check with your landlord). If you don’t want to bring a set from home, you can easily buy one on the island at Ace’s Megastore in Cole Bay or Bush Road. Note Services on campus also sells shower curtains + rings for $8.

KITCHEN AMENITIES

  • Kitchenware – From my experience, both the AUC dorms and off-campus housing provide silverwear, pots, pans, plates, and cups. However, in general, the pots and pans are not of good quality, since they are used. Therefore, if you love cooking, and are very particulate about your cooking ware, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring your own from home.  If you don’t want to waste previous luggage space on kitchenware, you can easily buy all your kitchen supplies on the island at ACE’s , Kwik Bargain, or Cost-U-Less once you get here, but as I said before, things here are a little pricier than in the states, even at these discount stores. You can also buy used kitchenware at the Fifth Semester Yard Sale on campus at the beginning of every semester. Fifth semester students are always looking to getting rid of their stuff before they leave the island and by buying their stuff, you’ll actually be helping them.

CLOTHES

  • Casual wear – For everyday wear, bring clothes as if you’ll be dressing for summer all year round, because you will.
  • Beach wear – Also don’t forget to bring swim wear, sandals, and beach towels.
  • Gym wear – If you plan on exercising, working out, jogging, or playing sports, it’s a good idea to bring gym shorts. There is a 24-hour gym on campus, as well as a gym at Rainbow Beach Club within walking distance of campus. There are also marathons and 5k races on the island that some students may be interested in participate in.
  • Lab wear – For anatomy lab, you will need to bring a few pairs of scrubs. I’d recommend bringing around 3 pairs so that you can wash them weekly. If you don’t have a pair, you can buy one at Note Services on Campus for $25 when you arrive. PLEASE DON’T bring your own lab coat. You’ll be required to buy one with the AUC logo either from the school’s online bookstore or at Note Services on campus. I recommend buying one on campus because that way you can try it out before you buy it so you’ll be sure it fits you.
  • Warm clothes – Although it will be hot outside for the most part, bring something warm just in case, because lecture halls can get cold. They also sell sweaters and hoodies at Note Services, if you like some AUC memorabilia.
  • Dress Clothes – You’ll need a set of dress clothes for the white coat ceremony during the first week of school. For girls, wear business professional (but without the jacket, since you’ll be wearing a white coat) or business casual. Dressy pants is always a good choice. If you decide to go with a skirt instead, make sure it is long and of an appropriate length, because a mini skirt with a white coat just looks funny. For guys, you’ll definitely need a shirt, tie and slacks. You won’t need a jacket for the white coat ceremony as an inductee (since you’ll be wearing the white coat), but you may want to have one handy on the island just in case you choose to participate in more formal events in the future. During Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM), which you take starting first semester, you may be required to dress formally for patient interviews, as well as mini-rotations you do fifth semester. Also, throughout the year there are many formal events, like Phi Chi Induction Ceremony, Fifth Semester Party, and Wine-and-Cheese.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

  • Textbooks – As of September 2013, AUC provides all students with electronic textbooks via a platform called Vital Source, and so technically it’s not necessary to bring textbooks with you before coming to the island. However, some people prefer paper textbooks over staring at a computer screen, and so if there is a textbook you want in physical form, you can buy it on campus for cheap from other students at the First Semester Yard Sale in the beginning of the semester. There is no bookstore on campus, only a school supply/copy store called Notes Services. I don’t recommend buying all the books, as you most likely won’t need to use them, and they will collect dust. The only book I would suggest buying before coming to the island is Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy I suggest buying Netter’s before you come rather than buying it from an upper semester student once you arrive because there probably won’t be enough to pass around. I got mine brand-new off of ebay for $30, and I’ve used it to the max.. it’s pretty beat up now. The two other book I’d recommend besides Netters is BRS Gross Anatomy. Some students like to start using First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 in first semester, but it really isn’t necessary until you get closer to fifth semester when you start studying for the Comp and the Step. Don’t bother buying VH Dissector or Virtual Microscope software! They have them on all the 33 or so laptop computers in the Dry Lab, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use it, both during and after class. Click here for my take on textbooks. 
  • USB drive – There are always files going around among the class, whether they are ebooks, Acland’s anatomy videos, instructional materials, practice questions, or student-created study resources. Bring a USB drive so that you can get these files. You’ll definitely be using it a lot. If you don’t have a USB drive, you can get one at Note Services on Campus with AUC’s logo on it for $15, but it’s only 2GB.
  • Clip Board – They are required for anatomy lab practical exams and you can buy them for $1 at Walmart back at home. MAKE SURE THEY ARE NOT SEE-THROUGH!
  • Pencils, Pens, Paper, Highlighters, Notebooks, Folder… whatever you usually use to study. One thing I find useful are dry erase markers, as all of the study rooms in the ICM wing and the fifth floor of the dorms have dry erase boards you can use when studying with friends or alone.
  • Dissection Kits – If you have one, great! Bring one over, or you can buy a complete set on campus at Note Services for $30 or so. You could also wait to buy your dissection kits once you meet the people in your lab group on the first day, and that way you can decide if you want to buy a few kits together as a group and share them. Afterall, not all 6-7 of you (or however many people in your group) will be crowding around the cadaver dissecting at the same time. At most there will probably be 3-4 of you dissecting at any one time, while the rest observe, and then you take turns when the people dissecting gets tired. Because of this, you probably don’t need more than 3-4 dissection kits per lab group, and you can certainly decide to share your tools, especially since you won’t be needing them after first semester.  If you have sensitive hands or latex allergies and need special gloves, I’d recommend bringing gloves from home, otherwise you can easily buy gloves on campus at Notes Services (50 pairs = $10), or at any grocery store on the island (which is probably cheaper than Notes Services). 
  • ICM Supplies – For Introduction to Clinical Medicine, which you start during first semester, you’ll need a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. You won’t need anything else until your second semester. Please see my post about ICM equipment.
  • Computer – It doesn’t really matter what kind you bring or what stats it has. As long as you can search the web with it, type documents, and read PDFs and powerpoint slides, that is most important. Some people may also bring iPads, which are great to study with since you can annotate directly on lecture slides on there. Here is my take on iPad apps for med school.

OTHERS

  • Bring an unlocked Cell Phone. All cell phones you buy in the States are locked by the phone company selling them to you, to prevent you from switching loyalty to another company. But if you’ve been a loyal customer for a long time, you can call your phone company and tell them you’ll be traveling abroad and that you’d like to unlock your phone to use another SIM card. They’ll ask you for some info about your specific phone and give you a code to punch into your phone to unlock it. Then once you arrive on the island, you can buy a Chippie SIM card from the Business Fair at the beginning of the school year and start chatting away! There are also phone plans you can subscribe to, and you can talk to the UTS/Chippie or TelCell representatives about this when they are here during the Business Fair.
  • If you are taking any dietary supplements, like calcium, vitamins, or protein shakes, bring them! You can find them in several stores around the island but they are a lot more expensive than in the states or Canada. Otherwise, on the island, the closest health supplement stores to campus are Fountain of Health in Simpson Bay and Nature’s Discount in Simpson Bay.
  • Contact Lens Solution – If you wear contact lenses, bring enough disinfectant/storage solution to last you, because they are expensive in the pharmacies on the island! I bought a small 120mL (travel-size) bottle on the island at Maho Pharmacy and it cost me $11!
  • Umbrella – We may not have a cold season here, but we do have a rainy season. It rains a little bit everyday sporadically and unpredictably during the winter months.
  • Toilet Paper — The dorms should come with toilet paper, but off-campus housing may not. Just in case there isn’t, you may want to bring a roll just for your first day on the island just in case you don’t have the chance to go shopping. Otherwise, just use the school’s bathrooms.
  • Bring a box of small, random items that you may or may not use. This is what I brought: matches, staples, sewing kit, batteries, post-it notes, candles, tape, rubber bands, envelopes, swimming goggles, glue, ear plugs…
  • Decorations – If you are living in the dorms, the walls are painfully bear! Bring something you like from home that will make the environment more familiar to you. Also bring a picture of a loved one. You’ll be thousands of miles away from home in a foreign country, and you’ll need one.
  • Don’t Forget to Bring a Camera! St. Maarten’s a beautiful place and you’ll be taking lots of pictures with all the new friends you’ll make here.

Again, this list is by no means exhaustive and is merely based on my own experiences and opinions. Remember, if there’s anything you can’t pack, chances are you’ll still be able to find it and buy it on the island! You can pretty much find anything here (but with a cost of course). If you are planning to ship your car to the island from the states, remember you can also stuff your car full of everything you want to bring down. If there is anything you’d like to suggest, please add it here! Have fun packing and see you on the island!

28 comments to Guide to AUC: What to Pack?

  • Jarin R

    Hey Benji,

    I am just looking for some information on what type of computer I should bring. The AUC website states that we are required to have a laptop. It gives specs for Mac and I am a fan of Apple. Is everything at AUC compatible with Mac? Thanks!

    Jarin

    P.S. I love your blog. It has helped me tremendously with my decision to attend AUC. They need to put you on the payroll! It is interesting and informative. Thanks again!

    • Benji

      Thanks Jarin!
      You should be able to use any type of lap top, as long as you can open powerpoint, pdf’s, and word files, which all pcs and macs should be able to do. I know many people also like having a tablet PC or ipad to write notes directly on lecture slides. If you’re getting a new computer, any one should be fine. Best of luck Jarin!
      Benji

  • Nelly

    Hi Benji,

    What about electronics? Will things like a hair dryer/straightener work there or do I have to buy an adapter/voltage converter? Thank you! 🙂

    Nelly

  • Sara

    Hi Benji!

    I’m not really sure if this question goes here, but it does pertain to “before coming”! I got accepted for January 2013 and classes start January 7, I believe. When would you say is the best time to arrive on the island and get everything settled?

    • Benji

      Hi Sara!
      Congratulations on your acceptance, and welcome to AUC! I’d move in a few days before classes start, just to get settled, buy groceries, and explore the island a bit. If you are going to be living off-campus, make sure to find out when you can move in. If you are moving into the dorms, the earliest you can move in is the Friday before classes start (January 4). I’d suggest Friday before school starts (Jan 4) should be enough time to get settled.
      Best of luck!
      Benji

  • Allie

    Hello Benji!

    I am debating whether or not to bring my printer to the island. In your experience in basic sciences, do you feel like it is worth it to bring a printer?

    Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hi Allie,
      I know some students who like to print their notes out in color, and in this case, a printer is nice. But most people who want printed notes don’d mind the black-and-white pre-paid printed note packages you can get at Notes Services on campus. Personally, I didn’t use printed notes, and so I didn’t ever need a printer on the island. You can also print at Notes Services or at the library for 10c/sheet.
      Benji

  • Kevin

    Hey Benji,
    First of all, excellent post! Thank you so much for doing this! So after going through the list of things to bring from your post, I have one question: How safe is it to bring valuable stuff onto the island? What are the chances of it getting stolen or lost?

    Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hi Kevin,
      Like with all places, there is always a chance of things getting stolen or lost, and theft is not unheard of on this island. Occasionally you do hear of a student’s car or apartment being broken into. Personally, and thankfully, I have never been robbed or had things stolen while I was on the island. I’d say chances are low, but we must still keep precautions. Where you live may also matter. If you decide to stay in an apartment complex with security, then perhaps you’d be safer. To be safe, I’d leave your most valuable possessions at home. Don’t wear flashy things that would attract the eyes of muggers, and don’t leave anything visible in your car. Adhere to your basic safety precautions and most likely you’ll spend your time on the island without any problems.
      Benji

  • Zee

    Hi Benji,

    My undergrad gpa is 3.4 and I got a 28 on my MCAT, I will be applying to AUC. Hopefully I get in, my main concern with getting my medication on the island. Currently I am on 50mg of Zoloft(Seteriline) for anxiety. How common is this medication among medical students, and is it available on the island?

    I really appreciate all your input and thanks! in advance for your response.

    • Benji

      Hi Zee,
      Best of luck on your application to AUC. As I don’t take any medication, I’m not familiar with what medications are available in the pharmacies on the island. However, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to find a drug like Zoloft here. Personally I don’t know anyone here who is taking that medication. If you don’t happen to find the drugs you need on the island, perhaps the pharmacies on the island can order them for you.
      Benji

  • Filza

    Hey benji,
    Is a blood pressure cuff absolutely required? And if so is it available on the island?

    • Benji

      Yes, you will be learning how to use a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff during ICM I. You will practice on each other, and so it is necessary to have your own equipment. I guess you could borrow from your classmates if you don’t have equipment, but I personally wouldn’t want to be “that guy” who always borrows from other people. If you have your own equipment, you will also be able to practice using them anytime, on your classmates, friends, and family when you go home for the break. It is also an investment for your future physician career. I still use my equipment now, even after graduation. In ICM 2 and beyond, you’ll learn to use the rest of the equipment, like ophthalmoscope/otoscope, tuning fork, reflex hammer, etc. There used to be a local island company that comes to campus every semester to take orders for equipment, but I’m not sure if they still come. You could probably buy a cheaper cuff if you buy it from the states.

  • Tobi AIna

    Hey mehn, what do you think about noise cancellation headphones for tests, studying and what not? Did you find you needed a noise cancellation device of some sort?

    • Benji

      Hi Tobi, definitely not necessary. Campus isn’t particularly noisy, especially now that construction on the new building is completed. Noise cancellation headphones are expensive and not worth the money if you only want it for noise cancellation purposes. You can get ear plugs at the grocery store for probably less than a dollar and they work well. If you want it for listening to music, that’s another issue.
      Benji

  • Katie

    Hi,

    Does it matter what color scrubs we get or where we purchase them?

    Thanks!
    Katie

  • Kristin

    Hi Benji! I’m moving Wednesday with my husband. I was wondering where you can find the immigration letter. Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hello Kristin, you should be able to present your acceptance letter to immigration and they will let you through. However, I also have a link on this post for a letter to the immigration officer. It’s near the top of this article.

  • Chinedu Obi

    Hello Benji? Do you know how much it costs to ship a car from the U.S. to st Martin? Thanks

  • Alicia

    Benji, do you know if Amazon delivers to the island?

  • Don Martin

    If you are sick, is there a doctor that one can see on campus and a pharmacy for getting the prescribed medication?

    Thanks,

    • Benji Ho

      I don’t know about now, but when I was on the island few yrs ago, there was a clinic and pharmacy up the road in Maho, not too far from campus.

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