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:
- Important documents.
- Things that you feel are priceless or have sentimental value, like a gift your mom gave you.
- Things that you are particularly picky about, like your clothes.
- 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).
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!