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Study in the Caribbean? Why not!

Published: 10. March 2019

How the time flies! It’s been four years already, but I feel like it’s only yesterday when my leg first stepped into Martinique. Whether it was a coincidence or a fate, it´s hard to tell, but my study has brought me here. I would never have thought that I would be hitting the books at the University in the Caribbean one day. But when I was given an opportunity to switch the cold, gloomy Berlin for the tropical island, the sea and the sun in the Erasmus student program at L’Université des Antilles, I did not hesitate for a second.

 

When I first went to Martinique, I didn’t know anyone. All I knew about the island was that it is in the Caribbean and that it is beautiful, warm, with a good rum and spoken French. And that there are sympathetic blacks, which was another plus 😀

 

I have stepped out of the plane full of expectation and excitement. I have been blown away by hot air and I knew I was in the right country. Spending half a year on the beach, daily swimming in the sea, eating tropical fruits, improving French and meeting a new culture, it sounded like a fairy tale.

 

There was, however, a catch. I only knew the address of the university, where I was supposed to be accommodated, and since I didn’t know how to get there, there was nothing else I could do but take a taxi from the airport. Big mistake. When the taxi driver have said the price, my heart has almost skipped a beat: 50€ in 15 minutes.

 

As if it were not enough, when I have arrived at a site, there was not a living soul, and the dorm was locked. I stood there for a moment, wondering what to do next. Suddenly a boy with luggage showed up. He had a key from the building. We talked and I have explained him my situation. He suggested that I could sleep in his room and he would sleep at his cousin´s in Fort-de-France.

 

I had two options: accept this offer or go sleep somewhere at a beach. I was seriously considering the second option, but since it was almost night, I had two big cases and mosquitoes were biting, I finally chose comfort. The guy gave me the key from his room, I was tired and fell asleep instantly. I went to the boarding school management the next morning. They finally gave me my own room. I found out that it was necessary to let them know in advance when I’d arrive so there is someone to open and accommodate me. Since the school year has not yet begun, nobody was there.

It did not take long and I found a bunch of friends on the campus. Most foreign students were in groups by nationality. I was sort of an outsider and I did not want to be included in any groups. Well, I came here to improve my French. I have spent most of the time with locals and thanks to that I have learned French fluently within a few months. In addition, I have learned the basics of creole and local culture, also thanks to the courses offered by the university for foreign students. I certainly recommend using them!

 

Living in a dorm or in a private flat?

This question is posed by almost everyone coming to study in Martinique. Each has its own pros and cons.

I have lived in a dorm. I quickly met with a bunch of people, as the dorm is right on campus, which is an advantage. It was also only 3 minutes walk to the lecture. Price was more affordable, rooms vary from 200€ to 300€ per month. The disadvantage of a dorm is that one does not have so much privacy. There are often noises in the corridor, and 20 students share a mini-kitchen. So you can imagine when you all want to have dinner at the same time. Other cons are the strict rules and no visits after 10 pm.

If you choose a private accommodation, you will pay a little extra, but you’ll have peace, space, and freedom. In addition, most natives are nice, helpful and happy to introduce you to the local culture and traditions. Prices range from 300€ to 500€ for a room in a shared house or a small private apartment.

 

I´ll be honest about the school organization, it’s a little messy. I was used to a perfect system from Germany, and this was just the opposite. The timetable and courses continued to change for the whole first month. When I finally got a permanent study plan, the semester was almost over. The advantage, however, is that if you do not like a course or you find it too difficult, you can change it even 5 more times.

 

The most of courses at the university are offered only in French. Do not be afraid! Their difficulty is lower than what we are accustomed to from our schools. What local teachers value the most is the effort. Additionally, most of them are helpful and more forgiving to the foreign students.

 

Surf, wakeboard, kayak or diving? The university has a wide range of different sports courses so it would be a shame not to take part. You can also get credits for them as a bonus. I certainly recommend that you sign up for the Saturday excursions organized by the school. It’s a great chance to meet other students and discover the beauty of Martinique’s nature.

 

If you are a student, do not hesitate to ask your university, whether you have an opportunity to travel to Martinique, eighter for the Erasmus exchange or internship. I’m sure you will not regret it! In addition, you will receive a scholarship from your school, spend an unforgettable time on this wonderful island, improve your language and get to know an interesting culture with great people.

 

Martinique is exactly the country that has all my “must haves”. Sun, beautiful beaches, warm sea, unspoiled nature, excellent cuisine, and friendly people. No wonder I was back in a year, to do my internship as a tourist guide.

 

 

Summary and tips for students:
  • try to arrange a pick-up from the airport before the arrival, whether through Facebook or through friends. Try to reach out to someone who lives on the islandif they could pick you up. People are helpful and kind. Or, agree with other Erasmus students through FB groups that are arriving on the same day and share a taxi
  • contact the local study department for foreign students in advance. They will answer all your questions and help you with the room
  • if you want to live in a private room, look for local sites like www.leboncoin.fr or facebook (eg. Jah Familia, Colocation Martinique)
  • it is quite complicated with the island public transport. It is worthwhile to consider buying a used car that you will resell before leaving. It is worth sharing the price with several students together.
  • take advantage of the rich offer of sports activities at the university, sign up for as many courses as possible
  • sign up for the Creole beginners course
  • get a housing allowance through the CAF, which typically covers half of the rental costs. For more information, contact CROUS at the university or find details at www.caf.fr
  • and last but not least: spend time with locals as much as possible, don’t be afraid to speak French, recharge your batteries in wild nature, get a loads of vitamin D from sun rays, experience the carnival, eat fresh fish, tropical fruits and enjoy the tranquil Caribbean lifestyle 🙂