As I stare out of my window writing this article, I see the sun peeking over the clouds just over the horizon of the deep blue Caribbean Sea. Every morning I am greeted with a sunrise that only seems to get more beautiful as the days go by. Studying abroad in Barbados this past month has been a once in a life time experience, an experience that has affected my life in so many positive ways.
To begin, the scenery all over the island is absolutely breathtaking. From beaches with pink sand, to the clearest blue ocean water one can picture, Barbados is simply beautiful. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of my days relaxing on different beaches around the island with both locals and other international students. My first week here, I spent the majority of my time with the other students from the UC system. Over the past month I have formed bonds with these four girls that will last a life time. The international students all spend time together, whether we are doing tourist activities like visiting Harrison’s Cave, or going out to clubs every Thursday night.
However, I have also been able to spend a lot of time with the locals as well. The majority of Bajan people are some of the kindest people I have met in my life. Their culture is completely different from that of America, so I am learning more every day. Whenever I’m lost, the community won’t hesitate to lead me in the right direction, although these days I find myself much better at getting around the island. I’ve also met a good amount of students from other islands in the Caribbean so I am getting a taste of so many different cultures. Of course I did not come here to only lay out on the beach and party and drink local rum drinks; I also do spend a good amount of time studying and volunteering at a primary school within the community.
I cannot lie and say that everything went smoothly with The University of the West Indies at Cave Hill (UWI Cave Hill). I always say I love Barbados, not so much the UWI campus. It took about two weeks for me and the other internationals to get our classes situated all while the semester was in progress. However, the professors were very understanding about the work missed and let us make it up.Since the first two weeks, everything has been uphill. The classes are very different from what I was used to at UCR. Most of the lectures are more like what UCR would consider discussions. The students are very passionate about what they’re learning and I’ve noticed that they seem to care more about learning the material than the grades they will receive. It has taken time to get accustomed to the different teaching techniques, but I find my courses to be very engaging and I am learning a lot. Since I have been lucky enough to not have class on Fridays, I spend my mornings singing and reading to elementary-aged students, which is always very rewarding. While school is incredibly important, I have taken the time to also explore other islands while I am in the Caribbean.
Yesterday I came back from a mini vacation to the beautiful island of Dominica. I was fortunate enough to meet a student at UWI who was nice enough to extend his family to host me and a few friends while traveling to Dominica. Dominica is completely different than Barbados as far as landscape and culture is concerned. Both are beautiful countries with incredible people living there and it has been a blessing to be able to experience both places. The one thing people told me to do while out here is island hop, and I can definitely see why. I get so much more from my trip by seeing the different cultures of the surrounding islands in the Caribbean.
Although it has only been a little more than a month since I’ve been in Barbados, I already consider it home. I recall last quarter reading an article in the Highlander about another student studying abroad in Barbados, and her negative perception had scared me a little. I can see where her perspective came from because if you’re accustomed to the spoiled American lifestyle, living in Barbados will not be like living at home. You will have lizards in your room every now and then, and the humidity will make you sweat profusely. However, I am happy to say that my experience abroad has been nothing less than positive and a once in a life time experience.