What New Students Should Know

There’s about a month left till the next semester and I know all of you prospective students from USA and Canada are eager to come to Bonaire and I know you are nervous also. The Chicago office can tell you so much but what I tell you is first-hand experience of what I have seen and what I have been through. A reader emailed me about couple days ago and asked to post pictures of the area the school, apartments, stores, etc. I will do so in the next post.

Settling Down Will be Difficult
Moving to a new country for education can be tough. I’m not going to sugar coat anything because I tell you directly that first semester will be hard to adjust to for most of you from North America. I would say about 70% of the new comers will find a place to live in the first semester and then move to a new place after three or four months for the second semester to the rest of the year.

Complete Your Paperwork
Before you come to Bonaire make sure you are squared away with all your paper works. I wrote a previous post regarding that, please read that through. The most important papers you should have are the notarized Police report and a doctor’s letter with the physician’s header on the letter saying you are healthy with all your immunization shots. Make sure the physician writes a “letter” and not a note approving that you are healthy. I got a hepatitis B shot before coming here which was a precaution advised by my doctor and she said she wouldn’t give me the letter until I get one. As for the police report I ordered one for Chicago and I ordered another a week before coming to Bonaire. Please remember to have two copied of everything, especially your birth certificate.

If you are not born in the United States and you are just getting your papers taken care of, you will most likely have difficulty getting things done because there are so many things that are required and you have about 40 days left. The required things that needed to be fulfilled took me about 4-5 months because I was born in another country; basically due to the birth certificate.

I couldn’t find any pdf forms from SJSM but I did find them from Xavier’s website.

Netherlands Government Does Not Control Bonaire
Keep in mind this is Bonaire, an island, a Caribbean colony of The Kingdom of Netherlands; therefore things will not be the same as a Western nation. Recently, citizens of Bonaire voted for a party which decided that they want almost an entire autonomy from the Dutch; therefore; the modernization process may slow down to a stop because Dutch money won’t be pouring into the island treasury anymore. So I’m guessing the Bonarian government will increases prices because they won’t get free money from their colonial administrators from the Netherlands.

Arriving at Flamingo International Airport in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
When you are at the airport you won’t be impressed, trust me. The airport is small and students usually fly in the weekends. The flights that most students take are the connecting flights on Continental Airlines from George W. Bush International Airport from Houston, Texas. Students also take Delta Airlines from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from Atlanta, Georgia.

If you haven’t done so, book your ticket from KAYAK.com; they give the lowest airline fare prices I have come across.

At the Flamingo International Airport you will stand in line to check in to customs. Make sure you have your passport, your letter of acceptance to SJSM, and an enrollment certificate in your hand. The letter of acceptance is important because it has SJSM’s address and the administration’s phone numbers. Chicago probably didn’t give you an enrollment certificate so, just call them up and get them to send you one; you won’t need it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The officer at the counter will give you a visitor’s pass and if you turned in all your paperwork by the deadline the Chicago office gave you then your picture will show up on the computer at the counter. If your picture shows up on the computer then that means your residency in the process. What the airport officer will give you is a visitor pass which gives you permission to stay on the island for 90 days and within that 90 days you should get your residency permit from the school.

The Chicago office should have helped you in pairing up with a travel buddy. Keep in mind this is the summer semester so, your class is the smallest out of all the classes. The largest class comes in the Fall semesters and the smallest class comes in the summer semesters.

Transportation from the Airport
Whatever you, do take the taxi as a “last resort” from the airport. The reason I say this because the taxi drivers may take advantage of you and charge you more than they’re supposed to. Native people over here charge a lot from foreigners while giving the same service to locals less than 50% of the price. SJSM group is on FaceBook and many students from the school are on it I recommend you arrange a ride with SJSM students from the airport to your hotel. SJSM students are very helpful especially our SGA, you asked them for help and they will help you. Each semester our SGA gets better in doing fund raising and in coordination.

8 thoughts on “What New Students Should Know”

  1. Dear imgstudent,
    After reading ur posts, i cannot help but be very concerned about my circumstance. Just like u, i am a US citizen but born in anther country, for me thats China. When i did my immigration 10+ years ago, i didnt have a birth cert, all i had was this letter which i still have, stating my birthplace, date and the names of parents, and that was notarized. I dont know if ur situration is like mine, but i wonder if that letter will be enough of a replacement for a actual birth cert. And if so, the next step will be going to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China and get it attested there, and finally go to the Royal Netherlands Embassy (Dutch Embassy in China or US?) and have them legalize it for use with the government of the Netherlands Antilles.
    For my single status thing, is it correct that i can just write something and go to the local bank and get it notarized?
    I realize ur situration might be different from mine, but i thought i would ask anyway. I have tried to call SJSM once about my birth cert issue, but they really didnt have a good answer…
    THanks for taking the time to read my long question!


  2. Sarah,

    If you have someone in China, such as a cousin or uncle, who can get you a birth certificate and have it mailed to you, then you should do so and it should have a issue date that can be valid for 6 months.

    We have a student here who is also from China and he had to get his birth certificate. However if the Dutch embassy in USA gives the authorization that it's ok to substitute your birth certificate with something else then the Bonairian immigration will accept that. But the Dutch embassy in America must sign off to that. You have about a month till the semester starts please call the embassy right away.

    The number for the netherlands embassy is (202) 244-5300

  3. Dear imgstudent,
    thank you so much for the speedy response! and thanks for posting the netherland embassy number, i really appreicate it!

    I actually havent applied to St.James yet, i have gotten all my letter of rec, transcript together but imma just waiting on my friends to proofread my personal statement…Honestly, i am still debating if i should take the mcat or not, which is whats holding me up from applying to St. James…

    If u dont mind me asking, how do u like St. James so far? (everyone around me have been strongly suggesting me to take the MCAT, but i have always sucked on standardized test, so i kinda dont want to take it and just want to apply to St. James, attend med school and move on with my life…)

    i realized this is kinda like a personal struggle, and i know its kinda hard for u to answer, i just wanna to say any comment is greatly appreicated, and thanks again for taking the time to help me!

  4. In my honest opinion, I suggest you take the MCAT and go to an American medical school than St. James or any other Caribbean medical school, even SGU. The only reason I chose SJSM because I don’t want to waste time studying for the MCAT, I don’t want to take extra classes than the required pre-med courses, and I don’t want to be in debt. I only had to get recommendation letters and do 90 hours of volunteering before applying to SJSM.
    As for me liking SJSM, the medical school is not the best looking place in the world I’ll tell you that. But it’s what you paid for; the low price tuition rate will only pay for your tuition and not the high-tech facility. However, once you step in the classroom, it has all the required equipment to learn the basic science foundation.
    But if you don’t want to waste time then go to a Caribbean school. The only advantage St. James will give you is the price with the same chance of getting a chance to practice medicine in the United States.

  5. Dear imgstudent,
    Thank you for ur honest opinion, i really appreciated you taking the time to post it, it is very nice to be able to talk to someone who is currently attending St. James…the points you brought up are the things that attracted me to St. James too, for me the only reservation is that i am from Florida, but St.James isnt approved by state of FL, imma not saying i want to practice in Florida, but to have that completely ruled out is another thing…so, i am still thinking…
    But I am going to try to send out my application next week, i will keep you post it if i get accepted, and take some more time to think about MCAT.
    THanks again for your help!! Keep the great work up!
    Btw, if you dont mind me asking, is this your first or second year at St. James?

  6. thanks for your sincere advise and suggestions, i will keep them in mind!
    by the way, i love your blog, it is extremely informative and helpful, and thanks for uploading pictures!!
    ps: this is whosarah from before, its just i forgot my password and cant log into the my google account anymore!

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