Prior to coming to Sint Maarten, I had major fears about what life would be like on the island for me. Would I make friends with my classmates? Would the locals accept us? Would I adjust well to their way of living? The short answer is yes, but not without some struggles first.

To say it’s difficult to come into another country as an American and live is a gross understatement. The American way of living is very different from the Friendly Island’s way of living. I mean, who knew you had to pay for water here?

I found restaurant and store workers staring at me in disbelief when I would say, “y’all”, or “ma’am/ sir”. I’ve never been asked “where are you from?” and someone not know my hometown. Cash is still king on this island, literally nowhere accepts card, or at least not without a minimum transaction fee first. The markets do not sell medication nor vitamins, so it was off to the pharmacy for me this first week.

As the first few days went on, I increasingly got more nervous that I would never feel comfortable on this island. It wasn’t until Eva, our official tour guide of the island, made a meaningful connection with me. In 2017, the Friendly Island faced devastating damage after Hurricane Irma blew through destroying nearly all in its path. Eva and I were able to connect and discuss the horrors of hurricanes, as my hometown has experienced three since I was born. This was the first moment I felt a sense of normalcy and familiarity since arriving in Sint Maarten.

I’ve been on the island for a couple of weeks now and I can confidentially I feel much more comfortable being here and calling this place my second home. There are definitely still some cultural differences I am working through and trying to understand, but it is all working out.

My first few weeks here have been some of the most amazing and hard weeks of my life. Lots of laughs and tears have been shared, funny moments and thrilling adventures have occurred, and sweet memories have been created while in Sint Maarten so far. From all day catamarans to exploring the capitals, these two weeks have been nothing short of amazing. This island is full of immense beauty and unique history that make for the perfect place to study abroad and immerse yourself in another culture.

-Malia Elliott

First day on the island! Exploring all it has to offer.
Snorkeling at Creole Rock!
View from our catamaran