I have no other words for my study experience thus far other than grateful and complete happiness. Part of my study abroad included the celebration of Memorial Day, a day all American’s take time to mourn our fallen soldiers and be grateful for their sacrifices so that we may live in freedom. A few of us girls loaded up on Memorial Day to head to enjoy lunch at Java, a beautiful Mediterranean restaurant located on the beach in Grand Case. The original plan was to enjoy lunch then lay on the sand until returning to our hotel for our favorite Monday night tradition, karaoke. This plan was quickly thrown out the window when our servers let us control the speakers and live out our patriotic dreams in Sint Maarten. From singing Dixieland Delight and Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue to making friends with the other restaurant goers- this visit to Java was nothing short of memorable. I have never not been on American soil for a holiday such this, but joining in hands with some of my best friends to sing the National Anthem and pay homage to our fallen soldiers made me feel a little more patriotic even this far from home. 

My time in Sint Maarten has gifted me with hands-on, valuable knowledge that will be used to complete my final project, a Public Relations Plan Book. We are working with Vacation Sint Maarten to complete our final project. Gianira Arrindell, head of marketing for Vacation Sint Maarten, spoke about the social media analytics for all their platforms, challenges the organization faces, and what message they are trying to send. This visit proved to be extremely helpful for my final project, as I learned things about the client I did not previously know from my own research. 

In my Digital and Social Media Analytics for Tourism Marketing class, we conducted social media audits of Vacation Sint Maarten to help determine the main competitors the organization faces. We determined these competitors to be other Caribbean islands, specifically cheaper islands, like the Dominican Republic and Jamacia. However, we were surprised to hear that Vacation Sint Maarten considers Aruba to be Sint Maarten’s biggest competitor. She even went as far to say that the organization does not consider the Dominican Republic a competitor at all, as they market to a different type of travel than Sint Maarten does. Without the opportunity to hear from Vacation Sint Maarten and ask questions, I might not have ever known this which would gravely affect my final plan book. 

An excursion I have been looking forward to all trip came, and it surely did not disappoint. Our alarms rang at 7:00am, signaling it was time to load up and head to the dock for our all-day catamaran to Prickly Pear Cays and Anguilla, British territories close to Sint Maarten. The boat ride to Prickly Pear lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes, but we didn’t mind. We filled our time with suntanning and laughter as we made friends with some of the other catamaran guests onboard with us. While at Prickly Pear, we enjoyed some breathtaking snorkeling and an amazing barbecue lunch. Afterwards, we loaded up and headed for Anguilla, where we would enjoy some swimming time and create lasting memories.

I have spent a lot of time reading by the pool and enjoying the Caribbean sun.

Overall, this experience has been so amazing this far and I cannot wait for the rest of the trip. I sure do miss home but I am so thankful for this opportunity and all it has to offer.

– Malia Elliott