You aren’t afraid of adventure and have always wanted to see more of the world. Coupled with a passion for medicine, this courageous attitude has led you to start considering Caribbean medical schools. You’ve probably researched a number of program locations, including Grenada.
Though you’re excited about the potential to study medicine overseas, committing to living in the Caribbean is a big step. You want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge. Aside from recognizing the need to switch to a different currency and trying new foods, what else should you expect?
We identified some of the most important considerations to help guide your decision about whether a move to Grenada could be right for you. But first, we’re going to address some of your initial concerns.
Misconceptions about living in the Caribbean
You may hear rumors about crime in the Caribbean, which may lead you to question your safety. While there are certainly areas where those issues are more prevalent, Grenada and numerous other locations are likely no less safe than your hometown. The US Department of State says crime in Grenada is generally opportunistic, meaning it typically consists of purse snatchings and similar activity. Just like in your own community, you can avoid problems by exercising regular caution like traveling in groups after dark.
Some travelers are concerned about not being able to stay in touch with loved ones and friends while away in the Caribbean, but this is another misconception. “Access to wireless networks keeps you connected,” says Colin Dowe, Associate Dean of Enrolment Planning at St. George’s University (SGU). This means online chat services are a good option, particularly for those who want to avoid a steeper cell phone bill due to international fees.
It’s also important to note that Grenada runs on 220 volts as opposed to 110 volts. This means your usual plugin electronics will not be usable on their own. Be sure to purchase an adapter and a transformer to make sure you can always stay plugged in.
7 Adjustments that will help you enjoy life in Grenada
There’s no doubt you can have a wonderful experience in Grenada. You just have to know what to expect. These adaptations can help ease your transition to island life.
1. Start to think about seasons differently
Many people living in North America are used to thinking about weather in terms of four seasons — each with distinct attributes. Grenada is unique in this respect. U.S. News & World Report shows the average temperature is consistently between 84 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. The biggest fluctuation in weather comes during the wet season, which lasts from May through November. During this time, some months average around 10 inches of rainfall.
Karin Kronstal, Social Planner at City of Nanaimo, successfully adjusted to the weather when she lived in Grenada during a work contract. She recommends packing a hat and an umbrella to block the sun. Kronstal also shared some perspective for anyone concerned about the possibility of facing hurricanes. “As the US has experienced recently, natural disasters can happen anywhere,” she says.
If you do a little bit of research, you can see Grenada is even safer from storms than you might expect. It’s actually located below the hurricane belt, the area of the Atlantic Ocean most likely to be hit by these tropical storms.
2. Pack an extra dose of patience
You might be used to a life where everything from eating out at a restaurant to getting directions from someone happens at an incredibly fast pace. If you’ve grown to expect speed, you may need to adjust your attitude. “The pace at which things happen can be source of frustration,” Dowe says.
It’s also worth noting a more relaxed pace doesn’t have to be a bad thing. “The laid-back attitude comes with a warmth that is welcoming,” Dowe explains. Even if you have to wait until well past your scheduled time to see the dentist, it’s likely you will have a positive experience.
Caribbean medical school students will, of course, be busy with their studies most of the time. When you do have free moments in Grenada, Kronstal suggests fully embracing the laid-back flow. “It’s a great place for relaxing on the break weeks since everything is so close together,” she says.
3. Make sure you’re fully prepared before you hit the road
Public transportation in Grenada consists of taxis, local buses, and, for students at SGU, free shuttles. The only downside to these options is you can’t always get where you want to go at a time that fits your schedule. Some people prefer buying or renting a vehicle during an extended stay to make sure they can always get around.
If you do opt to buy or rent a vehicle, you first need to obtain a Grenadian driver’s license. You fill out a simple form at the police station, pay a fee, and present your international license. These international licenses are only valid for three months. Make sure to renew it prior to expiration.
Lastly, you’ll want to be on full alert when driving a vehicle in Grenada. Drivers have a tendency to go pretty fast. Dowe also mentions driving on the left side of the road can be a big adjustment for many.
4. Plan shopping trips wisely
If you’re someone who likes to plan ahead, you’ll have a huge advantage in Grenada. “There is no 24-hour Walmart here,” Dowe says. “By five o’clock, that is all closed.” Plan to regularly schedule shopping trips instead of waiting until the last minute to stock up on food.
You should also consider making a shopping list to stick to a budget, because many items you typically buy will cost more than you are used to paying. “You have to appreciate that the majority of things consumed in Grenada are imported,” Dowe explains.
Locally grown spices, fruits, and vegetables are less expensive. Get your fill at St. George’s Square Market, a popular Saturday shopping destination.
5. Take precautions to avoid issues with insects
Pests are common no matter where you are in the world. Some simple measures can help prevent issues with insects like ants, millipedes, and centipedes. Keep food that doesn’t require refrigeration in airtight containers and always clean up after cooking and eating.
If you find yourself with unexpected guests, try some simple home remedies. You can keep mosquitoes at bay with a DEET-based insect repellant.
6. Start using cash instead of swiping a card
Grenada’s official currency is the East Caribbean dollar, which is pegged to US currency at a fixed rate of 2.70 per US dollar. Though credit cards are widely accepted, it’s often easiest to carry cash. And foreign checks typically aren’t accepted.
You also might want to consider opening a bank account in Grenada. A local account will help you avoid the ATM fee you would otherwise pay to withdraw from an international one.
7. Get out there
Students can get acclimated pretty fast through a number of orientation activities. But what’s the best way to get familiar with Grenadian culture outside of an academic setting? Try joining a club or participating in other group activities. Dowe says this approach is a great way to see which locations and activities you prefer.
The Grenada Hash House Harriers is a popular group that meets for a fun run or walk every Saturday afternoon. Dowe says this group is fantastic for people who are new to the island. “It’s a way of getting exposed to Grenada in a safe environment,” he says.
You should also consider exploring some of the local businesses. Take advantage of the unique products while you can. “Try the cocoa tea from the Grenada Chocolate Company,” Kronstal recommends. “I miss it more than almost anything else!”
Ready for an adventure?
You now know living in the Caribbean can be a wonderful experience with just a handful of simple changes. Many medical graduates enjoyed spending their time in Grenada and were inspired to pursue more international opportunities after completing medical school.
If you’re eager to expand your global experiences, the SGU School of Medicine may be an ideal fit. Our graduates have improved health outcomes in dozens of countries. Learn more about some of the work they’ve done in our article, “9 SGU Medical School Grads Who Are Improving Patients' Lives Around the World.”
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