New students get ready to embark on new journey

  New students get ready to  embark on new journey

The group of new St. Maarten students with buddies, guidance counsellors and members of the Cabinet of the St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary in front of the hotel where they spent the first day and night in the Netherlands. (Suzanne Koelega photos)

AMSTERDAM--The 27 students who left St. Maarten on Monday to further their studies in the Netherlands have arrived safely and after the welcome ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, they started their four-week orientation programme with the assistance of their assigned buddy and the student guidance counsellors.

  The students were welcomed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport by members of the Cabinet of the St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary, a number of guidance counsellors and buddies, and then taken to the Renaissance Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. Students had lunch, exchanged important documents, were provided with information and got some rest before the official welcome ceremony at the hotel.

  Today, Wednesday, the students will leave to the city where they will be studying. This year, the orientation programme will be four weeks, which is longer than before, explained Coordinator of the student guidance counsellors programme in the Netherlands Clara James-Browne.

  The four weeks, from August 10 to September 10, will give the student and assigned buddy more time to arrange the logistics in the Netherlands such as registering at the municipality, opening a bank account, getting furniture for the student’s room and getting acquainted with the city and school.

  In total, there are 15 buddies which means that a buddy never has more than two students, which makes it possible to dedicate sufficient time and attention to the students. The student guidance counsellors will be present in the background during the orientation programme to oversee the process for the students to settle in and to provide assistance if needed.

  After the orientation programme, the students will be guided for two years by the guidance counsellors. The seven guidance counsellors, James-Browne, Isake Serrant, Ania Monto-Sosa, Sherwin Pantophlet, Roxxiomarah Richardson, Classen Omeus and Sabrina Clarke, introduced themselves to the students on Tuesday afternoon, wishing them much success and stating that they looked forward to working with them.

Comfort zone

  “Be ready to come out of your comfort zone. You have embarked on a new journey, and it is whatever you make of it. Have courage, never quit. Dare to dream big. You can do it. You are a success, you are important and you are blessed,” said James-Browne.

  The Director of the Cabinet of the St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague, Carol Voges spoke on behalf of Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus, who was unable to attend. She encouraged the students to keep focused, to keep faith and to reinforce their personal development during this new journey.

  “You will come across many naysayers on your journey. Myself and others while studying in the Netherlands have stories of people who doubted our abilities, who told us we weren’t good enough. At times this prejudice was based on nothing more than us being St. Maarteners,” said Voges.

  “It is through these trials that you learn what you are really made of. It is in these times that your maturing process accelerates and catapults you to the next level. Don’t turn away in those moments. Continue to persevere, believe in yourself, find within yourself that what motivates you,” said Voges.


  During the first academic year, the students’ discipline and eagerness to achieve their goals will be tested, said Voges. “Waking up in time to follow classes, doing your assignments, planning ahead for exams and not cramming last minute, getting to know your peers and instructors, budgeting your finances and cooking instead of buying junk food. Discipline is of the utmost importance, and always keep in mind that tardiness is a no-no in the Netherlands.”

  Nikita Udhwani of the United St. Maarten Connection (USC) called on the new students to not only focus on school, but to also figure out what it was that they wanted to achieve, to have a goal once they are finished with their studies. “Find out what you want, who you are. Only you can do that. It’s okay to make mistakes. It is also okay if you don’t make your first year. You’ll do it the following year, and if you feel this study is not for you, don’t be an ostrich and look for options.” She said that USC was there for them, and that they could always ask questions on the foundation’s online platform.

  Voges, James-Browne and Udhwani, but also and motivational speaker Sjoerd Scott urged the students to reach out and share their feelings when they were down, emotional or stressed. “Call your friends, family, buddy or guidance counsellor. You don’t have to go through this journey alone,” said Voges.

Rough time

  Sjoerd Scott, 21-year-old law student, spoke about his initial rough time when he arrived in the Netherlands. He couldn’t find a room and was homeless for three months. “I cried so many times. In the shower, at breakfast.”

  Scott told the students that issues such as racism were sometimes hard and so would be the winter months. “You’ll struggle heavy, but you’ll be okay. If it gets tough, talk to other people, share your feelings.” He called on the students to “open up a bit” and “get uncomfortable” in getting to know other people. He advised against getting a job the first year while getting used to the Netherlands and the new studies.

  Tanja Fraai and Supharmy Lard gave information about the work that the WeConnect Foundation does for Dutch Caribbean students and young professionals. “We inform, motivate, stimulate. It is not only a study journey, but also a journey of personal growth,” said Lard, who explained that WeConnect provided information to students in their last part of secondary school, during their studies in the Netherlands, but also after their studies as young professionals.


  WeConnect will facilitate several training and workshops in the next months. “We do budget trainings, how to study trainings but also excursions to the Second Chamber, the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum,” said Fraai. USC will also facilitate workshops in September and October for the students.        

  In total 27 students left for the Netherlands on Monday. One student had to stay behind because he tested positive for COVID-19 and will come to the Netherlands in two weeks. One student already came to the Netherlands last week. This year, there are fewer St. Maarten students. In 2020, there were 36 students and 38 in 2019.

  James-Browne said a special thank you to St. Maarten Minister of Education Rodolphe Samuel for approving her plan to organise a proper reception and programme for the group of new students. “It is important that these students, who come to a new, foreign country, are taken care of and well-guided, and I’m thankful that the minister fully agreed with that,” she said.

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