The traditional group photo of the newly-arrived St. Maarten students at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Wednesday morning. (Kevin Javois pho
The official evening programme at Hampton Hilton Hotel in Hoofddorp on Wednesday included several speeches and many encouraging words for the newly-arrived students. (Suzanne Koelega photo)
HOOFDDORP--A warm welcome awaited the 36 St. Maarten students who arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday morning. The staff of the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary was at Schiphol Airport to welcome the group and in the evening, after a few logistical matters and a little bit of rest, the students attended the official welcome ceremonBecause the students were very tired after a long flight, added to a dose of nervousness about entering the next phase of their lives, the evening programme was kept short with a welcome message by Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus and addresses by law student Sjoerd Scott and Kingdom Council of State member Maria van der Sluijs-Plantz.
Violenus, who came on the flight with the students together with his children, welcomed the students to their new home for the next four to five years. “You are not here to be average. You are here to be awesome. You are embarking on your new journey to follow your dreams, dreams of becoming the young professional you wish to be,” he told them.
As they embark on this new chapter in life, Violenus encouraged the students to make use of the opportunity to explore their possibilities and enhance their study experience.
“Become a trailblazer, a leader and not just a follower. It is the way you will make a lasting impression not only on your peers, but on many in St. Maarten: you will be an example of success and a source of pride. You are not only students who hail from St. Maarten, you are also ambassadors of our 37-square-mile island paradise,” he said.
“In times when things get rough, in those moments when you miss home the most, these will be the pivotal moments to commit even harder to achieving your goals. Through these trials you learn what you are really made of. In these times your maturing process accelerates and catapults you to the next level. Don’t turn away and look for an escape route in those moments. Persevere and you will achieve your goals. Never forget who you are, where you come from and how you were brought up.”
Violenus urged the students to learn the language and customs in the Netherlands, while maintaining their own unique identity. “Choose your friends and associates wisely. Remain focused on your goals and your studies, which will expand your knowledge base and help you to grow as a person. Remember that while you are here, you are not alone.” He said there were many fellow St. Maarteners willing to assist, including the guidance counsellors and the St. Maarten House in The Hague.
Van der Sluijs-Plantz said that while there were enough cynical pessimists, she as an “incorrigible optimist” wanted “once and for all to get rid of the prejudice in the Netherlands that all St. Maarteners are up to no good” and added that she was counting on the students’ support in getting this point across.
“You have come to join us, to study, to find and better yourself, to explore what the world has to offer and what your role could be in it. You came here to develop yourself and hopefully in the future become part of the essential building blocks to strengthen our country so that it can come to its full potential. You too are ambassadors of our Sweet St. Maarten Land, and I urge you to be aware of that and wear that badge with honour,” she said.
Van der Sluijs-Plantz left the students with some recommendations for this next period of their life: Be social – be visible, mingle; be realistic – know your limits, ask for help; get to know yourself and who you want to be; be focused, disciplined and positive.
Third-year law student Scott said the students were going to learn a lot about themselves, meet many people and make a lot of mistakes. “You have a lot to learn, but you will figure it out. You have two years to do that while you have your guidance counsellor.”
The students obviously enjoyed the playful intermission, a game of human bingo, after which the students had dinner with the guidance counsellors and volunteers. And then finally, a long night’s sleep at Hampton Hilton Hotel in Hoofddorp, where the students will stay until their departure on Friday to the cities where they will be studying.
Today, Thursday, the students will participate in another day of informative activities, including talks by the Dutch study financing organisation DUO, the health care insurance broker NAM and workshops by WeConnect.
The St. Maarten students will have the professional support of six guidance counsellors and 36 buddies divided throughout the Netherlands. The buddies will await the students when they arrive at their cities of study on Friday, explained Coordinator of the Netherlands guidance programme of the St. Maarten Study Financing Division, Clara James-Browne.
Most of the students are going to The Hague, followed by Amsterdam. Other cities to which the students will go include Rotterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen, Maastricht, Groningen, Tilburg, Wageningen and Enschede. This year, more students came to the Netherlands than last year when there were only 23.
The introduction programme lasts until August 31, by which time the students will have been registered, met with the proper authorities, arranged their financial and insurance matters, visited their school or university and settled in their new accommodation. The buddies will accompany the students throughout the process to make sure they get off to a good start.