THE HAGUE–Minister Plenipotentiary Henrietta Doran-York recently addressed the issue of a rise in unprepared “free moving” students who travel to the Netherlands from St. Maarten on their own, not through the Bureau of Study Financing, in an attempt to pursue their tertiary education.
Her Cabinet has encountered numerous troubling situations during the past months with youngsters from St. Maarten who, for whatever reason, have decided to take this route.
The Minister said that while students making the choice to travel to the Netherlands on their own is on the rise, quite often the necessary preparations in terms of housing and acceptance and enrolment in schools in particular, among other things, are not completed before these ambitious students leave St. Maarten.
As they independently make contact with schools in The Netherlands, they are not in contact with the Study Financing Department in St. Maarten and therefore do not participate in the trainings offered that help other students prepare for, among other things, the difference in the social and cultural landscape of the Netherlands to which they must adapt.
In most cases, this results in these students facing insurmountable issues and they struggle to get a grip of the situation they are in. Eventually these students find their way to the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary (St. Maarten House), where the Minister and her staff assist them by providing them with the necessary information, by contacting agencies or institutions on their behalf and doing all possible to assist them to get into school and to obtain a scholarship.
Many times this is not enough, as in most cases they are already facing many financial issues when they finally reach the Cabinet and many of them just want to return home; all this due to lack of preparation.
Doran-York said as much as deciding to be a “free mover” as a student in her view shows great ambition, it also requires that the individual needs to do several things before venturing out. Those opting to become free movers need to have already done all the necessary research; must have applied and already have been accepted at a school; and have applied and been approved for a scholarship in the Netherlands.
These students should already know where they will be residing until they obtain their own dwelling and how they will be contributing financially while staying there. They should be able to take care of themselves financially while awaiting their first scholarship payment.
She added that the students must have the discipline to stick to their original plan to study while finding themselves for the first time on their own without parental supervision.
Doran-York admonished free moving students not to lose hope, but to continue striving hard to achieve their set goals. She said her Cabinet has been and will continue to assist these students and any other St. Maartener needing assistance in the Netherlands.
After making contact with the Cabinet persons are given the needed encouragement to pursue their goals, after which contact is maintained and their progress monitored. Especially students oftentimes return to the Cabinet to proudly report on what they have achieved academically.
However, Doran-York reiterated that these students should always prepare properly prior to travelling to the Netherlands, as this will make the transition smoother, allowing them peace of mind to be able to pursue their studies in a correct manner without too much hassle. Without preparing properly, these students often end up struggling on the streets or returning to St. Maarten very quickly, after making great financial investments with a great loss and only a debt to show for it, she said.