St. Maarten students get guidance from USC | THE DAILY HERALD

THE HAGUE–The 35 students from St. Maarten travelling to the Netherlands at the end of this month are being coached and guided by Unified St. Maarten Connection (USC), facilitated by the Study Financing Division DSF of the Ministry of Education.

It is the second time that the DSF has contracted USC for this job that encompasses a preparatory part in St. Maarten and an orientation component in the Netherlands. In St. Maarten the aspiring students took part in preparatory sessions this entire week. The so-called VOBAS, facilitated by USC under the auspices of DSF, closes off today, Friday.

The 35 students arrive in the Netherlands on July 28. The two-day programme starts on Monday, July 30. This year, the first part of the orientation week will take place in Amsterdam, at a hostel where the information sessions will also be held. Having the students sleep and take part in the information sessions there will be more comfortable for them.

The first day of the orientation week on July 30 will start off with a welcoming speech by newly-appointed St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite. During the sessions on July 30 and 31, the students will hear presentations from the Dutch study-financing organisation DUO, the insurance broker and others about practical matters the newly-arrived students need to know.

But there will also be time for more playful events and the social aspect will surely not be forgotten to make the students feel at ease as a group in their new home, the Netherlands. About 20 volunteers, many of the USC, but also some non-USC-affiliated St. Maarteners who offered to help, will be assisting the students during the orientation week.

On Wednesday, the students will go the cities where they will be living and studying. The four cities to which the majority of the students go are The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Eindhoven. The last city is currently very popular among St. Maarten students. A few students are going to Leeuwarden, Delft, Groningen and Arnhem. Cities like Zwolle and Groningen are less popular than a few years ago.

The volunteers who will go with the students to their cities will provide assistance with the practical aspects of settling in, such as signing the housing contract, registering at the municipality, opening a bank account, visiting the school and finding a general practitioner and dentist.

New this year is USC’s role in the preparatory phase, the VOBAS in St. Maarten. USC members Jack Heemskerk and Edwina Hodge, both of whom have ample experience working with the youth, have been facilitating the VOBAS during the entire past week. Topics such as housing, budgeting, cooking under stress, setting goals and the Dutch culture were dealt with.

“This is a new chapter in their lives for these students. This is an important step in their personal development. It is about motivating them, getting them enthusiastic. We are trying to inspire them for this new chapter. And, as we were students not too long ago, we can relate to them,” USC board member Nikita Udhwani told The Daily Herald on Thursday.

“The VOBAS that we facilitate under the auspices of DSF is about building the students’ character, making them more resilient and increasing their knowledge about the new country where they will be living. Issues like what skills you need to be successful in the Netherlands and ‘what if it is not what you had thought it would be?’ will be discussed,” said Udhwani.

John Sandiford facilitated a session this week on networking.

The VOBAS workshops are based on the USC Student Manual. The manual, or rather the fourth version of it, developed by USC, was recently updated to include the latest information and developments that relate to student life. Naturally, the students going to the Netherlands this year have received this manual, and so will the so-called free-movers, students without St. Maarten study financing who are going on their own.

The USC Student Manual, A Survival Guide to Living in the Netherlands, takes students through the different stages of studying abroad and provides all the information they need, from leaving home to the arrival in the Netherlands to the actual period of studying and post-graduation. There are chapters on education, housing, finance, transportation, working while studying, and lifestyle (culture, food, clothing, etiquette and how to survive the winter).

This year a new chapter was added: returning home. This chapter contains practical information about what one needs to go back to St. Maarten after completing one’s studies. “But it also deals with how to prepare for what we call the reverse culture shock, how to adapt back to the life in St. Maarten once you have lived in the Netherlands,” said Udhwani.

She said USC and the volunteers were all very much looking forward to welcoming and assisting the new batch of students during the orientation week starting July 30. USC works on a completely voluntary basis. “We do this with our heart. We do this for our people. The new students deserve every support,” she said.

Source: The Daily Herald