Aside from pristine beaches, clear waters, and friendly faces, the Caribbean has much to offer to aspiring students of all disciplines. In many ways, studying abroad in the Caribbean island chain bear similarities to the traditional route of studying in countries with an education system like that of the US. On the other hand, there are major differences that must be taken into consideration prior to making such a decision. Herein, the major benefits and differences will be outlined to help guide any potential student who may have their eyes set on one of the many Caribbean island nations.
Should You Be Studying in the Caribbean?
For the most part, colleges and universities in the Caribbean offer similar programs and terms as their US counterparts: students can take a vocational track or earn an associate’s degree through a 2-year program or enroll in a 4-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree and potentially pursue postgraduate school afterward. However, it is essential to note that not all Caribbean universities are internationally accredited, which may cause issues when trying to attain residency or a medical license in the United States. Be sure to verify the reputation and international level of recognition of a particular school before sending in your application.
As far as tuition costs go, you will find that higher education in the Caribbean is significantly less expensive than attending college in the US. As a matter of fact, tuition costs on the island of Barbados do not exist for students involved in full-time programs and these students only have to pay registration costs at enrollment. A quick search on select Caribbean colleges will show that, on average, Caribbean education is more affordable for a typical North American student.
Another reason for studying in the Caribbean is such an attractive option for US students has to do with the lack of a language barrier. As opposed to regions such as Mexico, Central and South America, and Quebec, the majority of the Caribbean islands use English as their primary language. In contrast to these English-speaking islands, Spanish is spoken in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and French is spoken on a number of islands such as Haiti, Saint Martin, French Guiana, and Guadeloupe. Thus, traveling to nearby islands during your time abroad will provide you with a wide spectrum of diversity to experience and admire.
The Selection Process
As a rule, the selection process by Caribbean universities is less stringent than in the United States. Whereas test scores dominate the US mindset with regard to entry into a particular school (especially when it comes to medical or law school), Caribbean schools tend to analyze the student altogether rather than focusing a small part of the overall application. In this way, the enrollment process is significantly less competitive and more accepting of a larger range of individuals, regardless of whether they test well or not.
A Special Note for Medical Students
For medical students, the route of studying in the Caribbean is increasingly becoming a more prospective path. Caribbean medical universities are internationally recognized and provide early hands-on training in the clinical sector whereas clinical training in the US tends to take place at a later stage. This gives students studying in the Caribbean a competitive advantage against typical US medical students and it is common for such students to attain residency in the US after their studies as these colleges and universities are highly affiliated with clinical hospitals all over the world. Medical education in the Caribbean has been rated as high-quality and modern, state-of-the-art equipment and technology has reached all corners of the Caribbean island chain.
Documentation for Studying in the Caribbean
When making the decision to study abroad anywhere in the world—not just in the Caribbean—it is vital that you can provide documents in the proper language verifying your past educational experience in a format that will translate well into the selected country’s education system. This is important because the education system of every country, though many bear strong similarities, differ at their core. Different education systems have different core curriculum requirements, credit systems, grading scales, testing requirements, etc. For this reason, a preliminary step to filling out an application for a Caribbean university is to seek academic evaluation and credential evaluation services.
Credential evaluation services are offered by myriad language agencies (such as translation agencies) and include transcript and academic degree translation services. In principle, credential evaluations specifically compare the relationships between foreign education systems and are vital to the selection and admission processes required by different education institutions around the world. This is especially important if the language spoken in your home country differs from the language spoken in the country where you wish to study abroad. These services include conceptual conversion of the courses, standardized tests, and grading systems into a format that can be easily comprehended in the target country.
In short, studying in the Caribbean should be taken into consideration by any and all adventurous students with a high level of ambition. Aside from all of the aforementioned benefits and differences as compared to US colleges and universities, studying in the Caribbean will allow you to indulge yourself in some of the most astounding paradises in the world. From studying on the beach to exploring remote rainforests to getting to know a new culture, the opportunities are unlimited. Take the time to research your decision and find the Caribbean university that best suits you and get ready for the adventure of your lifetime!