Ari D., Barbados- University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (Psychology and Brain Sciences)

ACADEMICS

1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

I took a variety of classes while I was abroad including major classes! I really enjoyed the teaching style at Cave Hill, it was a much needed break the grueling pace of the quarter system and it allowed me to really enjoy learning again! During my semester, my classes were three hours once a week and one class that met twice a week for two hours. The grading system is also different than UCSB with 80% and above = A. I found the professor and student relationships to be much more relaxed and friendly compared to the USA. I had professors take time to interact with students on a personal level during class and outside of class. I had a professor invite me to her Christmas tree decorating party with her family! Overall, I highly enjoyed my academic experience abroad with smaller class sizes providing a more intimate learning environment and allowed more time to interact with professors. I had no exams the entire semester aside from finals which meant a lot of presentations and essays, but for me personally it was ideal! 

2. What was your favorite class abroad?

My favorite class abroad was either my photography class or my counselling psychology class! It’s too hard to decide which one I enjoyed more. I loved my photography class because I made a lot of friends with the local students in my class and was able to get to know Bajan culture even more. I also got the opportunity to model for the class and was dressed up as the Ice Queen from Chronicles of Narnia. I really enjoyed my counselling class because it’s not a course we offer at UCSB and I was finally able to study something directly applicable to my career path. Additionally, the professor was amazing and spent a lot of time helping us succeed in her class. 

3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

I did not intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork/research abroad. But there were opportunities and one girl in my program interned at a law office in Barbados.

HOST INSTITUTION

4. How would you describe your host institution?How does it compare to UCSB? Student enrollment and approximate campus size. How far or close is your host institution to the city center and nearest airport?

UWI Cave Hill is a small but vibrant campus. There are tons of chickens running around which I found hysterical. The students center is always filled with students running events, and the athletic fields tend to be occupied by various sports teams! The university is about 4 miles from the nearest city of Bridgetown, which is typically a 15 minute bus ride. The airport is about 30 minutes away and easily accessible by taxi. 

5. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

You can definitely choose to join organizations if you want. I had a friend in my exchange who was on the basketball team. One of the more lively student organizations is known as The UWI Student Guild. They run various different events across campus and are similar to student reps in the states. With the University of the West Indies spanning across the Caribbean, many students are from neighboring islands. A lot of the different student organizations are certain regional students such as the Trinidad and Tobago Students Association or the Bealize Students Association, St. Vincent Student Organization, as well as the Law Society, Debating society and other religious student groups as well! There were tons of UWI student events throughout the semester that were really fun. 

HOUSING

6. Describe your housing situation.

I can say confidently the apartment I lived in during my time in Barbados will be the nicest place I’ll ever live in my life. It was an amazing 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment with a balcony and an ocean view. It was off-campus but within walking distance to the university. I was able to find such a great apartment through the help of the university in Barbados. A faculty member took us to visit housing locations and talk to landlords, he was the most helpful! I lived with another girl who I met in the exchange who studied at UC Santa Cruz. We became best friends and it ended up being a perfect match. When leaving for Barbados I had no idea where I would live or who I would live with but within my first four days it was completely figured out. I had many friends who lived in the university dorms and they also enjoyed their experience, however it was different than mine. The dorms have shared kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces but have single dorm rooms. They are small but definitely livable! Compared to IV it was amazing to live in Barbados, the rent was extremely inexpensive for such a comfortable and pleasant living experience. The commute to class each day was crossing a few streets and walking up the infamous “UWI hill”. Let’s just say it was a great workout! To get to Bridgetown, I would just catch a ZR van or yellow bus and it takes about 15 minutes. 

FOOD

7. Where did you eat most of your meals? Cafeterias, restaurants, street vendors, at home, etc.?

Since I didn’t live on-campus almost all my meals I cooked myself. I was located about a half-mile away from the nearest grocery store so I would sometimes bus or ZR but I loved to walk the most! Walking the streets of Barbados enjoying the sun, warmth, and sounds of the ZR bus horns as they bustle to the city was the highlight of some of my days. There were also plenty of different restaurants around that I could go to if I didn’t feel like cooking or just wanted to enjoy some tasty Bajan cuisine. My favorite spot to go was a minute walk from my apartment and had amazing, cheap Bajan specialties! My friends and I also liked to go to the beach clubs in Bridgetown that serve you food right on the beach–seriously magically.

8. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? 

On average, meals were not too expensive at local places a full meal would be around $10-15 USD dollars total. Going out to a nicer restaurant tended to be far more expensive ranging from $25-30 USD per meal. The way I budgeted which worked really well for me was to only deal in cash. I would withdraw large amounts of cash from the ATMs at once to avoid some of the international transaction fees, I would then allot a certain amount of money each week that I was able to spend. Being able to see my money made it easier to spend less! 

9. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

I had a few friends who were vegetarians while I was studying abroad and they found they were able to get vegetarian options at most places pretty easily. However, vegans would definitely have a difficult time in Barbados since chicken, cheese, and fish are used frequently in Bajan cooking. Additionally, because Barbados is an island a lot of food has to be imported which increases the price on goods like fruits and veggies. But beans and rice are cheap and readily available so it’s definitely possible! 

10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining experience abroad has to be the Friday night fish fry at Oistins. My first time going I was so overwhelmed by the loud music, dancing, hundreds of people, and hot grills preparing assortments of fish. But after getting more acquainted with the culture of Barbados I looked forward to the mouthwatering plates of fresh grilled marlin stacked on top of coleslaw and macaroni pie.

11. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

Because Barbados is British territory there is a ton of British influence throughout the island so of course there’s nothing I miss more than the Tea Time sandwich cookies! Think Oreos but 10x better. Or custard creams which are vanilla sandwiches cookies with a vanilla-custard filling, so good! 

HOST CITY

12. Describe your host city. Is it small, medium-sized, large? Rural, suburban, urban, tropical? Is it diverse?

Barbados is a small island so therefore the main and only city is quite small. Barbados is the most developed Caribbean island so there are many different smaller busier parishes (Barbados is broken up into different regions such as St. James, St. Michael, and Bridgetown the capital city) throughout the island. It is a tropical island so expect plenty of sun, heat, and humidity with the occasional rain storm!

13. Was it easy to get around? Describe the public transportation in your host city. In non-English-speaking cities, was it easy or difficult to get around in English?

It was very easy to get around due to all the different public and private transportation options. Certain buses ran more frequently making some places on the island slightly more difficult to get to than others, but not to worry in the Caribbean you get there when you get there! There are ZR vans, yellow and blue buses, and taxis. The ZR vans were my personal favorite way to get around since they were the fastest, ran the most frequently, and were the most fun! Despite being quite cramped at times piled into a ZR, I loved it. If there wasn’t a ZR van or bus running then I would taxi to wherever I needed to go. Taxi drivers were very easy to contact and usually reliable. 

14. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future Students? Was pick-pocketing common? Was cat-calling common? Did you feel as safe, less safe, or more safe than in the U.S.?

I felt mostly safe in Barbados. There were many people who warned us about walking alone at night as a woman, however I used my common sense and best judgement in most situations and thankfully never had any issues. Cat-calling is extremely common in Barbados and if you have never experienced it before, it can be quite overwhelming. However, if ignored or firmly told no, people will leave you alone. I would say I felt more safe in certain ways than in the US.

15. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

It’s hard to begin with a question like this since everything I did in Barbados was fun. My friends and I loved to go to the local bar on Wednesday nights for karaoke. Apparently, Bajans love Ed Sheeran, who would have thought! I also went on a few different boat tours where I swam with sea turtles, jet-skied, and enjoyed the turquoise blue Caribbean waters.

HOST CULTURE

16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

Barbados is quite different to how the US operates, mainly due to how tiny the island is. When it came to greetings, if you walk past someone on the street or if you walk into an office full of people it is the polite thing to greet everyone with “good morning/afternoon/night.” Another cultural difference is how relaxed people are about the time. As many say, “you’re on island time now!” meaning things tend to run slower. 

17. How did you handle culture shock?

I handled culture shock very well. I immediately loved the culture and people of Barbados. However, I did struggle at first with simply being uncomfortable in an unfamiliar place. Because I struggle with anxiety it made it difficult in the beginning to explore new places since I wasn’t comfortable yet with my new home. But after a few weeks I managed to overcome any anxieties about living in a different country and felt right at home!

18. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

I wish I could say everything because I truly believe there is something special about the culture and people of the Caribbean. Mainly, I loved the rhythm of the culture. Everything in Barbados has rhythm, whether it be from the bass of the blasting soca music (a traditional Caribbean music genre) or the many different car horn sounds that permeate the air on any given day in Bridgetown, or simply the way everyone’s head gently sways to beat of music on the bus, to me it is a culture of rhythm and I miss it so much!

TRAVEL

19. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

I didn’t travel at all outside of Barbados during my time abroad because it is expensive to fly amongst the Caribbean islands. But I didn’t have any desire to leave so that was no problem for me!

REFLECTION

20. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

Making friends was my biggest fear about studying abroad and it turned out to be completely fine. I made so many friends in the first few weeks of abroad and I still remain close with many people I studied with to this day. My friends varied from other UC students, to other exchange students from different countries, to the local Bajan students I attended class with. Just like the first quarter of college, everyone is looking to make friends and the UCEAP program has different activities in the first few weeks that really help with bonding with other students in the exchange program.

21. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge I had while abroad was my anxiety. It was hard for me to be able to do things when I didn’t feel comfortable with my environment. However, with persistence and kindness to myself I was able to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and make Barbados my home. By the end of my exchange, some locals even asked me if I was from the island so I would say I immersed myself pretty well!

22. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

Studying abroad has taught me a lot about myself and how I handle challenges. Most importantly, it has shown me that I have the ability to handle any situation no matter how daunting. I find myself so much happier after my experience abroad just due to the amazing people I met and experiences I had. Coming back to Santa Barbara I felt refreshed and clear-headed with a different perspective on the world, myself, and education as a whole. I am so thankful to have been able to study abroad!

23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Take a risk. Make yourself uncomfortable simply to say that you were able to become comfortable. Study abroad will not just academically enhance your college experience, but it will give you perspective on what life is like outside your normal world. Study abroad to be able to say you did and simply because why not? 


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