You're sitting in a library, at a desk, books open, earbuds drowning out the deafening silence and wishing you were somewhere else. Now, imagine sand between your toes, sounds of surf, studying while reclining on a beach chair and the sun energizing your brain cells. Sounds heavenly and attainable if you study abroad in Jamaica. It is not the first destination one thinks of when thinking about studying in another country but Jamaica offers a variety of universities. The beach, mountains, food and culture are perks to island life.
A good education is at the top of everyone's list when searching for a university. When considering studying abroad, students can be most curious about academic life, language and housing.
The national language of Jamaica is Standard English, a mix between American and British English. Most locals speak Jamaican Creole (Patois) at home which has West African influences. If English is not your first language, the local universities will require that students take an English proficiency test like the TOEFL.
Jamaican universities offer full time students on campus accommodations but there is limited space. Off campus housing can be arranged through the Lodging or Housing Office on campus. Northern Caribbean University has separate housing for male and female but also offer assistance with off campus housing.
Jamaica was under British rule until 1962 when it gained it's independence. The country did, however, keep the British schools system. In the US, they are called colleges, in Jamaica they are called Tertiary or University. Like most universities, you need to have some general testing done like A-Level or CAPE, the US equivalent to SAT or ACT which are accepted in most Jamaican universities. Most universities are semester based. Classes and testing are the same as US colleges. If you are a student 21 or older, you will have to apply for the Mature Students status instead, and will often require an interview.
There are two popular areas in Jamaica for students to consider studying abroad, Kingston and Manchester.
Kingston is home to four universities, two of the biggest ones are The University of the West Indies (UWI) and University of Technology (UTech). UWI offers graduate and postgraduate degrees for Education, Law, Social Sciences, Medical Sciences and Technology to name a few. It's a large school hosting 10,000-14,999 students. UWI is located in Mona which is a neighborhood of Kingston. Mona is considered the wealthier area of Kingston, with the Long Mountains to the northeast and the Blue Mountains to the south. UTech is located in the greater Kingston area, offering graduate and postgraduate degrees in Business, Engineering, Education and Law. It is a midsize school hosting 8,000-8,999 students. Kingston offers some fabulous activities such as hiking in the mountains, visiting the home of popular reggae singer Bob Marley and trips to Fort Clarence beach.
Manchester, Jamaica is home to Northern Caribbean University (NCU) located 2 miles from the larger city of Mandeville. NCU offers graduate and postgraduate degrees in Education, Business, Sciences, Religion and Theology and many more. It is a Christian university that adheres to Christian values and standards. It is a smaller school with 5,000-5,999 students. In their free time, students can enjoy the oldest 9 hole golf course in the caribbean, tour the High Mountain coffee factory, visit Mrs Stephenson's Garden or catch a glimpse of Jamaica's 25 endemic bird species.
Planning your Trip
Student Visa and Passport Information
Students considering studying in Jamaica will need a valid passport to cover at least to the end of the academic year and new students will need an official letter of offer from the university. At the airport, students will get a temporary visitors visa until the university issues a student visa. CARICOM, composed of 15 caribbean nations and commonwealth countries, like Great Britain, are allowed entry without a student visa. Some universities will require a certificate of good health, a financial plan or a valid, open return ticket to the student's country of origin before issuing a student visa.
Social Life and Student Culture
Now that you have the important information, let's talk about the fun stuff. Jamaica is home to Carnival, a popular festival held usually in March. UWI offers student discounts and free transportation for the festival and hosts activities on campus. UWI is also located on an old plantation and has ruins on campus where students can gather or go to study.
Sometimes being a university student means having little spending money but still wanting to enjoy a social life. Jamaica is host to a wonderful little card called ISIC or International Student Identity Card. It's not a credit card but there is a small fee for the card that is about the same price as a movie ticket. This card can give students discounts from coffee to international phone calls, worldwide.
There are some very fun activities in Jamaica. Because Jamaica is a small island, 146 miles long and 51 miles wide, it's easy to get around. Outside of the ocean and beach life you can take a safari on the Black River and view the Americanus Crocodillus, the cousin of the Nile crocodile. Locals claim this reptile is tamer than it's cousin but keep your toes out of the river just in case. Students can also take a canopy tour and swing through the trees like Tarzan. If those don't tickle your fancy, take a Negril sightseeing tour. This day long trip will take you to the laid back town of Negril where you can visit local shops, walk on the white sand beaches and visit the popular Rick's Cafe. Yet, Jamaica is most popular for three specific things, Reggae music, Jerk chicken ( jerk being a blend of Jamaican spices) and the game of cricket. These are just a few activities that Jamaica offers.
So whether you want to swing like Tarzan or study like Einstein, Jamaica offers it all. It's one of the few places that you can have your cake, or jerk chicken, and eat it too.
Students can obtain scholarships through their home universities or the American universities that run programs in Jamaica. Program providers also offer scholarships.