Melissa Harrison-Grinuva, Housing Coordinator at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC), answers a few questions about her role, discusses the advantages of on-campus housing and the support offered to physicians-in-training throughout their time in St. Maarten. She also shares what she finds most fulfilling about her role.
AUC: Thanks for sitting down with us today, Melissa. Can you tell us a bit about your role/responsibilities?
M.G.: As Housing Coordinator, my role is centered on providing student support services through the management of on-campus apartments, the establishment of relationships with local landlords and real estate agents and oversight of our newly launched online database of off-campus housing options.
AUC: If you had to choose the top three advantages of living on campus for the first semester of medical school, what would they be?
M.G: At AUC, we take great pride in assisting students with finding housing that is safe, comfortable, and conducive to study. When evaluating on-campus housing, all of these can easily be checked off. If I were attending AUC, I would certainly sign up to live in one of our on-campus apartments—preferably one with a balcony overlooking the bay.
As for advantages, I believe the biggest one is support. For students coming to study at an Caribbean or international medical school, there are many adjustments they will need to make, from getting accustomed to living away from home to the rigors of medical school. By choosing on-campus housing, students afford themselves the opportunity to be fully supported by our campus community. From the moment they arrive in St. Maarten, we have a welcome committee of Orientation Advisors who meet them at the airport and shuttle them to campus. Resident Assistants and current students are on hand to assist with the move-in process and our maintenance teams are always available.
Another advantage is the opportunity to bridge the knowledge gap. During the first semester, and indeed throughout medical school, we want students to be able to fully focus on studying. This can be difficult if they are not comfortable with their living environment and it can affect their academic progress. By staying on-campus first, they are able to ease their transition into medical school and then begin speaking with fellow physicians-in-training about off-campus options. Why lease an apartment you haven’t seen, on an island you’ve never visited, from someone you don’t know when there is better option? Live on-campus, learn about the island and then make a knowledgeable decision.
I believe our on-campus apartments are also spacious, beautifully furnished, have fully equipped kitchens and wireless internet connectivity. Students who live on campus are a walk away from facilities such as the 24/7 fitness center, the library, and our new medical education building, which houses the anatomy lab, clinical skills lab, simulation center and study rooms for when extra preparation for exams is needed. The comfort and ease of living on campus can be a huge plus.
AUC: For students looking for off-campus housing, are there services offered by the university?
M.G.: We have always supported students as they look for off-campus housing. Previously, we maintained a list of recommended options. In an effort to continuously improve student services, we developed and launched the AUC Off-Campus Student Housing Database in November, 2014. This database allows students to search for off-campus housing online, find roommates, contact landlords and begin the leasing process. Students can search based on criteria such as housing time, amenities, and price levels. Additionally, the Roommate Finder feature provides them with the ability to search for potential roommates among their fellow students.
This is a great resource for students who come to AUC with families or with pets. Although we cannot accommodate them in our on-campus apartments, we are here to assist and this database is very helpful.
AUC: What do you find most fulfilling as the Housing Coordinator?
M.G.: I’ve been with AUC since 2009 and have assisted many of our physicians-in-training as they navigate living and studying in St. Maarten. As I do so, it is rewarding to see the impact having a safe and comfortable place to come back to after a long day of studying has on a student. I particularly remember a few semesters ago an incoming student and her mother arriving on campus on their first day on the island. They were apprehensive about the overall transition and were even reconsidering her enrollment. A third year student who was a Resident Assistant and I spoke with them about the many ways we support students on-campus, the amenities available in our apartments and the ways we are here to help. This eased their anxieties and today, she is fifth semester student who is a very active member of the campus community.
It is incredibly rewarding to see that we were able to offer support and help her begin her medical school journey at AUC on a positive note.
Posted February 03, 2015 08:00 AM