Do you love listening to reggae music? Is Bob Marley one of your idols? Do you rock all things green-yellow-red whenever possible? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will likely enjoy study abroad in Jamaica, one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. However, these surface level connections are just a primer to all there is to discover in Jamrock. While Jamaica’s bobsled teams are pretty awesome, most folks come to the island to soak up it’s laidback way of life and fascinating, diverse culture, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Usain Bolt before he darts outta sight!
While Jamaica offers more than its fair share of desirable destinations for study abroad (all of that coastline, hellooo!), not all locations are created equal. Here are a few of the top locations for study abroad in Jamaica:
The capital and largest city, Kingston, is an excellent spot for study abroad students to explore. Located in the southeast part of the island, credible universities, such as the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Institute of Technology, Western Hospitality Institute, and Northern Caribbean University, can be found in Kingston. The city is filled with beautiful parks, including Emancipation Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens at Hope, perfect places to spend an afternoon reviewing for your next test! Protestant churches abound and left-hand driving is the norm, both obvious tips of the ol’ hat to their former British colonial rule.
Students would be wise to avoid the northern coast of the island as it has largely been eroded by the ocean. The south side, however, has plenty to offer even the most curious of swimmers. From the cliffs that drop almost 1000 feet to the sea, to the Great Morass swamplands, to the Black River, there are many reasons to keep your swimsuit handy while studying abroad in Jamaica.
Study Abroad Programs in Jamaica
Lucky for most international students, Jamaicans primarily speak English. In fact, Kingston is the largest predominantly English-speaking city in the Americas south of the United States! Regardless, it is worth mentioning that Jamaica’s English demonstrates the locals’ blended cultures. From village to village and town to town, you will be exposed to many different varieties of English and accents, all capturing a unique linguistic style. Don’t worry though, we are sure you’ll get by!
Popular areas of study in Jamaica vary significantly between universities and programs. However, students interested in learning about multiculturalism, international development, education, and the liberal arts will likely be satisfied with course offerings in Jamaica. On the flipside, students specializing in hospitality or tourism management will not be short of study abroad program opportunities in Jamaica. Jamaica welcomes over 2.5 million tourists each year, so they’re practically begging for your know-how! Students can take hotel management courses in Jamaica and then exit the classroom for immediate real-world application.
Students who are drawn to volunteer while studying in Jamaica will find numerous causes to get involved with and offer support to as well. Nearly one in ten Jamaican children suffer from malnourishment, and noncommunicable diseases account for over 50 percent of disease-related deaths. Research local NGOs that are working to eradicate an issue that you are passionate about and hop on board their efforts!
Scholarships & Costs
Generally speaking, life in Jamaica will be affordable. The Jamaican Dollar is not a particularly strong currency, which often keeps the exchange rate in students favor. Although, inflation is visible, so don't be surprised if your loaf of bread costs you J$100! Keep in mind that Jamaica is a developing country and your monies should be spent wisely, investing in locally owned and operated enterprises whenever possible.
Different study abroad programs will include different services as part of their overall program costs. Some study abroad programs in Jamaica may include excursions, such as trips to the beach or to visit the National Gallery of Jamaica. Other programs will cost less, but only include the bare bones of accommodation and food. As you shop around for study abroad programs in Jamaica, be sure to compare detailed lists of what is included and what out of pocket expenses you may incur.
The good news is: there are over 100 scholarships available for studying in Jamaica, so get on it!
Accommodation & Visas
Different study abroad programs in Jamaica will offer different types of accommodation for students If you are visiting Jamaica as a stop on your semester program at sea, then you will likely be staying in a hotel or other budget accommodations, or simply upon your designated ship. If you can choose your accommodation, do so wisely. Whenever possible, students should attempt to support locally owned and operated enterprises; small bed and breakfasts’ make for the best stories!
On the other hand, staying in a homestay is an incredible opportunity to forge meaningful relationships within the culture while studying abroad in Jamaica. It doesn’t hurt that Mama’s homemade cookin’ is good for brain food to help you in your studies (and heck, it’s good for the soul, too!). Ask her how to make Goat Curry and you’ll be in for an experience unlike any you’ve ever had!
Visa requirements for international students vary based on nationality; with that in mind, students should do some personal research to ensure they have the right documentation prior to departing their home country (or even applying for that matter!). Students are typically allowed to stay for one year in Jamaica without exiting, but will be required to bring proof of enrollment at a local school or university.
Benefits & Challenges
Costs. Traveling is a wonderful opportunity, but with a slight downfall, it can get expensive. It’s important to travel, learn, and be integrated in another culture. In order to avoid the hefty costs of study abroad in Jamaica, be diligent in applying for scholarships and grants, and find creative ways to fundraise for your trip!
Crime. Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold in Jamaica. It has a high crime rate, and students are advised to leave their valuables at home if possible. When exploring, try to be the opposite of flashy. For example, don’t whip out your smartphone or fancy jewelery in order to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Climate. Jamaica is hot-hot-hot! The average temperature is between 80 and 90 degrees fahrenheit, so be sure to pack your sunscreen and sweat-wicking...uh...everything.
What are you waiting for? Grab a sugar cane to suck on and get to studying and traveling. Have fun making lasting memories and walk good (Jamaican jargon for “safe travels!”).