Students can looking for an opportunity to study abroad in a country that has a top-rated university, friendly people, and a diverse culture, should consider Trinidad and Tobago. Although not as well-known as many other Caribbean countries, Trinidad and Tobago offers the appeal of the Caribbean islands, the chance to study at the nation’s top universities, and a cultural heritage that is rich in diversity and experience.
Geography & Demographics
Trinidad and Tobago is a Caribbean country made up of two main islands. The bigger of the two islands, Trinidad, is home to the country’s capital city, Port of Spain, and to the country’s primary industry, oil. The smaller island, Tobago, is home to beautiful beaches and vacation spots. Unlike most other Caribbean countries, Trinidad and Tobago relies on its oil industry and business rather than tourism as the primary source of income.
The most southern of the Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Tobago are located 7 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The geography, wildlife, and agriculture of Trinidad and Tobago are more similar to South America than to other Caribbean islands.
Until it’s independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago changed hands between numerous countries, most notably and frequently the Spanish and British. During the time of British rule, Africans and Indians were brought into the country as a part of an “indentured servitude” that was akin to slavery. Many families stayed and made the islands their home, and as a result, Trinidad and Tobago is home to a richly diverse people. Although the main inhabitants of the islands are either Afro- or Indo-Caribbean, the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and European populations have been growing more recently and contribute to a country filled with culture unlike anywhere else in the Caribbean.
There are two main seasons in Trinidad and Tobago, the dry season from January to May and rainy season from June to December. Students should expect to both sweat and freeze while they attend courses and explore the country. Building typically blast air conditioning, so inside you will freeze, but outside most students take a while to adapt to the humidity so they sweat profusely at times.
One clothing tip that must be noted, civilians are restricted from wearing any type of camouflage clothing because it is reserved for military personnel. So stay away from camo but bring along plenty of lightweight clothing.
Food & Culture
Although English is the primary language in Trinidad and Tobago, Spanish, and a variation of French, patois, are also spoken. Spoken languages are often combined to create words that really are unique to the country.
As a result of the culturally diverse population, the food in Trinidad and Tobago is a highlight of any study abroad program. A variety of curries are reflective of the Indian heritage, while many stewed meats and rice dishes are reflective of the African heritage. However, all of the food has a Caribbean influence and flavorful spices, “pepper” (hot sauce) and local vegetables are found in many dishes. It is also easy to find “American” food, and although slightly different than what one would expect there are pizza shops, sub shops, and a lot of KFC.
Trinidad and Tobago dollars (T.T.’s) are the main currency of the country; but U.S. dollars are accepted in most places, though they are not as frequently used in smaller towns or at street vendors and markets, where it is easier to use T.T.’s. Banks and ATMs exchange money, typically at a rate of around six T.T’s to one USD.
Things to Do
Popular activities in Trinidad and Tobago include watching national sports teams, specifically the Trinidadian Soccer team and the West Indies Cricket team. Large stadiums host international competitions, and the fans create an atmosphere that is like a huge party. While reggae music is popular, music from the steel pan (a steel drum) is more popular, and was founded in Trinidad and Tobago. Students may have the opportunity to visit a steel pan warehouse where visitors can watch as they make the instruments out of oil drums.
Studying in Trinidad & Tobago
Many of the schools in Trinidad and Tobago have partnerships which allow students to pay their regular tuition to their home school, and then the tuition is transferred to the local university appropriately. Other costs, such as travel, food, housing, and books, are typically left to the student. Some universities with established study abroad partnerships have programs that assist students in obtaining housing and other necessities too. Housing is often available on local campuses. Dorm rooms are simple, yet clean and comfortable, and typically include a bed, dresser, desk, and sink, as well as a ceiling fan and ventilated windows for airflow.
Students from numerous Caribbean islands, as well as countries such as the United States and Canada, live in the dorms quite frequently. These interactions with other students enhance opportunities to learn about the Caribbean culture, as well as participate in social activities of the university, common activities include barbecues, cricket games, and trips to local dance clubs.
Summer programs usually offer shortened classes designed to give students the opportunity to study more specialized Caribbean topics, such as Caribbean History, Music, International relations, or Steel Pan and Dance.
Students who choose to study abroad in Trinidad and Tobago will not regret it; the opportunities for academic growth and development foreign universities are enhanced by the wide variety of cultural experiences offered in the richly diverse country. Trinidad and Tobago is a country where one will be warmly welcomed, and will want to return to again and again!