AIRPORT–It was an atmosphere of sadness, joy and celebration at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM on Sunday, when seventy students said goodbye to families and friends and left St. Maarten to pursue their tertiary studies in The Netherlands.
The airport’s departure area was crowded with teary-eyed students, parents, families and friends hugging each other as they said their goodbyes. Entertainment was provided by DJ Outcast and Gee Money in an effort to create a celebratory mood. Students were also treated to pizza, cupcakes and gift packages.
Former Milton Peters College (MPC) HAVO/VWO student Candice Teunis, who will be studying teaching in Den Haag, said she was overwhelmed with emotion as she got ready to leave the check-in area. She is, however, looking forward to returning to St Maarten after her studies as she already knows that she will miss the Caribbean. “It’s a sad moment, but I am also happy to go because it’s for a better life,” she told The Daily Herald.
Another former MPC student Hakeen Marlin, the son of National Alliance (NA) leader William Marlin, who will be studying Aviation Logistics in Amsterdam, also plans to return following his studies to help build his native St. Maarten. He was not too emotional at the airport on Sunday, and said he had been in The Netherlands five times before.
St. Dominic High School student Tereque LeBlanc, who will be studying International Financial Management and Control in Den Haag, said while he was sad to leave, he will adapt to his new circumstances and focus on his education. Two representatives from the Division of Study Financing accompanied the students.
Governor Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary Josianne Fleming-Artsen, Education Minister Patricia Lourens and SXM Airport Director Regina Labega were on hand to bid farewell to departing students.
Wescot-Williams said she was very proud to see the 70 students leave. “Today it is about telling you how proud we are of you that you have made it thus far, and how expectant we are of you and trust that you will do an excellent job in your studies in The Netherlands.
“Every year our students leave us to further their studies in The Netherlands and elsewhere and there are great expectations from your parents, peers, your government and indeed the whole community for you to return to the island and contribute to the development of your country,” she told students before they boarded their early afternoon flight.
“You are travelling abroad to develop yourselves, but I would like to encourage you to use technology to stay in touch, to ask questions or just to talk if you need some words of encouragement. I wish you a wonderful and exciting time of study and I look forward to the day when you will be returning to St. Maarten with a diploma in your hand.”
She urged parents to stay in touch with their children and let them know that St. Maarten cares for them. “I have been witnessing the departure for many, many years. I always do it with mixed emotions. I am happy to see our students leaving, but I am also aware of the many pitfalls that they are faced with. I am a mother and I understand the nervousness that parents have with the students being out there in the Netherlands. It is a good experience but there are many pitfalls. We urge our students to be strong and to use the values that have been given to them and I wish them much luck,” she said.
The SXM Airport Rescue, Fire Fighters and Operations Department executed a water canon salute on the KLM flight which students went on. This was arranged by SXM Airport in collaboration with KLM and was meant to symbolize an official blessing, so to speak, for the college-bound students.
Most of the students will be pursuing studies in Amsterdam, Diemen, Den Haag and Rotterdam. On arrival in The Netherlands, students will be greeted by representatives of the St. Maarten Student Support Services S4 and the St. Martin House. They would be guided through immigration and customs and will be transported by bus to Schipol Hotel where they will spend the night.
Orientation Week has also been organised by S4. This week will feature activities such as a welcome reception at Schipol, the opening of bank accounts, signing of housing contracts, assigning of a mentor, writing-in to the various cities, visiting the schools and shopping trips to purchase home essentials.