POND ISLAND - The belle of the ball this weekend, Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford, who attended the University of St. Martin (USM) for two years from August 2015, followed one of the other degree paths at the school. She started out her education from 1998 at the Methodist Agogic Centre Early Stimulation, and in 2000 went to MAC, and then to St. Dominic High School in 2008, receiving her High School Diploma in 2013.
She followed the St. Dominic High School International Baccalaureate Program from 2013 to 2015, earning Certificates in Business Management, English Literature, College Mathematics, World History and American History, College Physics, and the Dutch Language.
At USM, she receives the Associates Degree in General Liberal Arts with a focus in Mathematics and Science this year, and is already accepted at the University of the Virgin Islands for August 2017, where she is to obtain the Bachelor of Arts in Social Science with a Minor in Political Science.
Alexandria chose the General Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in Mathematics and Science “to get a good foundation”, as her interests originally lay in Aerospace Engineering. She credits the USM Speech courses with having inspired her change in career choice to International Lawyer, a surprising turn, but primarily due to her discovery that she “love[s] the art of debate”.
She has lofty goals, “intend[ing] to help create the rules and regulations that will govern how we act and settle in Space.” Having completed numerous academic subjects at USM and participated in the Ambassadors and Debate Competition, among other extracurricular activities, Alexandria has found greater confidence in herself and her abilities.
The most rewarding experiences at USM came from the students and staff, in the friendships and the experiences she has had with them. This has led to her growing as a person in her knowledge and her view of the world. She spoke of her gratefulness for the ways in which USM helped her explore herself and witness amazing moments in “startling new views of our island” and how the school “has unquestionably opened man doors” for her.
As with other students, Alexandria has “had to make several sacrifices to devote time to academics”. She could recall many instances in which she had to forgo extracurricular activities and chances at jobs, decisions aimed at managing her time effectively, which thankfully has resulted in her doing extremely well at USM. Alexandria asserts that she cannot truly regret those decisions “because I have been able to maintain the things that are important to me, [such as] time with family, friends and meeting new people through the work of the USM Ambassador club.”
She graduates with highest honours from the University of St. Martin at the end of this week, at the ceremony along with her fellow classmates. May they see success and positive personal growth in their future endeavours. Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford, Kharl Oliver, Rochana Richardson and students like them make St. Maarten proud.
Their most rewarding experience at USM boiled down to accomplishing the end goal and getting their degrees. Kharl receives his BTEC HNC certificate this year, graduating next year. The “time put in was not wasted; all the stress and late nights and assignments were worth it because [he] can see the outcome”. He adds that persevering through a lot of deadlines and a lot of work, and overcoming the desire to give up, is extremely important.
For Rochana, it is very definitely “getting that paper”. She reminisced about “the struggle” and how she learned to stop procrastination, her enemy. The journey they went through as a class, and to see where they are now, made everything more rewarding for her. She also had to overcome the point of wanting to give up, being “persistent and consistent to really get where you have to go, self-motivating”.
The wake-up emails, of which Rochana says she received the harshest, but is very grateful for, helped push them into getting work done. Her internship in Holland, for example, had to be completed before the semester was over, without forgoing other requirements for classes. For both of them, USM “teaches you what’s out there” and gives insight into “a real world and how you cannot slack off”, essentially creating a well-needed “training ground”.
They acknowledge that USM gave them a lot of chances and support over the course of their studies. College life at USM brought a comfortable level of familiarity she had been used to, living on St. Maarten. Kharl has had a different reaction from his stint at the school.
Hospitality being a global industry with a wide range of opportunities and ultimately a lot to do and choose from, he said it provided him “a way in” for finding a specific part for himself in the job market.
Consequently, Kharl talked about his favorite course at USM, Developing Manager, where it was required that an event be put on. Calling it “very stressful”, he praised it for opening his eyes to what he could be dealing with in the future on the job, especially with learning how to deal with people. In the end, it was a course that contributed to career preparation.
Rochana did not have a course that would be her favorite, although she agreed with Kharl about his choice being valuable. For her, it taught about “things to look out for” when starting a business or hotel; it was “very creative” and familiarized her with the atmosphere of “high-class”, and what that could entail. Rochana gave the perspective of a more worldly person who would study at USM, in that her previous experience in the Netherlands had thrown her into a world that greatly helped her understand life better.
For Rochana, after living and studying in the Netherlands, and enduring degree changes in which a major was dropped, she returned home to well-meaning threats from her parents to find a productive path for her life. At USM, Hospitality and Tourism Management was about to be accredited by BTEC, so she took the advisement of Division Head Wolthuis and completed pre-requisites for that degree programme during her first semester.
Although political science was her original goal in terms of studies, with no lab programme here, she had to be practical. Knowing St. Maarten is a touristy island, hospitality was a competitive, stable industry she wanted to have experience in, and a wise safety net for the future. On the other side of things, Kharl had still been deciding what to do. His hobby lay in the kitchen, and his dream was to become a pastry chef.
The University of St. Martin will hold the 2017 graduation ceremony for degree students on Saturday, June 24th. Before then, some of their students sat down to discuss their experience at USM, now that they are about to close that chapter of their lives. Among them were Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford, who graduates summa cum laude, Kharl Oliver, and Rochana Richardson.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Alexandria Nathanielle Baly-Stanford.