Welcome Address by Minister of Education, Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, to Study Financing Students Arriving The Netherlands.
Monday, August 1, 2011.
Fellow St. Martiners,
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Welcome to The Netherlands!
Today is the first day of your journey into a future that only you can determine. We left St. Martin yesterday with mixed emotions. We left behind family, friends, and loved ones. We also left behind familiar sights, smells, and a tropical climate you are surely going to miss for some time. I hope you have adjusted your watches because even the time here is different.
You are here on a mission. You are here on a personal quest for higher education. And you are also here as ambassadors of your island. Your mission is clear: study. Your personal quest for academic glory must make you do your best in school. And your role as St. Martin’s young ambassadors demands that you should be on your best behavior throughout your stay here in The Netherlands.
Although you carry a Dutch passport, which entitles you legally to certain privileges here, you are first and foremost St. Martiners. Don’t you ever forget where you come from or who you for. Your stay here is not a permanent one; you are sojourners in a land that you can only call home for the duration of your studies. But your real home is the Rock, the 37-sq. mile island in the Caribbean Sea you just waved good bye to yesterday.
Your purpose here is to acquire as much knowledge as possible that you can use to build up that home we all know as St. Martin. And you have to do so in the allotted time, or else, your hosts might even impose a 3,000 euro fine on you for not finishing on time, if discussions this year in the Dutch Second Chamber regarding higher education are anything to go by. Whether this becomes a reality or not, the fact of the matter is that the Dutch government wants you to finish your studies on time and return to your own island. The St. Martin government wants the same. We want you to complete your studies in record time and return to build the St. Martin nation we can all be proud of.
Is that as easy as it sounds? Yes and No. Yes, if you remain dedicated to your studies and committed to making your contribution to the development of your own island. And No because nothing comes easy that is worth it.
Let me put it bluntly to you: St. Martin has nurtured you to this point and cannot afford to lose you. In fact, St. Martin expects to reap significant dividends from its investment in you. It will not be fair, it will not be just, for you to prolong your stay here unnecessarily or remain here after you have completed your studies to help to further develop a country that is already far more developed than your homeland. This is tantamount to St. Martin having to raise you, and train you for the benefit of The Netherlands! They call that "brain drain" and it is my fervent hope that you will not be counted among that number.
I stress this point because available information is not very heart-warming. For example, it takes an average of six to seven years for students who study in The Netherlands to obtain their first degree, whereas it is only four years for those who study in North America. What is more worrisome is that the same information indicates that very few return to the island who came to study in The Netherlands. I am appealing to you to make sure you are not one of those. St. Martin needs you! Every one of you! It is not just a question of patriotism, it is an urgent necessity as we build this new nation that we want to be the pride of all.
Studying away from home, especially in The Netherlands, has its challenges, but it also has its advantages. You will learn the meaning of "freedom" here because you will be virtually on your own. You will be the CEO of your time and energy. You will be the CFO of your funds. The success of this company called "YOU" will depend solely on you. You will have no one to blame if you fail but yourself. Use your new found freedom wisely, knowing that freedom without responsibility is "freeness" or better yet, "licentiousness". Be responsible at all times; you owe it to yourself.
As young students, I urge you to seize all the opportunities you might have now to travel and see the world. I am sure you will find student rates for travel throughout Europe and beyond. Travel is education; the type of education that lasts a lifetime and that you often won’t find in a classroom. And just so that you know, you might not have the time nor money again in future to travel as you wish. The demands of job, family and other responsibilities would diminish your ability to travel after you finish your studies and return home to work.
And speaking of work, you will recall that on several occasions, I had stressed that it is government’s duty to provide you with the opportunity to study; it is, however, not government’s responsibility to find a job for you. That is something you should start doing from your very first year.
How you might ask? If, for instance, you have to do an internship, consider doing it at home. In that way, you would be establishing a working relationship with a company or agency that could result in your immediate employment after you finish school.
Technology has indeed transformed the whole world into a global village. We live in the Information Age, and with a click of the mouse or a touch of the screen, you can access all the information you need. This means you have no excuse for not staying in touch with home. You may have left St. Martin, but please do not let St. Martin leave you. Communicate as frequently as possible with those you have left behind. Visit the many St. Martin websites where you can keep abreast of developments on the island. In particular, check the government website regularly for information about opportunities in the administration.
Of course, you have S4 and the St. Martin House here to assist you in whatever way possible. But stay in touch with home. Get on Skype or any other Voice Over Internet Phone and have your friends and family join too, so you can speak with them for free.
As your Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, I will remain available to you at all times. Feel free to contact me or my cabinet if necessary. My telephone number is: 5237755. If you can’t reach me by phone, send me an e-mail at: email@example.com. I promise you will receive an answer from me as soon as possible.
You will make many new friends here; people from all over the world. Some of them will be life-long friends; others will be there just for this season. Choose your friends carefully. The company you keep could determine how far you reach with your studies.
Study hard! That is your main mission here. And pray. I will be praying for you, too, and I know the Almighty will never leave nor forsake you.
Welcome, once again to The Netherlands. Your future here means a lot to St. Martin. Make the best of it.
I thank you.