Before we arrived in Barbados, we found a duplex house (referred to as an “apartment” by the locals) to live in for the semester. The International Office at University of West Indies Cave Hill (UWI – pronounced [jʉi] in IPA or “yoou-ee”) was very helpful in providing phone numbers and email addresses for UWI off campus approved housing landlords. But more about housing selections later. After speaking several times with a landlord and seeing pictures of the “apartment” we decided to live in a furnished two bedroom “apartment” for a total of $1700 Barbadian (or $425 US per bedroom per month) for all utilities and amenities included. (Later, after we went house-hunting as part of orientation, we learned that the average rent per bedroom during peak season, January-May, ranges from $400 US to $450 US per month; however, electricity is not always included in the rent. Fortunately for us, it is.) Our landlord, who we later learned is a retired professor from UWI who founded the tourism major/department on campus, agreed to pick us up from the airport to take us to our new home. Although UCEAP offers to pick up students from the airport, we were arriving before January 11th (the first day where UCEAP was scheduling pick-ups), so we needed to find an alternative way to get to our new home. Here is the story of our arrival in Barbados:

From the moment we arrived in Barbados, we thought we might be in trouble. As we entered the immigration area surrounded by hundreds of German tourists, I saw a women standing at the front of the line holding a wooden sign. The sign read, “Ms. Angie Howard.” I nudged my travel buddy and said, “Look… my name is on a sign, did I do something wrong…?” As I approached the women and introduced myself, she immediately gestured for my friend and I to cut over 75 people in line. Now I really thought I was in trouble. In all my traveling, never before has anyone waited at the terminal gate with my name on a printed sign.

She brought us to the immigration booth, where our passports were stamped, and told me to find her after we collected our luggage. Not only did we have no idea about what was going on, but the luggage collection was particularly stressful because on our previous flight to Germany three weeks prior, my checked bag from Ghana did not arrive until three days after us.  Fortunately, our bags were the first ones off the carousel and everything arrived in one piece! We exchanged our Euros to Barbadian dollars (for an excellent exchange rate might I add) and found the woman who collected us at the terminal.

Barbados Tip: Almost everywhere accepts U.S. currency for a constant exchange rate of $1US to $2 Barbadian. (I’ve even paid with Barbadian dollars and received U.S. as change from grocery markets and restaurants!) That being said, if you plan on carrying around Barbadian dollars for the first couple of days (which I recommend), the airport exchange kiosk has the best exchange rate I’ve found thus far on the island if you’re exchanging $100 U.S. or less. The fee is $5 or 5%, whichever is more. All the banks we have tried have higher ATM fees than this.

As it turns out, because our landlord has connections in the tourism industry he asked the woman to wait with my name on the sign so that we could get out of the airport faster to get home. (We arrived in Barbados around 8PM, so after immigration and luggage it was getting late.) What we originally thought might be trouble turned out to be us being treated like royalty!

The night we arrived our landlord gave us a short tour of the island on our way to the apartment, driving us past places such as the ever so popular joint Oistins Fish Fry, UWI, and one of the main super markets. At first I simply thought we had the nicest landlord in the world, (and he is very nice) but later I learned it’s by no means uncommon for the UWI affiliated landlords to give the international students a short tour of the island. Barbadian (or Bajan –pronounced [bɛʃən] or ‘bashun’) hospitality is amazing.

After a couple days of wandering the island, it was time to go to orientation. My only experience with UCEAP orientations was very extensive. In Ghana, our orientation was 2.5 weeks long, and was so intense that we received four units of UC course credit for it in African studies. We took field trips, had mini-lectures, and learned the basic necessities of Ghanaian life, such as what we could eat, what to do when the water went out, and not to use our left hand for anything because the left is considered sinister in Ghanaian culture (not to mention it’s the hand everyone wipes with and many Ghanaian meals are eaten without utensils).

That’s why I was shocked when the informational part of the UCEAP Barbados orientation lasted less than two hours. We received an information packet that had fun activities to do in Barbados for the semester, a map of UWI, and a pamphlet of clubs we could join at the university. After some general FAQ and explanation of class enrollment, the orientation was over and we were free to do what we wanted to for the rest of the day. My travel buddy spent a UCEAP semester in Ireland and said that the orientation there was similar. I was so accustomed to all the necessary hand holding in Ghana in UCEAP that then my orientation was so short, I thought truly they must be not telling me something! As it turns out, they gave us all the pertinent information we needed to know and sent us on our way.

The second day of the orientation weekend consisted of the UWI International Student Orientation which basically was a reiteration of the information from the previous days orientation, only all of the international students where there (rather than just the UCEAP students). I was surprised to learn that aside from the UC students, there were only three other American students, and most of the other international students were Canadian or from Europe.

In the evening we all went out to Oistins Fish Fry, “the place to be” on Friday nights. While it is rather touristy, it makes for a fun evening. There are vendors selling knickknacks of all sorts, loud music, and plenty of delicious places to get your fish fix!

The third and final full day of the orientation weekend, UCEAP organized a house hunting afternoon for all of the students that did not yet have accommodation, but that will be for another post as it was a very long and informative afternoon.

At first we thought we simply unfortunately lived near a rooster that liked to crow at sunrise. As it turns out, they are all over the island. Here are the three that woke us up at orientation. On the bright side, getting up at literally the crack of dawn helps to start a productive day!


On a final note, I found the Bajan equivalent of Diddy Reese during orientation, and while nothing can compare to Diddy Reese, it sure is delicious!

Angela Howard studied abroad in Cave Hill, Barbados, in Spring 2017: