Finding my feet in Martinique

25 January 2019

Check out Jenni's first blog from Martinique in the Caribbean at the Université des Antilles et Guyane!

Jenni blog 1

When I first arrived at the airport here in Martinique, I suddenly realised that I was in a foreign country, very far away from home, where I didn’t know a single soul except the landlady who had apparently forgotten to come and pick me up. I was overwhelmed, jet-lagged, and terrified. However, I mustered up enough French to get a taxi to my new home and, past that first hurdle, everything kind of took off.

As Dwayne Johnson once said, when you walk up to opportunity's door, don’t knock on it, kick that b*tch in and introduce yourself. I followed this mantra possibly a bit too closely for the first couple of weeks here, saying yes to everything that came my way - and while I was exhausted and still overwhelmed, it earned me some amazing friends and once in a lifetime memories (and my instagram has improved).

But some very difficult experiences, which mostly relate to dealing with French bureaucracy and Caribbean inefficiency, have taught me that you also have to live while you’re on your year abroad. Surfing every weekend and drinking on the beach every other day is great, as long as you also remember to study and do a grocery shop once in awhile. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you’re on a long, EU-funded holiday, but the realities of living in the Caribbean have finally snapped me out of this. So here they are:


Speaking in a foreign language all the time is really hard. I’ve made some great local friends, which means that my French is definitely better than it ever has been, but it’s still frustrating and tiring when you’re constantly struggling to understand and express yourself. The upside to this is that I’ve started thinking and occasionally dreaming in French, which is surreal but really satisfying to know I’m improving.

Living in Martinique is really expensive. Due to the fact that most things are imported from France, my weekly shop is three times the amount that I spend in London. We are technically in France, which means you can get pretty much all the same commodities (like sushi and take-away chinese food) but you will pay for them. Rent is comparatively super cheap, though. 

You are a lot less independent than you are used to being. The nature of being a foreigner in a new country, not to mention the language barrier, means that you have to rely heavily on the locals, and that is fine. I’ve come to really value the kindness of my landlords, my flatmate, my neighbours and friends when they’ve helped me make phone calls and understand various bureaucratic processes. So UK students - help your Erasmus friends! It’s cheesy, but it’s also taught me the value of genuine helpfulness and selflessness, for example when I’ve had to hitchhike to uni because the bus never came (although I wouldn’t really advise this).

I’ve kind of dwelt on the negatives because I’ve become accustomed to the positives of living in literal paradise, but it’s important to note them too. Martinique is absolutely stunning, the people are so kind and the lifestyle here is infectiously relaxed. I’ve learnt to wake-board through free courses at UAG, been snorkelling, and next weekend I’m going hiking through a waterfall. The culture here is incredibly rich and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of it. I am looking forward to the next two months with a bit of apprehension but a lot of excitement.

By Jenni Osei-Mensah