Ross University Blog

DEAN'S BLOG: Budgeting Advice for RUSM Students in Dominica

July 06, 2015

Executive Dean and Chancellor Joseph Flaherty, MD, chats with Senior Director of Finance Dean Shillingford.

I met recently with Ross University School of Medicine’s (RUSM) Senior Director of Finance Dean Shillingford, to talk about the importance of budgeting, and some ideas that might be helpful for our medical students. Mr. Shillingford, a native of Dominica, began his career with RUSM on the island in 2006, as a student accounts coordinator. He was promoted steadily and in 2011, he became the director of finance and administration on the Dominica campus and in January of this year he was appointed to his current position in Miramar. Here’s some of that conversation:

Flaherty: Generally speaking, it makes good sense for everyone to prepare a budget and keep track of expenses. People need to think about what is a necessity and what is not, and that is different for everyone.

Shillingford: It’s important to create a budget and to write it down. As far as expenses, the big three are food, housing and transportation. When students first arrive in Dominica for the Foundations of Medicine portion of the medical education program, they may not be sure how much to budget. But by the second semester, they will know how much they need.


Students’ standard of living has gone up; what they used to call the middle class standard of living has gone up. Medical students today wear decent clothes, eat out occasionally, take vacations. They probably had that in college. Our students have to look at their lifestyle a little differently. Going to Dominica is different. This is a study experience. You have this opportunity to learn the basic sciences and pass the USMLE® Step 1 exam with a good score. You’re not going to be spending money going places. There’s no need for a lot of new clothes; there are few functions for which to get dressed up.

Shillingford: There is a temptation for students. They studied hard all semester and they want to party. During the breaks some want to go island-hopping by plane, stay in nice hotels, go to the casinos.

Flaherty: I’m a big advocate of students setting study goals with rewards. Each day, if you study for five or six hours, you should have a short-term reward. Go out and play basketball, or whatever you like to do. If you study all week, go out on Saturday or Sunday. And if you study all semester, set aside money in your budget for a reward. I remember when I was a medical student I set aside $20 every semester, to reward myself with a trip to my favorite bookstore. I liked to read history and fiction. Still do.





Flaherty: The thing that students have to plan is how many trips back to the U.S. they will have to make. They may want to go home twice in 16 months. Some people get homesick.

Shillingford: As far as transportation on the island, the university provides it. Everything is within walking distance. And for excursions to Roseau and sightseeing day trips, these are also organized by RUSM and transportation is provided. You don’t really need a car.

Flaherty: There will be no events where you’re expected to drive. I think if a student wants to drive somewhere remote on the island, he or she can find three others who also want to go, and they can rent a car together for that occasion.

Shillingford: You don’t really need to buy a car just for 16 months. Gas on the island is also much more expensive than in the US. You have to discipline yourself to cut expenses. It’s always wise to reduce your expenses.



Shillingford: Most first semester students stay at Ross University Housing. Then they should look through our housing database for an apartment that is clean, and in a good location, and less expensive than something bigger and fancier. After all, how much time will they spend in the apartment? They’ll be spending most of their time on campus, in classes and labs, and studying.

Flaherty: Students probably spend about 80% of their awake time on campus. They should check out all of the many options available for study space and see what works for them. Very few students prefer to study at home all the time, because of the distractions there. So, how much living space do you really need? Some people are more social, and a compromise for them might be a place with maybe four bedrooms and a communal kitchen. When I was in medical school I lived in a decrepit building with about 20 other students. My room was about 10’ by 12’ with a bed and a desk and chair. It wasn’t bad. We had great camaraderie. It didn’t seem like a hardship.



Shillingford: Eating out is always more expensive than eating at home, no matter where you may be. You can save a lot of money by limiting the number of meals that you eat in restaurants.

Flaherty: It’s also probably easier to eat healthy if you cook a little. Our students can go to the market once a week to shop for fresh food. They can freeze leftovers in containers and have enough to eat for a few meals. This is what many of them do. It’s also a good way to make friends, shopping, cooking and eating together. During Orientation on campus we offer a presentation on the unique foods of Dominica and how to prepare them.

There’s a lot of information we give students, from the time that they are accepted to RUSM, about what to expect on the island and how to arrange for what they need, including housing and transportation. We are here to help. What students need to do for themselves is to think about their expenses and how they will budget for the basic necessities, as well as for the rewards they will give themselves along the way. And, as Dean Shillingford advised, “write it down.”


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