Ross University School of Medicine is located on the Caribbean island of Dominica. Known as the “Nature Island," Dominica lies at the top of the Windward Islands in the West Indies. If hiking, scuba diving or simply being outside in a beautiful environment appeals to you, then you will find Dominica a very special place.
The island is twenty-nine miles long and sixteen miles wide. The landscape of Dominica is one of lush foliage draping cloud-shrouded, dormant volcanic peaks. The seas are crystalline, the coast (and beaches) are rugged and the cliffs are dramatic. The island is laced with rivers fed by an annual rainfall of from 40 inches on the coast to 300 inches in the interior.
Dominica’s forests abound with rare birds, flowers and animals, including the world's largest parrot, a beaver without a tail and a giant frog. Beautiful waterfalls and extraordinary underwater seascapes have all contributed to Dominica’s reputation among those who truly enjoy the beauty of a natural, unspoiled environment.
Recreational opportunities abound on the island and are a great way to unwind from the challenging medical school curriculum.
Travelers from around the world come to Dominica to explore the many hiking trails which range in difficulty from easy to most vigorous. In addition, Dominica is noted as one of the best scuba and snorkeling spots in the eastern Caribbean – with divers coming from around the world to experience the island’s underwater cliffs, caves and volcanic springs.
The People of Dominica
Although Dominica is in the Caribbean, it is not considered a resort island. Its culture is a meld of Carib Indian, French, British, American and African influences. Most of the island’s inhabitants are English–speaking (although native Dominicans may also speak a French patois) and make their living by fishing or farming. The environment is friendly, and because students live off campus, they come to experience quite a bit of island life. Dominicans live mostly in the coastal areas as the interior is too mountainous to cultivate crops. Religion plays a central role in life on the island. Crime rates are low.
Dominica has three principal towns: Roseau is the capital and largest town, Marigot offers the airport, and Portsmouth is home to Ross University. The road system has been constructed to connect these towns and access certain attractions.
The climate and local customs in Dominica dictate the style of dress. Temperatures year-round normally range from 75 to 85 degrees during the day, with comfortably cooler evenings and nights. There are two seasons: dry - from December through June - and wet during the remainder of the year.
Because of the warm climate, most people find light cotton clothing to be the most comfortable. Rain showers occur quite often, especially during summer and fall; therefore umbrellas and light rain gear are needed. On campus, casual clothes (shorts, sandals, sundresses) are worn most of the time. In town, especially in the capital city of Roseau, women are expected to wear skirts or dresses. Skirts or dresses are also required for some social events and during assignments to the Princess Margaret Hospital. Men are required to wear slacks and shirts (no jeans or tee-shirts) when assigned to the hospital and for some social events.
A number of denominations are represented in Dominica. In addition, students have organized denominational groups for religious services, including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim. Religious holidays are not observed by the University; all classes proceed as scheduled.
It is easy to get around Dominica. Taxi services are readily available, as are small buses or vans that travel the highways, picking up and dropping off passengers on request. Official taxi fares are posted at the airports; keep in mind that figures are listed in Eastern Caribbean dollars.
If you should choose to buy a car or motorcycle, take note that driving is done on the left. Be forewarned, also, that Dominican roads are dangerous, especially for motorcyclists. On campus, motorcyclists are required to wear helmets; however, it is strongly advised that they be worn at all times. Pedestrian traffic on sidewalks and stairways also stays to the left.
Telecommunications on Dominica are more than adequate with well-developed cable television, telephone, and wireless systems. Hurricanes are a risk in the early fall, as they are to most parts of the Caribbean (and southeastern regions of the U.S.). The Ross University campus and community are well equipped to deal with them.
Dominica uses Eastern Caribbean (EC) currency, referred to as EC dollars. The exchange rate officially is approximately 2.67 EC dollars to one United States dollar. Most business establishments readily accept the United States dollar, but the exchange rate may be somewhat lower than the official rate. Local merchants will not accept personal checks drawn on American banks.
The current official banking rates are:
Buying - Checks - 2.6882; Notes - 2.67
Selling - Checks & Notes - 2.7169
*these are subject to change at any time
Banking facilities exist in both Portsmouth and Roseau, and students are advised to open a local account. One should bear in mind that, with the exception of Friday, when the banks are opened from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, banks close at 2:00 pm and are closed on weekends. The bank of campus, National Bank of Dominica Ltd. NBD however, opens from 9 am to 4 pm from Mondays to Fridays. There is one bank and two ATMs on campus.
Banks will negotiate US checks; it can take up to 30 days for personal checks to clear. However, NBD clears all checks drawn against Ross University’s accounts immediately, including US loan checks.