Questions and Misconceptions about Law School

Coming to the University of West Indies Mona Campus, as an "International" student, I had many first Impressions. First impression of the weather was that the sun is always directly above the campus. My first impression of the campus itself was that it is a lot bigger than the campus in St. Augustine. My first impression of the students, was that most West Indian students who attend the UWI know very little about the West Indies apart from what was taught in school and what makes regional news. So, when the Trinidad and Tobago Airport Authority refuses Jamaican nationals entry into the country or when the Jamaica Constabulary force declares war on a Garrison in order to apprehend a drug kingpin that the United States is seeking extradition for, that makes regional news. Even though this is not fake news, it is still only small pieces of a picture and usually the pieces that we are not proud of. Without more information it may become the full picture in the minds of other West Indians. West Indians are curious people however and never miss an opportunity to find out the truth. The result when an international student (myself) immerses into a faculty that is made up mostly Jamaican students? Questions, more questions and misconceptions.

All I have to say is "waz d scene" and the first and obvious question rolls in, inquiring my nationality and complimenting my accent. When they ask me what I study and I respond "Law" that surprises everyone, no exceptions. Trinidadians are expected in Jamaica to study Medicine, Geology or physiotherapy but Law is a completely different matter. The following question is always "Why didn't you study law in Trinidad, isn't there a Law faculty there?"

Yes, there is a law faculty in Trinidad but as is the case with most law faculties the competition is stiff -- some are accepted and still choose to go elsewhere for a change of scenery. The law faculty only admits 150 students in St. Augustine, probably about 50-100 students less than the faculty at Mona. Another question that is usually asked is whether our Government pays for University -- Yes and No. As of last year certain changes have been made to GATE (Government Assisted Tertiary Education) which now gives grants based on your family's income bracket. No assistance is afforded to students who study Law at Mona but this was not always the case. Another usual question is will I stay here to do law school or will I go back home. Honestly, I have heard that Norman Manley is the best Law school in the Caribbean but only time can tell. The last question is usually whether I am enjoying being here or if I like Jamaica. The easiest question by far -- I LOVE Jamaica.

There are many misconceptions about Trinidad that bothered me and still bother me that I will take the opportunity to address. Do Trinidadians dislike Jamaicans? Hell no. The average Trinidadian appreciates Jamaican music, Jamaican food and of course, Jamaican athletics. Few Trinidadians show ignorance from time to time but it's hard to pay them any attention when all my social media has been flooded with Jamaican slang. Trinidadians love their country and will always swear to be the best Island in the Caribbean but we love Jamaica too (Not sure about Barbados.) AND WE LOVE PICONG , so the economy jokes may never die. Another terrible misconception is that if a Jamaican travel to Trinidad, they will be encounter racism; the truth is that it is extremely unlikely. Once again, regional news managed to capture Trinidad at it's worse, during racial tensions which followed in the aftermath of a divisive General election in 2016. The reality of Trinidad and Tobago is that we are a racially diverse country that live as neighbors peacefully, inter-mingle cordially and work together.  Trinbagonian hospitality stands out as one of the best in the world. 

Written By
Akheem Valentine

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