Cultural Experience | New York

Mash Up Di Place: 10 Experiences You’ll Have in Jamaica

London may be calling, but Kingston is already waiting for you outside.

By Renyelle Jimenez, Colgate University

I had the opportunity to study abroad in London and Kingston during my junior year. Now I love London and I can’t wait to go back, but Jamaica is a one-of-a-kind island with more personality than many people I’ve met. There are just so many wonderful experiences you can have there that you just wouldn’t be able to have in Europe. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

1. Spend hundreds of dollars on lunch. The bill was always in the hundreds and often in the thousands for everything I ever bought. I know it was because of the exchange rate and not because food is just overwhelmingly expensive, but that didn’t stop me from feeling cool about carrying around hundreds of dollars all the time. Not only will it be cheaper, but lunch will also taste better than anything I ever ate in London. Jamaica is known for it’s wonderful traditional local dishes like Jerk Pork or Chicken and an abundance of local fish and lobster, jump in and try the local flavors.

2. Go to the beach just because. While I have easy access to beaches when I’m home in New York, it’s not really beach weather until late spring. In Jamaica, not only are beaches readily accessible, but it’s always beach weather. As fun as it would be to bellyflop into the Thames, it’s not recommended.

montego bay image

Just an average day in Montego Bay, Jamaica

3. Party outside all the time. The last thing you want to do in a country as hot as Jamaica is go to a party in a sweaty nightclub or basement. Jamaicans don’t want to do that either so 7 out of 10 times, the party will be outside. If you end up at an indoor nightclub, there will be air conditioning and it will be wonderful.

4. Take a cab everywhere and still have money. If you’ve spent more than a weekend in NYC, you know that taking cabs everywhere you go is financially irresponsible. In Jamaica, that’s not necessarily the case. We did quite a bit of traveling and we never spent more than 200 JMD going anywhere.

5. Have a funny accent. Ok, this applies to other places besides Jamaica, but it’s still an interesting experience. If you’ve never noticed your accent before, you’ll notice it when you go abroad. This is especially true in Jamaica where the language difference is more than just an accent. If you’ve never heard it before, you may find yourself having to politely ask people to repeat themselves.

6. Go to Carnival at UWI Mona! I kept this off of my college bucket list, but that’s only because UWI Carnival should be on your life bucket list. Now I know there are carnival celebrations all over the world. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a Carnival celebration. When I was in London one of the first things I did was go to Notting Hill Carnival. I had a great time dancing in the streets and drinking out of actual coconuts, but it’s got nothing on Bacchanal in Jamaica. UWI Carnival at Mona is about a  week long celebration that begins on campus with a j’ouvert on campus (read as: party on campus) and ends with a j’ouvert at the beach (read as: party on the beach). In between parties in various locations, there’s also a parade around campus. I wish I had photographs of the festivities, but I was actually too busy having fun to take any good ones.

7. Study among future heads of state. Not every university can boast such influential leaders, but the University of the West Indies can. Two of Jamaica’s nine Prime Ministers are graduates of the University of the West Indies and dozens more Prime Ministers from nations all over the Caribbean claim UWI as their alma mater. Who doesn’t want to have a weekend study session with such smart people?

8. Umbrella? What umbrella? Anyone who’s been to London knows the stereotypes about constant rain aren’t too far off. Sure there are beautiful sunny days in London, but they’re just that…days. When I was in Jamaica, it rained significantly maybe three times. The weather was sunny and wonderful. If sunshine isn’t your thing, then Jamaica obviously isn’t for you, but who doesn’t love sunshine?

9. Frankly, rum. If you like to responsibly enjoy adult beverages, Jamaica is a great place to be. Rum is one of Jamaica’s biggest exports and all the fun varieties are available everywhere. The Appleton Estate has been around for over 200 years and is a regular sponsor of many parties…if that’s your thing of course ;).

10. Learn about a culture that you probably didn’t (and won’t) learn about in school. My main motivation for choosing Jamaica was to avoid winter in Central New York to learn first-hand about the culture of a place that is often underrepresented in education. Unless your academic concentration is the Caribbean, you probably won’t get a day of Jamaican history in class. This is really unfortunate because Jamaica has such a rich history that began long before Bob Marley picked up a guitar or Usain Bolt dominated the Olympics, but there are so many students who will never learn anything about it.

National Heroes Park in Kingston, Jamaica

National Heroes Park in Kingston, Jamaica

Marcus Garvey Memorial

Marcus Garvey Memorial

Nanny of the Maroons

Nanny of the Maroons Memorial

Now, I can go on and on for hours (and I will if you let me) about why Jamaica was an incredible experience for me. The conversation will always end the same way: go to Jamaica. Not for the food or the parties or the beach, but for Jamaica. I promise you won’t regret it.

Renyelle Jimenez

Colgate Univeristy | 6 stories

Renyelle is a Senior and Peace & Conflict Studies major at Colgate University who still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up. What she does know is that she loves learning about people all over the world and she will accept any and all opportunities to travel to places she's never been.

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