Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Transfer your Power

As long as we are open to them, life situations can teach us so many lessons.  I fully expected to gain lots of cool scientific and medical knowledge while in medical school.  I also anticipated additional personal growth and development. But there are some unexpected lessons that have cropped up along the way.  The school of life will teach you many more lessons than any established educational institution can. 

I thought I did as much research as I could before coming to St. Maarten for Medical School.  I had tables, spreadsheets, and checklists galore before making my trip.  What to bring, which documents should be filed with the school, did I have all of my medical records updated and submitted, which areas I should look to live in when I got here, which prep books were recommended, what are the best ways to study, how best should I tackle all the material, and more.  I had lists that related to what I needed to do before I left home separated into time frames: 6 months out, 3 months out, 1 month out and OMG I'm leaving in a week and still have to do these 10 things and see these 5 people!  I'm pretty thorough when it comes to things that are important and I thought I had it all covered.  And then life happened, Murphy roared his ugly head and one thing that never made it onto one of my lists cropped up and is causing more aggravation than I care to deal with right now.  All because I was just unaware and uninformed.

With age comes responsibilities and the accumulation of stuff: like spouses, kids, houses, cars, businesses, retirement accounts and more.  I worked and lived my life for 11 years before starting med school.  I really planned my transition from full time employee and business owner to full time, unemployed student as best as I could. I read message boards, current AUC student and family blogs, searched online forums, articles--you name it, I was checking it out in order to make sure things would go as smoothly as possible once I started school. 

So far, there have been small things that I needed to ask my family to send in the mail or go to a government office to take care of for me and they have been mostly hassle free...And then this past weekend my parked car was hit, probably by a drunk driver, and the insurance company said it was a total loss.  Man, I loved my car and I wasn't expecting that news over the phone or via email which is how it was delivered.  My mom was handling everything until they needed a signature.  Uh Oh! A signature that can be compared with what's on file with the DMV.  My mom can't sign on my behalf for something so legally binding.  No problem, I can transfer her Power of Attorney and then she could sign.  That requires me signing a form and having it notarized and then sent home.  Uh Oh again!  Problem #1-finding time to locate a notary on the island during exam week. Problem #2. The mail system here can be so hit or miss.  My family sent birthday cards back in June and I still haven't received them 2 months later.  I have no idea how long it takes outgoing mail to reach the US.

The lesson in all this: Anyone who owns any property (car, house, pony, etc), a business, legal custody/responsibility for kids or aging parents should sign over limited Power of Attorney to someone they trust BEFORE you need it and before you leave home!  You can search online for a form and explicitly document your wishes of who will be able to handle specific affairs on your behalf if necessary and what they can/cannot manage for you. It will outline who can make legal decisions (in consultation with you) while you are away.  If I was in school in the states, I could depend on the mail system to get a notarized document to the correct location in a reasonable amount of time and this wouldn't even be an issue.  But we aren't in Kansas and nothing is fast or guaranteed to proceed as smoothly as you plan here on the island.  I wish this tidbit had shown up on one of the Things To Do Before Moving Out of The Country lists provided by the school or that I'd come across on line.  It won't apply to most people, but for those that need it, you can save yourself a lot of added stress. 

This advice probably wouldn't apply to >95% of the students getting ready to start in a few short weeks but I'm sure there are a few that may want to add this to one of the endless lists I'm sure you probably have...because you just never know what may happen.

While I'm giving unsolicited advice, I might as well add one more thing: If you are older or have been traveling internationally (military families, 1st generation Americans) for many years, check the expiration date of your passports!!!!! IF they are expiring in the next year consider renewing them soon.  Take new passport photos, fill out the renewal  application, SIGN it, and leave it with your family at home.  When it comes closer to your expiration date you can have your family mail off the completed application.  My passport was set to expire this year.  I would have still been on the island with no way to get home.  You have to renew in the US or wherever your home country is.  Kinda, almost, virtually impossible to do from here without going insane.  Luckily my family and friends visited and I was able to send them home with an application and passport photos to get it renewed.  It then cost my mom $50 to send my passport to me via 3 day priority mail.  Guess how long it took to arrive???? Nearly 3 weeks.

To the incoming students: Enjoy the last few weeks of freedom, carefree living, and getting ready for one of the best transitions of your life!
To the current students: Best of luck on Blocks and Final Exams!
To my family and friends: See ya soon.

Until next time...


  1. Hi, we're you able to get a notary?

    1. No. I haven't tried to locate one here. I plan to complete a Power of Attorney when I get home in a few weeks & I'll need a notary then. I'll be sure to give you a call. Thanks for checking :)