When Armand McGibbon (Rasty) and Tong Lee (Tong) came to Grenada in the fall to study medicine, they had no idea what to expect, how to pack, or what to bring. Now they want to make sure incoming students don’t suffer the same fate.
Lee, an American citizen, was born in a refugee concentration camp in Thailand in the years following the Vietnam War. He gained a passion for medicine while observing the work of army medics during a six-year stint as a squad sergeant in the U.S. army.
McGibbon was born and raised in Hamilton but had an American mother, so he now holds dual citizenship though he admits, “I do consider Canada home.” His desire to become a doctor came from seeing his mother succumb to uterine cancer in 2004.
Lee and McGibbon, who are in their first terms at St. George’s University (SGU) in Grenada, started a thread topic on the online medical students’ forum ValueMD titled, “Rasty and Tong’s Excellent Guide to Term 1” hoping to answer questions such as what medical tools to bring or not bring, whether to pack pots and pans (answer to both: a resounding YES) and what things are worth paying overweight luggage fees on (“A can of Tim Hortons coffee down here is like gold – you can probably trade it for a car!” McGibbon jokes) and lately the thread has broadened to include all types of questions about life on the island. The thread, posted just before Halloween, has already garnered 28,000 unique views. Despite the constant cavalcade of questions born of the thread’s immense popularity, McGibbon and Lee don’t mind taking the time to respond.
“It’s a place Tong and I can check on a daily basis, to make sure students at least get their questions answered,” McGibbon said.
McGibbon and Lee’s own experiences coming to Grenada made them realize how little information there was about how to get prepared to come to the island.
“Before I came down here, there weren’t any other ways to connect to students you could ask to see what you have to do,” Lee said.
McGibbon agrees and says he hopes his and Lee’s hindsight can help incoming students be better prepared than they were, especially for the sticker shock on everyday items.
“The thing to me initially that was most frustrating was that you couldn’t get a lot of day-to-day information about what you needed to bring. I wish I had known that a coffee maker costs 80 bucks down here, so my goal was to help people make informed decisions before coming here,” McGibbon said.