Students who were sent from the Caribbean to the North of England after Hurricane Irma

After deadly Hurricane Irma struck, an entire university was relocated 4,000 miles away from the Caribbean – to Preston, northern England.

When more than 700 students and staff from an American university in the Caribbean were unexpectedly relocated to the small English city of Preston in October, they may as well have been moving to another planet.

St Martin, a small Caribbean island just south of Antigua, is about as far from Preston, Lancashire, as you could imagine, and not just because 4,000 miles of ocean lies between them.

The American University of the Caribbean is based in the south of the island, in the Dutch territory Sint Maarten. It’s a tropical beach paradise where the sea glistens with year-round sunshine by day and the streets sparkle with frenzied nightlife after dark. Fresh fish fill the hundreds of restaurants scattered around its beachy edges.

Preston, once the heart of the UK’s now largely defunct textile industry, lies in the North West of England. It regularly sees a handful of tourists with a taste for brutalist architecture mingle with the pensioners and schoolkids at the city’s concrete bus station, although you’d be wise to bring an umbrella there since around a metre of rain falls on the city every year. Its best-known dish is “butter pie”, a potato, onion, and pastry concoction originally cooked up to feed Catholics on a Friday when they were avoiding meat.

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