BY EARVIN CHARLES B. CABALQUINTO
It was in 2012 when I was granted a scholarship to pursue a Doctorate Degree in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to moving in Melbourne, I worked in an advertising and events company in Brunei Darussalam. I also previously worked on independent researches that compelled me to jumpstart a PhD journey.
To study overseas comes with a roster of joys and challenges. While overseas Filipino students may experience homesickness and even culture shock during the “adjustment period”, they may also find joy in their independence as they face school life away from their family and friends. School pressure may put overseas Filipino students to the test, but exploring new cultures and meeting individuals from diverse backgrounds may serve a reward in one’s scholarly quest in a foreign land.
I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs as an overseas Filipino student. I’ve got lost in taking the train and trams in Melbourne. I was harried by the winter season. I had sleepless nights because of homesickness paired with school deadlines to beat. Despite these experiences, I’ve learned to enjoy and maximize whatever experience and opportunities that come along with studying overseas.
Here are the five tips that I want to share to ease your struggles as you embark on a scholarly life overseas.
New and networkYou may be anxious and shy on the first day of classes. You don’t know anyone in the classroom. You haven’t met anyone in the shared house or dormitory that you’re staying in. That’s acceptable. But once the days pass by, it is best for you to network with other students in and outside the university. Here in Melbourne, we encourage Filipino students to join organizations inside and outside the university. Filipino students in Melbourne are invited to join our organization, Filipino-Australian Student Council Victoria (FASTCO). Through networking with other Filipino and International students, you don’t only meet new friends and acquaintances, but you also widen your contacts in your future scholarly or professional endeavors.
Be at home elsewhereHomesickness is one of enemies of any individual who work or study overseas. As an Overseas Filipino student, you may capitalize on digital communication technologies to ward off homesickness. Maintaining a constant and open line of communication to your family and friends back in the Philippines will surely help you combat homesickness. Through mobile devices – mobile phones, laptops, tabs and many more – can keep you in perpetual contact, or 24/7! You may also opt to make a lot of friends in your host country. Having your own group does not only bring you a sense of belonging, but you get to feel at home as you explore cultures and lifestyle overseas.
Big on bargainsWhether you are self-paying or a scholar of a university, to study overseas is undeniably expensive. So to make the most out of your money as you enjoy the wonders of a foreign land, it is best to be on the lookout for big bargains. Here in Melbourne, apart from visiting thrift shops like Salvos or Savers, students opt to check out “on sale” items. Should you wish not to spend on clothes that you may not be able to use as you go back in the Philippines such as winter jackets, you may use your network of friends who are to leave the country to lend you or give you their slightly used items.
Tipid tummy and yummyOne way to better understand a different culture is to immerse your taste buds in a culinary escapade. Apparently, some dishes come in a hefty price to pay. Believe it or not, as an overseas Filipino student, you can indulge in glorious food treats via working on a budget. One of the best techniques is learning the art of a “budget meal.” By simply bringing your own packed lunch on an everyday or alternate basis, you may be able to save a few dollars. These dollars will serve as your key in rewarding yourself with something more extra special at the end of the week or a month.
Your legacy, your best “health” forwardEach and every Filipino who work or study overseas represents the Philippines in so many ways. As an overseas Filipino student, you are expected to give your best in school and somehow embody Philippine values. While societal expectations may inspire you or even put a pressure on you in obtaining an international degree, do not forget to live a balanced student life and healthy well-being overseas. Independent living is not only about emancipation from a sheltered life back home, but it also entails heaps of discipline and wise decision making towards success. By keeping yourself active such as engaging in sports or healthy activities, you are rewarding yourself with a healthy body and mindset to boost your endeavors inside and outside your academic life.
The road that leads to walking away with an International degree in your hand is long and challenging at most times. But as long you are determined, passionate and focused, you will reach your goal and even graduate with flying colors. However, as you take that baby steps or perhaps a leap of faith in bringing home an International degree, never forget to not only enrich yourself with openness, diversity and humility, but also share your knowledge and wisdom in your home country, the Philippines.
Earvin Charles B. Cabalquinto is a PhD Candidate (Film, Media and Communications) at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, under the Monash Graduate Scholarship and Monash International Postgraduate Research Scholarship. His research focuses on the mobile media engagement of OFWs in Melbourne in connecting to their left-behind families in the Philippines. If he’s not writing or reading a book or journal for his research, you can spot him teaching Zumba, singing in a bar or simply wandering around Melbourne’s sleek streets and artsy alleys. You can visit his personal blog and his PhD blog.