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The Thought Process of Filipino Students Debating Whether to Pursue Their Studies Abroad

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Jun 11, 2021

So you made it into your dream school abroad… do you make the leap?

Congratulations! You got into your dream school halfway across the world or somewhere in between. You’re ecstatic, fantasizing about your life in a foreign country, meeting new people, and possibly striking gold and building the life of your dreams. All the days spent running from office to office collecting papers have finally paid off. And yet, you hesitate. 

Because you know your country needs you. 

Young, bright, and aware: three things you possess that could keep your country’s economy from circling the drain. At least until another set of young, bright, and aware people can replace you somewhere down the line. Even if you stay and graduate from a good university locally, there remains the debate of what is considered to be a decent wage. The mere thought already implies that staying here means accepting a system that fails to value labor, and subsequently fails to justify the hefty price tag of higher education in the first place. If you can’t use your degree as leverage for getting better pay here, then it’s inevitable to think of taking your talents where you can be better compensated for it elsewhere.

Do you take the risk? Or do you stay? And if you stay, for who? 
If you find yourself in the familiar loop, you’re not alone! Whether it’s to expose yourself to a different culture, gain an edge in the job market, or purely to enhance your knowledge in the field of your interest, these are all considerable reasons for wanting to study abroad. The question usually comes in terms of how well your plans fit in with the reality of the world today.

The Reason Behind That Hesitation

Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan,” is a line forever immortalized by Rizal in the minds of Filipino students. We milk an education from our Inang Bayan, yet we think about leaving her almost the second our fingers graze the glossy letters of our diplomas. This thought is further explored by Renato Constantino’s The Miseducation of the Filipino. In his essay, he calls for a reexamination of the Philippine education system, and evokes for students “who are aware of their country’s problems, who understand the basic solution to these problems, and who care enough to have courage to work and sacrifice for their country’s salvation.”

This isn’t to shame those who have chosen to leave the country. In fact, Filipinos studying abroad have doubled in the last 10 years, according to CHED. The number is expected to grow as colleges and universities embrace “internationalization” through exchange student programs, and cultivating curricula geared towards global citizenship and national competitiveness. 

Internationalization, global citizenship, and national competitiveness. The hook, line, and sinker that continues to further the belief that studying abroad is better. Part of your hesitation is grounded in the knowledge that our country needs all the help that it can get. After all the immersion, donation drives, and beneficiary concerts, it just doesn’t seem right to pack up and leave. But convincing yourself that you’ll pull off a Crisostomo Ibarra moment when you make your great return seems too idealistic and somewhat… fake. 

Then how do you strike the balance between following your dreams and finding fulfillment in them?

Finding Your Ikigai

Being the main character in your story means that the pen is in your hand. You write your own story, so make yourself root for your main character. Choose your struggle! Between your passions and interests, it’s important that your chosen university provides you with opportunities, whether it be a vast alumni network, or the chance to pursue independent work and further your learning outside the classroom. Moreover, you need to ensure that your dream school also makes the most financial sense. You don’t want to plunge head first into student debt.

These three factors: passion and interest, opportunities, and financial sense must work together to serve you a higher purpose. An age-old question for many universities and job interviews alike is, “Where do you see yourself 5-10 years in the future?” A bit of introspection is necessary to give you confidence and direction. If you choose to study abroad, away from all things familiar, it’s the one thing you will know with utmost certainty. When you feel lost and astray, your plans are the fallback that keeps you grounded in times of doubt. 

Once you’ve got your three factors and your 5-10 year plan plotted out, you’ll begin to see things more clearly. If you’re lucky, the choice may even seem obvious. But if it all comes to worst, flip a coin. If you’re even slightly disappointed in the result, choose the other. Because no matter how noble your intentions may be, it would be a disservice to deny yourself an opportunity that presented itself to you.

Your Ikigai will help you discern how the choices you make for yourself lead you back to your greater purpose. Loving one’s country often begins with loving oneself. Good plotlines often utilize techniques to come in full circle, while linear storytelling is often dull and predictable. Which is hardly the case for anyone who has ever lived a life worth telling. So trust yourself in knowing where your heart lies, because it beats for you first. Don’t be afraid to choose you if you know it’ll lead you back to those you wish to serve. 

* * *
We want to make the future less scary. Whether you’re a senior in high school researching on college courses, or looking for scholarship opportunities, we’re certain that you’ll be able to pick up a thing or two from our website.  While the saying, “the world is at your fingertips” has been a phrase we’ve tossed around sparingly in the past, it’s now the reality that we live in today. Padayon!

 

Written By:

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Tatiana Carrido

If she’s not engrossed in another book from her never-ending reading list or sobbing over Disney short films, she’s probably biking along ricefields or crossing out everything on her to-do list for the next 3 months. Or debating whether to get her third cup of coffee. Which she probably shouldn’t.

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