Growing up in a middle class family in the Philippines, going abroad seemed like a dream for me. I always felt like going abroad to a far-off university was near off impossible. The school fees paid in other countries were almost a hundred times more than we paid locally (no kidding). It was a privilege only the richest of the rich could afford, else, it was only an impossibility that they show in the movies to make you hope you can get it too. There isn’t any statistics on it yet, but I’d say that a great chunk of the Filipino people never even get to go abroad in their lifetime. It is no wonder then, that when I submitted my application for a one-term exchange student opportunity in British Columbia, Vancouver, I had zero to very very very little hopes of being chosen. Aside from my cynicism, I studied in a university with a population of 10,000, and only five students would be accepted. I had just learned how to compute probabilities that sem, and I was trying to be as realistic as possible.
But like Harry Potter getting his letter from Hogwarts, I got a note from our university’s admin that I had qualified to go on exchange!
I’d wager a guess that a lot of university students were like me then. Maybe you had seen a post on facebook calling for applications to go on exchange, and you scrolled it down. Maybe you can’t even imagine yourself applying anyway, how would you even afford to go? Maybe you don’t see any point in it. Or maybe you think it won’t be worth the effort. So here I am, and I’ll try to tell you that it is.
1. It’s gonna put the whole world into proper perspective
Staying in the same country for almost 18 years led me to be boxed into the limitations set to me by my local environment. Before studying and going abroad, my dreams seemed to me to forever be only dreams. It was only when I left the country and saw people actualizing what they sought out to do, that I knew there was a possibility for my hopes to happen. It was only then that I saw people actually becoming writers, or actors, or musicians. I spoke to people chasing these opportunities with a fearless resolve I lacked within myself.
And so it was only when I went that I saw as a truth, that the world was so much bigger than what I had painted it out to be. There were so many opportunities and so many possibilities in our lives that were more than we thought we had.
2. It’ll teach you how to better interact with people
We naturally adjust to new ways of interacting with people when we are put in newer environments. It was the same when I went abroad to study, only this time around, it was in a whole grander scale. Aside from meeting people from Canada, I also met people from all over the world because there were so many international students at UBC. I talked to people of different cultures, saw how they acted and reacted, and heard their stories. And of course, being in a new environment that I would stay in for four months, I had to learn how to adjust to this new culture and people.
3. It will teach you so much about yourself
I’m gonna go out and say that going on exchange was one of the most life changing things I have done, mostly because it taught me so much of myself. I’m sure my other friends would agree. There is something about being in a different country, and giving time to discover a new place, that will teach you so much of yourself.
One of my friends decided that she wanted to be an actress, another found that she was actually beautiful, and the other saw that she needed to travel the world.
4. It will make you love your country more
This is the irony: we thought that being in a country that was so different from ours and being in a position that was so comfortable would further alienate us from our home country. But oh we were proven wrong, seeing the developments that was possible for our country, seeing how other people sang their love for their people made us realize that the same was possible for the Philippines.