Alumni Update: Philippines

It’s easy to take for granted the moments that we can effortlessly capture using a camera. The other day I stumbled upon a forgotten roll of photos from my Global UGRAD experience in 2016. Those photos are precious not only because my friends and I are in them, but also because they remind me how much my life changed since leaving my home country, the Philippines, for the first time. Participating in Global UGRAD positively affected my life in other ways that have become clearer to me over time.

The first photo: when this photo was taken in Washington, D.C., I remember how thrilled I was to meet my good friend Luis from Venezuela as well as other Global UGRADs who I had been communicating with over WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. As a Global UGRAD, a messaging app is a must! I remember waking up to more than 3,000 messages at the beginning of my program stint. My cohort’s WhatsApp group was insanely fun. I found it enjoyable talking to people who were sharing the same experience. Many questions were raised in that group and I remember feeling a little frustrated whenever I would see anyone having a problem or a tough time.

For some reason, I wanted to be sure everyone was okay and had someone to talk to, so I made myself available whenever possible to talk about my peers’ concerns and inquiries and helped whenever I could. This continued after the program when fellow Global UGRADs would ask for advice on their graduate school applications, ask for comments on their project proposals, or seek ways to cope back in their home countries. It’s funny because little did I know that advising would actually become my career, but that was the first step! I still advise students and working professionals on U.S. studies, and in a much more refined way too.

The second photo: Although I already completed several community service activities by the time this was taken, I was not very involved in my first few months in New York, so I opted for a school requirement that would be more fulfilling and exciting. Utica College placed me in the New York Mills elementary school to be a pre-service teacher. My experience in teaching kids with and without learning disabilities in this school gave me the exposure I needed to effectively and comprehensively communicate my culture and unique perspective to young and old people from different walks of life – something I do every day in EducationUSA as an advisor.

The last photo: Massachusetts was the first state I visited outside New York, and I was so impressed with its cultural attractions, especially the Freedom Trail. When this picture was taken, I thought to myself, “I hope I remember this moment forever.” (I am not sure I would remember Boston’s gorgeous view if it wasn’t for this photo in the first place so thank God for technology!). In the museum, I looked back through the old photos of Boston and found it interesting how much the city has changed and developed over the years.

At the end of the day, one photo just captures a fleeting moment but an array of photos can show a life’s progress. Considering the stack of photos I have as a whole, it’s easy to see how much I have grown, changed, developed, and learned, and how much of this was because of my excellent study abroad experience that is now paying immeasurable dividends in my life. Recently, I was awarded the Regional Rising Star Award by Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Caroline Casagrande for the results of my work as a senior EducationUSA adviser in the Philippines, making me the sole recipient of the award from East Asia and the Pacific.

Here’s a photo which I’m sure I will look back to a few years from now and, in some way or form, continue to ignite my passion for international education that started in Global UGRAD. I’m stoked for what’s next!

By Christine Grace Meneses Catindig, Global UGRAD 2015-16, Philippines, Utica College