The start of the New Year means the start of a new semester. The past days, I bumped into a number of new international students who moved aimlessly around the residential hall and the GIS department where I work, sporting the one unique appearance you’d never doubt for something else. Okay, save your breath, I had the same look when I first came to this town – tolerantly apprehensive, conscience-stricken and bugged up.

This is me promoting the Philippines!

Not counting the predestined academic catechisms, the infrequent chat I had with some American friends, would, most of the time, lead to the proverbial question of “why I have to take my PhD study abroad”.

Given fact number 1: I am from the Philippines, a developing country (From now on, I won’t be using “third-world” to describe the current overall situation of my motherland. A friend suggested it is better not to label nations with numbers that associate unintentional negative connotations). Given fact number 2: Obtaining a degree abroad is like winning a lottery, or in the case of the Philippines that is so showbiz-oriented, it is like winning the best actor award – private institutions as well as government agencies will line up to get you for an interview. In a developing country where no enough technology and resources that could support 24-carat ideas, the only way to move forward and fulfill the dreams, is to study abroad.

I spent two years for my Masters Degree in Europe and foreign students shared the same thoughts as mine vis-à-vis personal reasons of studying abroad and getting a degree far away from families and friends. We thought about many things like: In a foreign country, we could break loose of our dependent self. We learn new things of living on our own. We develop a positive self-image and advance our intellectual capacities.

My time spent in Europe became the grandest occasion to meet and make lifelong friendships. Chinese, Spanish, Italian, German, African, American, Greek, Syrian – it was a one-of-a-kind circle of “United Nation” friends. With the communication technology at present, it does not have to cost an arm or leg to nurture the alliance even after graduation.

Studying overseas opens a new world outside my conventional quarters; a sphere from a completely new dimension springs forth. The most unornamented of affairs take on a new definition when I am in a foreign land, as I see it.

This might be already a cliché, but it broadens my cultural horizons. In those little European cross-country travels, I developed a deep appreciation on how Dutch people live, Italians eat, Spanish cook, how French love their language and Germans treasure history, among other things. On top of that, it deepened my understanding about certain political and economic issues.

I used to dream of landing a high position in the government sector. Studying abroad makes me more marketable in my field of expertise and be ahead of the pack. If lady luck won’t be on my side, I could still push myself into the academic arena – probably sit pretty as a Dean in a prestigious private university.

Being abroad is a life-changing experience and in the end I would be proud of what I have learned and achieved.