By Reina Adriano
For an international student, I suppose studying abroad is the closest thing to living the “American Dream.” I wasn't born to a family of migrants, but to one of privilege nonetheless--we had enough resources for my parents to send me to school in the States. It’s been two years since I first stepped foot into Logan Airport--that was when I first saw Boston with my own eyes and took in all the sounds and smells of the city. I didn’t have answers to a lot of things and had to figure a lot on my own. All I knew was that I was in an entirely different place, a thousand miles away from home, and ready to start a new adventure as a grad student. I also knew there’d be learning and failing and laughing at mistakes, but I hoped that somehow, I would be brave enough to get through anything that came my way.
There are times when I wonder what it would be like if I were lucky enough to stay for good. I wanted to take up my Master’s degree abroad right after finishing undergrad, and only decided to become an international student because I saw a lot of other people who were taking up further studies outside the Philippines. But what many people don't tell international students is that studying abroad is not a free ticket to becoming an immigrant. It increases your chances, yes, but they never reveal the nitty-gritty of what you have to go through just to land a job, negotiate your salary, or to get your name entered in the visa lottery, not to mention get petitioned for the green card. They don't mention the stricter government regulations or that the current administration is not so keen on accepting foreign-born workers anymore. They just tell you life will be different, but they don't tell you that it won’t be any easier.
I have a month left before graduation right now, which means that I’m currently looking for opportunities to work and stay here. I’ve found myself desperately trying to craft narratives of my journey, as if all the experiences I wrote on my resume were something I planned all along. I made pitches pretending I knew more than I did just to impress potential employers. I hustled up names for referrals, and made use of the name of my schools--Philippine Science High School, Ateneo de Manila, and even Hult International Business School--just to find connections. It's like being a puzzle piece desperately trying to alter its sides to fit in to different places. When I got tired of storytelling that never made sense to me, I started looking for people I could connect with--people who would understand that while I’m young and inexperienced, I am full of hope. I found these people who could understand the plight of a young professional like me in small niche communities such as BOSFilipinos.
Growing up, we have been told that Filipinos are resilient, but up to what extent? Twenty-three years of learning Philippine history has educated me about the forefathers of the motherland. It's common for Filipinos to get further education in other countries, just like what our forefathers in history used to do--the Ilustrados like Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Antonio and Juan Luna, among others. They took the risk to learn something elsewhere and to bring that knowledge back home. That was all it was about, wasn't it? Taking chances? There was so much more to learn by getting out of my comfort zone.
I know I'm not the first one who wanted to live a better life elsewhere--there have been so many immigrants who have been successful in building their family and their careers in the States--but for the longest time, I wished my life had been like theirs. To some extent, I've been jealous of these Filipino-Americans, whether they were born and raised outside the Philippines or whether they were sponsored by family. I could roll my eyes whenever I heard an American accent mispronouncing words like ah-do-bow (adobo), curry-curry (kare kare), or bae-gow-ohng (bagoong). I could dislike the way they ask why I prefer a tabo to a tissue, or why I would open an umbrella under the heat of the summer sun so as not to get any darker. I could sneer at the fact that they would never understand my mother tongue the way I learned it while growing up.
But that is not the way to live.
The more I talk to the Filipino-Americans, the more I realize that I am just as privileged as they are. I’ve learned many of their stories, of their families' plight to the States years and years ago. I’ve learned of their hardships too, of times when they were separated from their families while waiting for their papers to become legal immigrants. Sometimes we would talk about the Filipino food, the homesickness, the longing for Jollibee or the sound of Tagalog, or maybe even the cultural shock or the high currency rates. Sometimes we would talk about the friends and family that we have left back home. Or that one can never be prepared enough when the winter hits. I learned that despite the difference in circumstances, all Filipinos still endure through the same hardships in life.
There are days when I can't help but wonder if everything I do will matter too, but there are also days when I can't help but remember I have a community who supports and understands me. This is me hoping that somehow, someday, the world would take its chance on me. Here I am, hoping that all these sacrifices and longings will bear fruit on its own. Here I am, holding up.
About the author:
Reina is completing her Master's in Finance this March 2019. She loves math and writing as well as learning about things and people that make an impact on the world. Reina also hopes that one day the world will take a chance on her. (aka please hire her)
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