OPINION: Global UGrad scholar reflects on time spent at UC


UC offers broad range of experiences for Filipino student

Christine Grace M. Catindig, Contributing Writer

I lived a dream this semester. With the help of an esteemed college community, I broke barriers of language, geography and culture in a place I never thought I would get to call home – Utica College.

All incredible journeys must start somewhere.  Mine began the minute I got a call from Esmeralda Cunanan, executive director of Fulbright Philippines, who notified me that I was one of the four Filipino undergraduates chosen by the U.S. Department of State to represent my country alongside two hundred scholars from over 50 nations in the United States.

After just over a month of preparation, I packed my suitcase, said goodbye to my friends, forgot a few coats I should have brought to New York to survive the cold weather and flew away from everything I have known my entire life to make the most out of a fully-funded scholarship.

UC exceeded all my expectations, which is why I am beyond satisfied with my short-term exchange. The college offers many opportunities to its students to grow intellectually, socially and personally – all of which are important in building a strong professional life.

Through UC’s career management system, I landed a marketing internship at United Way and became a volunteer at New Hartford Senior Dining Center. I also volunteered at the  Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters, Zion Lutheran Church and Children’s Museum. All these have helped me embrace the American culture and way of life, where individualism, diversity and professionalism are highly valued.

I became a pre-service teacher to third grade students at New York Mills Elementary, where students with and without learning disabilities receive appropriate instruction, intervention and support systems – things I would like to work on building when I go home because teachers there only have partial knowledge of learning disabilities, according to a 2012 report released by the Philippines Department of Education.

Because UC’s academic program shares similarities with the University of the Philippines, I adjusted to the classroom setting easily. I was pleasantly surprised how open professors are to their students’ concerns and opinions. The relationship students and professors have and the casual atmosphere classes here have are both uncommon in my country so I marveled at the way through which the members of the UC community tried to play an impactful role in each others’ academic growth. The best part is that I experienced what it is like to live and work in an environment with a different standard of success compared to my home university, where getting good grades is the main aim of the majority.

At UC, students acknowledge the fact that they are not just learners but innovators. They do not just follow trends but exert effort into becoming leaders, who can make the well-informed decision to join the herd or not, much like a moose.

Students work part-time jobs, focus on revamping their resume, maintain close relationships with their peers and mentors, devote time to sports and treasure internships like they are gold. They are like horses with blinders that have their eyes on the prize. I greatly admire this because they are so much closer to the pulse of the world than the rest of the population is. This gives them an edge and this type of mentality encouraged me to go all in despite the limited amount of time I have as an exchange student.

The greatest experience I have had, however, was meeting the people who comprise the UC community. They taught me to honor my emotions and to acknowledge that being nervous and anxious as an international is alright because it means that I care, I want to excel and I know the value of the opportunity I have been given.