I first began thinking about studying abroad in my junior year of high school. In America, particularly. It felt like the safest option in terms of diversity and accessibility, and was entranced by the prestigious Ivy League dream (I knew about Harvard and Yale before most local universities, Western media influence and all). One day, I brought it up to my mother and was pleasantly surprised with encouragement. If we can afford it, go for it. In 2017, Town & Country Philippines released an article called “The Best and the Brightest: Brilliant Minds From the Class of 2017“. Questionable title, they’re definitely not “the best and brightest” but the point on their international education stands. The universities mentioned in the list are all selective–they’re not those kinds of schools that accept anyone that can pay the full fee and boost their international student count, a metric often used in top college rankings. If you do a quick Google search for a school, you see their acceptance rates–or you know, you know that Harvard is Harvard because it’s hard to get into. The thing about international admissions is that it’s even harder to get into than what is publicly listed. MIT’s 7.9% acceptance rate is actually somewhere like 3-4% for international students. It was an interesting article to see (even knowing some people there!) and of those I were familiar with, I knew it was well-deserved. It was inspiring to see students that shared interests and activities that I had who were able to get into incredible dream schools. It became a mental note: I’d be on that list next year, my story listed somewhere. After an insane application process that took hundreds of hours, emails scraped together for fee waivers, discovering my own self again and again, panic attacks and breakdowns and scraped bank statements and riveting moments of doubt and oh my god I really haven’t done enough to get anywhere what am I doing what am I doing I’m wasting my time, spending hours churning out everything I believe in and love into words, getting rejected, getting rejected again, oh wait an acceptance–oh god this school is incredible and I can’t imagine–I somehow made it into incredible schools. This fall, I’ll be heading to Yale. This year’s article had a lot of familiar names. There aren’t much platforms that celebrate student achievements, and there aren’t much resources or stories about Filipinos from hereMore?
I’ve always clouded my thoughts. I drown them in verbose descriptions of pedantic moments and scenarios. Little murmurs in time that mean nothing to be but late-night visions and blurs that make me shudder in fear for what I had left behind. Every thought here existed in time, even for just a moment. I relay my fears onto drunken rants with the computer screen rather than eye-to-eye. That’s how I was raised, after all. A child of blinking lights and the whirring of fan blades. I. Love is a fucking farce. And I am endlessly contriving new reasons as to why it is.
On May 9th, the Philippines continued its march towards democracy. Fingers were stained with lasting ink, the ground was littered with name-plastered paper and shredded coercion; I rested in the throes of my home, travelling and watching the empty highways fading against the skies like they never had before. A bystander to the events that mold the experience of my generation. In two years, I join their ranks and get to have my fingers stained with the blood of freedom — but for now, all I can do is discuss, learn, and speak. Never have I been so maddened, never have I sworn upon my inability to make a name for myself. Never have I scorned this nation for the lack of education, the ignorance and blasphemy that cycles over and over – the disgust that I feel at all the death threats thrown at me. This is a child’s cry; this is the beginning of a wish, this is the start of the fear she holds in her own country.