by SONYA SCHOENBERGER
Studying in the US can seem daunting, but the experience is often life-changing. This is the first of three posts profiling three Filipinos—one undergraduate student, one graduate student, and one mid-career professional—who pursued degree and non-degree studies at US Universities. Each hoped to expand his or her worldview by taking time off from studies and jobs in the Philippines to explore the resources and cultural diversity of American institutions.
Jhesset Thrina Enano, an undergraduate journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman, pursued one year of non-degree studies at the University of Mississippi through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.Missy Maramara received a Masters Degree in Drama from the University of Arkansas over a three-year period. Atty. Arnel Bañas pursued one year of non-degree study and professional development opportunities at the University of Washington as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow. All were supported by the Philippine American Education Foundation (PAEF), the Fulbright Commission in the Philippines. While these three fellows had distinct academic experiences, they all found that their studies in the United States not only enlarged their worldviews, but also influenced the way they perceive and approach their lives back here in the Philippines.
Jhesset Thrina Enano, who will begin her senior year as a journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman this August, recently returned from a year of non-degree studies at the University of Mississippi. Jhesset’s overseas experience was supported by a grant from the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, which is administered by the Philippine-American Educational Foundation and funded by the US Department of State.
Jhesset, who loves travel, adventure, and academics, decided to study in the US because she wanted to experience an international education firsthand. At the University of Mississippi, Jhesset took classes in news and feature writing, multimedia production, photojournalism, and design. Jhesset also studied the history of journalism in the United States and found time to take Spanish language, American government, and documentary photography courses. Outside of class, Jhesset volunteered with the local public library, a respite day service, and a campus sustainability program. She also became involved with the University of Mississippi’s large international student community and shared Philippine culture, food, and language at international events.
According to Jhesset, studying at a US University is fairly similar to studying at an institution in the Philippines. One difference she did note, though, is the number of resources that US universities provide to support the academic and professional goals of students.
“From digital laboratories to extensive libraries, the US universities really foster an environment of learning for their students. It is only up to us to take advantage of these resources.”—Jhesset Thrina Enano
Jhesset found the diversity of her peers at the University of Mississippi one of the most rewarding aspects of her experience in the United States. She now has friends not only in the United States, but also in Egypt, Montenegro, El Salvador, Japan, Germany, Venezuela, Ghana, Algeria, Vietnam, and Pakistan. The experiences and perspectives Jhesset gained from this diversity, she says, have helped her to become a true global citizen.
During her nine months in the US, Jhesset traveled to nearly 20 states, experiencing many different American geographies and cultures. One of her favorite travel experiences was a spontaneous trip she took to New Orleans, Louisiana with a friend. After driving for six hours, they watched the sun rise over the Mississippi river and indulged in French beignets and creole jambalaya while listening to New Orleans jazz. Jhesset also gushes about Washington DC’s museums and the amazing architecture of Chicago, Illinois.
One challenge that Jhesset did experience during her year abroad was a bit of homesickness. Thanks to Skype, though, she was able to connect with loved ones back home. In terms of how her US study will influence her life and career back in the Philippines, Jhesset believes her nine months in Mississippi were truly formative. “My US experience has given me a stronger voice to stand for what I truly believe in,” she wrote. “It motivated me to be a better leader and to be of better service to the Filipino people . . . I am excited to pursue my final year in journalism and soon enter the journalism field with more perspective, more knowledge and stronger belief that I can contribute change in society, one story at a time.”
“It may be quite short as it was only for nine months, but the exchange program did not feel like just a slice of my life, but rather, a lifetime of experiences. Coming back, I can say that I have definitely become more confident. I feel that I have grown and matured more as a person, and in facing my life back here in the Philippines, I am more than excited to know what I can contribute to the table and to share the knowledge and experiences that I had with my friends and colleagues.”—Jhesset Thrina Enano
Jhesset has simple advice for Filipino students thinking about study in the US: “have an open mind and heart, and be courageous!” And, importantly: “Have fun!”
For more information on study opportunities in the US funded by the Philippine-American Education Foundation, visit http://www.fulbright.org.ph/.