When I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what lay ahead of me. Little did I know I would complete university in an entirely different country. If I were to describe in three words my overall experience graduating from the University of Manchester, they would be: challenge, meaningful and gratitude.
I originally went to the University of the Philippines in Diliman. After a year, I decided to not only change courses but also transfer to a different university, abroad. Adapting to a new culture and navigating an entirely different education system wasn’t easy. This was also my first time living alone, so accomplishing the most basic of household tasks, such as cooking, was rarely dull.
Then halfway into my first year studying in the United Kingdom, COVID disrupted everything. Classes were moved online and I was confined to my student accommodation for over five months before being able to return home to the Philippines. Even after returning home, adjusting to fully online classes in a different time zone had its setbacks. This learning setup also limited my opportunities to make friends and socialize with coursemates. Despite this, I believe these challenges helped shape my resilience and develop a solution-oriented mindset.
At the University of Manchester, I was given the choice to specialize in a certain area within Management. I chose sustainable and ethical business because of my personal advocacy in environmental protection. I explored topics such as discrimination in the workplace and different sustainability theories. Through my modules, I learned about the impact of business not only on the planet, but also on society, how these problems linked with each other and businesses’ role in achieving sustainability.
As a result, I found my studies meaningful as I felt empowered to act on pressing issues such as climate change and social injustices. I was able to actively contribute my thoughts through the lens of a Filipino student, which gave me deeper insights on how these global issues impact the Philippines and possible ways forward.
Additionally, at the university, I became an executive board officer in a student society called Aiesec (Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales). As an officer, I managed the marketing of our society’s international exchange programs to university students. During my time with Aiesec, I had the opportunity to meet students from diverse backgrounds and manage a team, which was the perfect space for me to make friends when classes were still online. It was rewarding to see my team members develop, both personally and professionally, while empowering students to embark on eye-opening exchange programs.
I was also given the opportunity to become a student ambassador for the Northern Consortium of Universities in the UK (NCUK). NCUK designs programs catering to international students to progress to a university in the UK. As a student ambassador, I assisted aspiring international students in studying abroad. I shared resources and information on studying in the UK while sharing my own experiences on NCUK’s social media and website. This role felt very personal to me, as I understood the excitement and worries these students were feeling when it came to studying abroad. Hence, being able to offer assistance to them in starting their journey was meaningful.
Although only my name appears on the diploma, there are dozens of people who helped me along the way—my family who supported me in more ways than one during my studies, my friends who not only made my university experience enjoyable but also became my second family abroad, my professors who patiently taught and guided me, and so many others in between.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve a first-class degree without all the experiences and people I met along the way. It was not the ideal university experience with all the unexpected hurdles, but I am extremely grateful for it all. I look forward to my next journey at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I will pursue a Masters in Management. —CONTRIBUTED