“We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.” —Taylor Swift, 22L ast March 15, I found out that my application to a master’s degree program at Yale University was accepted—and that I secured a full-tuition scholarship. I couldn’t believe this was happening. This was way beyond what I had ever expected for myself. I think I kind of only knew about Yale because of Amy Chua’s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”
The first semester started around late August. As of writing, my first semester as a Filipino international student at Yale is about to come to an end. It’s been quite the adventure, with its ups and downs.
Here are some takeaways that I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way:
A greater appreciation for Filipino
Here at Yale, the international community represents a considerable portion of the population. One of my apartment room neighbors hails from South Korea, and I met her one night as I noticed her carrying her groceries and helped her out. I’ve then come to notice that there are a lot of ethnic Chinese, Indian and Korean students here. Sadly, it seems that there aren’t many of us who were born and raised in the Philippines.
Reality tends to dishearten me. I do tend to get jealous when I see my acquaintances gathering and speaking their own language. They feel at home with each other, a home which I evidently don’t get to partake in all the time.
But that has made me come to appreciate my Filipino heritage all the more. When I get back to the Philippines for Christmas break, the first thing I’ll probably do when I meet up with my friends is speak Tagalog—and relish it!
Relying on the providence of God
I’ll be honest: it can be super tough being an international student. Fortunately, I’ve been very blessed with supportive family and relatives, so the finances aren’t too much of a trouble. (Plus, I’m on full scholarship and have a student job at the Yale School of Music!)
When I say that it’s tough, I think I’m referring more to the psychological adjustment. For one, since being accepted last March, I’ve lost count of how many legal/immigration-related and school forms I’ve had to accept and sign. I’ve also had to be more open to the mindset and ways of thinking of people outside my own perspective. Every big move in life involves a paradigm shift; paradigm shifts require courage and openness.
When anxieties and worries hit, the one phrase I always go back to is that “God will provide.” When these bad thoughts hit, I find myself silently invoking “providence, providence, providence.” The providence of the Lord never fails.
I seem to sense that one stereotype of Ivy league students is that we’re super smart, whose lives are all aligned, who are super rich, who have no time to sleep because of academics, and who are living “the dream.” What I’ve learned, though, is that an Ivy League community like Yale is incredibly diverse.
Of course, intellectual capacity is a prerequisite to being accepted. (In this regard, I give a shoutout to my brothers and sisters at Yale College. They truly are some of the best students in the whole world!) However, there are also many of us who also struggle with school. I’m no stranger to lazy days. Many of us also are on financial aid—we rely on generous benefactors. Some of us taking their master’s and doctorate degrees even have families already. I know someone whose family is from El Salvador. An acquaintance recently planned a vigil for migratory birds who’ve died at Yale due to window strikes. The diversity is honestly super fun and interesting!
On my part, I’m always happy to share my Catholic and Chinese Filipino heritage to the community. It’s the part I play in contributing to the Yale identity.
Oh gosh, I cannot seem to emphasize this enough. A number of us here at Yale are introverts—the Korean apartment room neighbor I mentioned earlier said she’s “99 percent introverted”—while some are more outgoing. But no matter who we may be, we really need each other.
When I flew to Louisiana from Connecticut for my first Thanksgiving, a friend gave me a lift in his car. That easily saved me over $10 for an Uber. As a small thank-you gesture, I cooked my signature chicken teriyaki for his family one night. Simple things like that go a super long way.
My adventure at Yale has only begun, and I’m wholly grateful for the many good and even bad times I’ve experienced. I’m looking forward to my Christmas break back in the Philippines, back to the familiar: to Noche Buena, Ramen Nagi, and speaking Taglish!
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.