As an international student, it is hard to believe that a city kid like me would be going to a small town of Holland, Michigan, for college. I must admit that it was a process to go through and the fact that not a lot of people are able to have this opportunity made me appreciate this moment more. Yet, I must admit that this was quite a journey to go through as I had to make numerous sacrifices like living more than 8,000 miles away from the Philippines and leaving my family and friends behind. It was also not easy for me to accept the fact that I had to sacrifice that happiness for this. However, I think that being able to pursue so many opportunities through Hope College has made me grounded with my purpose.

In 2020, I was simply studying at the comfort of my own house and appreciating the fact that I was in college – it was something I was very grateful for. The Philippines is 12 hours ahead of Holland, which meant that all of my classes were in the middle of the night during the pandemic. However, I spent so much time with family during this time and being able to see their faces every day was amazing. Then came January 4, 2021 – the most emotional day of my life as I had to leave and go to Hope College to continue my studies. We understood the difficulties of communicating and being far away from each other and tried to make the most of what we are working with at the time.

First day at Hope College in Spring 2021.

When I arrived in Holland, Michigan, I immediately got a mild fever as I felt the shock of the snowy weather. I must admit that adjusting from a tropical to a winter climate was not the best feeling. Alongside that, I was also not completely adjusted to the time difference and being very different on campus as a Filipino international student. Yet, little did I know that these difficulties would turn into surpassing my expectations of where I am today.

From being a researcher within the STEM field to focusing a lot of work on diversity, equity and inclusion, I felt like the pace of my life drastically changed so quick to the point everyone back home was shocked. As an international student, I really tried to take advantage of all the resources I had while also learning about my limits as a person. Despite all of these successes, I also felt like there were so many failures and hardships of living far away and not sharing these moments with family. There would be times that I was feeling homesick along with being burned out from school and activities.

However, I am so grateful for the constant communication I would have with my parents online as they continued to guide me through this journey. It is sometimes hard to think of this distance, but I think that their presence really means the most to me. Below are pictures of my family from back home on both my mom and dad’s side.

As I look to the future of graduation in a year, I encourage my peers to cherish the idea of being with friends and family. I think that this kept me motivated and powered-up as an international student.

Recently, I went home to the Philippines for the first time for the holidays and it was such a magical moment to be able to laugh and be with my friends and family. I felt like a part of me was rejuvenated.

Last photo with my parents before I left for Spring 2023

I am extremely thankful for Hope College and the opportunities that I have been given as I navigate through this journey of being an international student, for my peers and mentors, and for my host families who have guided me along this journey!

Published by Jairus Meer

Class of 2024 Hometown | Las Piñas, Philippines Major | Biological Sciences Minor | Peace and Justice Studies

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