Expect the unexpected.
That was one of the few motto that I brought along with me when I first arrived Europe via Italy. Of course, when I first announced to some people in my country that I would be taking an Erasmus Mundus degree in Chemistry and Material Science, many blurted out either of the two phrases:
Ang yaman mo naman.
Pauwi naman ng pasalubong!
Those were the usual feedback whenever someone from my country leaves for another country despite not saying the purpose of leaving.
I was at the top of my game, as some elderly people would say: fresh graduate and ready to be part of the working class. I am one of the many people the country needed to boost the economy. I guess with the limited job offers the country has to offer, I could not even apply to one job that I may fall in love with or something similar to my course. But before graduating for good, I thought of planning to some masters program, two within my country and one abroad. I had nothing to lose, do I?
Then came the acceptance letters from the program and from the European Union last April. After a week, I had to decide whether to grab the opportunity or not. While talking to my mentors, they just scrapped their recommendation letters to the local universities and told me, “Anj, kunin mo na.” Then and there, I e-mailed them back saying that I’d take it. Education in Europe under the Sciences seemed too obvious to be better than what the local universities had to offer. Later, I found out sooner that I was not the only Filipino in the Masters program.Despite that, I knew that we’d had to face Europe under the shadows of other people coming from different countries, many whom I know are Europeans. Aside from the people, I had to also prepare myself in facing European bureaucracy, whether it be a legal, scientific, administrative aspect. Time immemorial, I told to myself in the plane boarding to Milan, Italy, “Expect the unexpected.” True enough, there were several unexpected events that turned to life lessons that I’d never forget.
1. People don’t run after money as crazily as you’d think.
I was expecting a series of Gucci, Prada, and other brands that scare the money out of your wallet. It turned out that I was wrong. The people couldn’t care less what type of bag you had or what type of coat you wore. As long as you’re comfortable with what you have, that’s fine. This is why, sometimes, I don’t find it funny today when people ask for things I may not even have the budget to spend on, just because they equate Europe to money and shopping.
2. C’est la vie.
This is one of the most popular phrases that I have encountered during my stay in Italy. Weird enough, it was in French but I guess it was because of the many French people I have met during my semester in Genova. Every day, I tend to lock myself in my room and study till my eyes got sore. I really did not want to mingle with a lot of people because I have often fantasized finishing a Ph.D. from a known university soon. Soon after, some people just told me to relax but not too much. Their motto was life, “Live life, but with a purpose”, I guess.
3. Going back to your roots.
No matter how far my classmates lived, they’d never forget their hometown nor their family. Some may think that Europeans work like crazy or forget everything about the essence of having a family. Dead wrong. Here, I saw people, no matter how great or brilliant they are, very excited to go back home at 6 or 7 in the evening, just to talk to their kids or loved ones. Here we are, sometimes trying to forget where we come from as long as we saw and stepped on a land more abundant than ours in every way we’d think of. Despite how rich the country’s culture is, loneliness will bound to eat your sanity when you don’t get to talk to someone close to your heart once in a while.
These aren’t much or everything that I have wanted to say, because the more technical lessons and observations I had, will be reserved for another entry. For now, I hope that this will just be an appetizer for the future entries that I’d be writing as a Filipino Erasmus Mundus student, while wearing a different set of glasses.
Forgive me for the simplicity of this post for I have not even tried writing an English journal entry after almost a year.
Signing out, from Poznań, Poland