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Global UGrad: Its Power To Change You – Thomas Michael Buenaventura
Thursday, 16 June 2016

There are no exact words on how to describe everything that happened during the past month. Every single day is a moment to treasure. It feels so surreal to the point that I know that it is already the climax of my entire U.S. journey. It was a month full of people that I never thought I will ever get the chance to meet, of places that I never thought I will ever travel into, and of moments that I never thought I will ever experience. March had passed and all that I could think about is how powerful the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program is.

It has the power to take you to places you have never been. In my case, it took me to the other side of the United States during my spring break and it was one of the best weeks that I had in my entire life. I got the chance to see how life is in the west coast. It made me realize how big the world is and how I was missing out the fun and the knowledge that it has to offer by just staying in one place for the past eighteen years of my life. I was actually feeling a little guilty about the fact that I feel like I traveled more in the United States than I did in the Philippines. How is it possible for me to see Niagara without even seeing Pagsanjan or Maria Cristina? I have never even set my foot on Visayas nor Mindanao. It made me realize that I still have a lot to see even in my own country. Yes, it has the power to take me to places, but it also has the power to make me dream for more.

It has the power to make you feel at home away from home. I got the chance to meet my aunt who was living here in the United States for the past few decades. I was able to get to know her and her family even more and I am just full of gratitude because of the way that they accepted me into their home. I have never felt as close to my own home as before. (Geographically, I was really closer to the Philippines when I was in California than when I was in Washington, DC!) They gave me everything that I needed and even more. It made me realize that wherever I go there will be people who are willing to help and to welcome me. I just fell in love again with Filipino hospitality and its system of extended family.

It has the power to connect people. It gave me the chance to meet people from places that I have only read in my World History and Geography books. It allowed me to go out of my comfort zone and create memories with people I never thought I would get along so well. The End-of-Program workshop is undoubtedly the best three days that I had here in the United States because it was more than just a simple gathering. It was a place to meet individuals who share the same enthusiasm and passion as I do. It was a chance to meet people who share the same goal of creating a better world for everyone. I have never seen such diversity of culture and tradition in my entire life and I was surprised how it all blended together and form a family that we could only wish of. The program has the power to connect people and to connect you to the world.

It has the power to make you realize your path. Recently, I got the chance to present in a conference about a research paper that I was developing for the past few weeks and it was about the costs and benefits of obtaining an education in the Philippines. While we were driving towards the venue, I got into a conversation with my economics professor, Dr. Brian Hollar, about my plans in the future especially about pursuing graduate studies abroad. I told him this semester made me realize my passion for research and data analysis and how much I enjoy doing it. He told me that earning a graduate degree would definitely be helpful if I want to become an economic researcher someday. Also, during the end-of-program workshop, we had the chance to talk about some issues that our country is currently facing and if we have any idea of how to help. It was easy for everyone to identify the issues that we are all facing but what was difficult was thinking of ways to help or addressing the issue. This made my desire to become a researcher or an economist even stronger. I want to be able to come up with solutions someday and analyze policies and their implication in order to help. The program may have the power to make us realize our path, but more than that, it has the power to give us a purpose of why we should take that path.

It has the power to change you into a better you. The past month was totally transformational. It changed the way I see the world and its people. It changed the way I care about the global and national issues. It changed the way I think, act, and feel. It changed me and I can feel it. The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program had the power to change people – us – and now it gives that power for me and other Global UGrad students to be a catalyst of change to other people and to our community.

Fulbight Spotlight: Thomas Michael Buenaventura

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