Forty-eight Filipino scholars leaving for the U.S. under nine Fulbright programs underwent a two-day Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) at the Philippine-American Educational Foundation (PAEF) office in Makati City, followed by a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Pasay City. The orientation, which took place from June 15 – 16, covered matters that would facilitate their transition to American academic and cultural life.
“That’s why we have the Fulbright program because it’s not only your time in the U.S. that is of great importance. But, of course, as you come back and you continue to capacity-build for the Philippines in your various disciplines – that has a huge and lasting impact for the country and for our relationship. So, again, that’s of true significance and it’s important that we all think of that today,” said Carolyn Glassman, Chairperson of the PAEF Board and Public Affairs Counselor at the American Embassy in the Philippines, during her opening speech.
Resident artist Mr. Toym Imao, Jr. was one of the invited alumni who addressed concerns about social and cultural adjustments. He mentioned that “the purpose of the Fulbright scholarship is not to homogenize but to encourage discussion.” He was followed by recently-returned Global Undergraduate scholar Ms. Fely Enriquez from Lyceum of the Philippines University who spoke about her semester-long stay at the University of Arkansas, where Senator J. William Fulbright himself graduated from. After lunch, Interim Executive Director and Senior Program Officer of PAEF Ms. Gigi Dizon talked in behalf of the Non-Immigrant Visa Section at the U.S. Embassy about the scholars’ J-1 visas and SEVIS. Dr. Leny Galvez from the Department of Agriculture who visited the University of Nebraska and Cornell University, along with Ms. Pia Besmonte from Philippine Normal University who attended Barnard College both shared their experiences with the American academic life. After the speeches, the scholars divided into their respective programs and got to address concerns specific to their groups. Representatives from CHED were also present to meet with the first ever batch of outgoing Fulbright-CHED scholars.
The second day of the orientation focused more on the terms and conditions of their individual grants, and their working relationship with the Institute of International Education, Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and World Learning. The keynote speaker who gave an inspirational message to the scholars at the end of the orientation was Ms. Melissa-Vera M. Maramara, Fulbright Batch 2011 from Ateneo de Manila University who attended the University of Arkansas as well. She ended the program with this excerpt:
“When you come back to the Philippines, that’s when you regenerate your power. You are Filipino scholars – the best of the Philippines. And that’s where your power’s coming from, and that’s why you are going there. When you return, you are replenishing your power as the Filipino. Your international exchange does not end with you coming back home. It starts when you leave. And it continues and it continues and it continues. Because the friends you make there, you continue to be in touch with them. By all means, fall in love. Fall in love. But never be out of love with the Philippines and with being Filipino. Thank you so much.”
The PDO concluded with a Fulbright Reception at the Charles Parsons Ballroom of the U.S. Embassy Manila. It was hosted by the Honorable Sung Y. Kim, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines and PAEF Board Honorary Chairperson. The outgoing scholars got introduced to Amb. Kim and met other International Exchange alumni.
The Fulbright Philippines is the oldest and longest running Fulbright program in the world. Almost seventy years of teaching and research had been conducted by Filipino and American teachers and students through this educational exchange.