By Kat Usita
What’s the first thing I’ll do when I get back to the Philippines?
I will definitely head over to my favourite Filipino restaurant and devour all native dishes that I missed while I was away. A must-have: mouth-watering crispy sisig, the one dish I didn’t dare cook myself for fear of disappointment! Of course, this would have to be a meal shared with family and friends whom I’ve missed much more than the food.
Tagalog is a beautiful language that I took for granted when everyone around me used it. Hearing it spoken in a foreign land always warms me with nostalgia. Simple words like tamis, lambing, kanta or even simply salamat give me comfort after a day of reading dense English texts on political philosophy and economics.
But the word that delights me the most is likha. It is a lovely Tagalog word that literally means “creation”. Likha evokes inspiration and creativity, and in the past year I’ve found a new depth of meaning to it. Moving to England to study has been a journey of creating my best self.
I could have earned a perfectly good master’s degree in the Philippines, but I wanted to push my limits by attending one of the best universities in the world instead. Admittedly, studying in the University of Oxford was challenging and occasionally exhausting. Still, it was the most intellectually stimulating experience of my life. Aside from courses required by my programme, I had the opportunity to listen to lectures given by global experts and world-renowned personalities. I witnessed Slavoj Žižek give his typically outrageous sociological take on the US elections. I listened to Chelsea Clinton speak about her research on problems of governance in global health. I saw first-hand how Bernie Sanders can rally a crowd to reject elite rule.
But the word that delights me the most is likha. It is a lovely Tagalog word that literally means “creation”.
But perhaps the most important part of my British education was that it dared me to look beyond my own beliefs and traditionally held values. To understand the world and receive a truly global education, I had to try different ways of thinking even if they sometimes conflicted with what I had learned previously. I expanded my worldview and taught myself to appreciate the perspective of other people better. I was given space to work on policy issues that I care deeply about, while also encouraged to explore fields that were new and unfamiliar to me.