I could not be more grateful for an incredible year of creating new memories.

By Kat Usita

Read her profile.

 

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.

Intellectual creation

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.

I used to read philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s works for class. This time, I got to actually meet him in person.
Chelsea Clinton is an Oxford alumna and does research on urgent global health issues. 
I celebrated my first birthday in the UK with newfound friends over traditional afternoon tea.

Creating connections

Living in a new town in a new country by myself also forced me to seek out and create new relationships. Growing up in Metro Manila, I had plenty of friends whom I had known for years. In Oxford, I had to start over and form new friendships with new people from different backgrounds. This gave me a lot of anxiety in the beginning because I’m really bad at small talk! But all my worries quickly dissipated as soon as I started forming genuine connections. Now, I am good friends with incredible people from all over the world whom I never would have met had I stayed in my comfort zone. 

Creative adventures

Like most Filipinos my age who were raised in Metro Manila, I never had to live away from the convenience of my family home. Living on my own for the first time was an exciting notion, but I had to quickly adjust to new routines without anyone to share space (and chores!) with. I had to be solely responsible for myself and manage my own “household”, even if it was just a small room on campus. This led to new experiments in the kitchen and other domestic adventures, such as finding creative solutions for the occasional wine-stained dress.

One of the upsides of living alone is that I can make travel plans independently, without affecting anyone else. As a special challenge, I went to Paris for a weekend to see if I could survive by myself in foreign country without knowing the native language. It was very convenient given that London is just two hours away by train and most people could understand English anyway. I had the loveliest time walking along the Seine on my own, revelling in my small accomplishment and reflecting on what an amazing year I have created for myself by deciding to study abroad. Isang taon ng paglikha, paglawak ng isip at pagpuno ng puso. Salamat, UK!