Countdown | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood


/ 09:25 PM November 11, 2013

CONNECTICUT—While little children are busy counting down to the day Santa visits their houses to deliver gifts, I have my own countdown as well. I count down to the day I can touch my country’s soil, hear the honking jeepneys, listen to the symphony of Filipino words, and bask in the familiar tropical ambiance I have realized I missed so much. I count down to the days I can use the words  pa,  naman,  na,  kasi,  kanina,  bahala,  lang,  basta, have dinner with my family, taste my mother’s  adobo, and hug my parents like there’s no tomorrow. I count down to the days I can go to the beach with my best friends, listen to their   kwento face to face, and be my weird self with people who understand my humor. I count down to the days I don’t have to filter my Taglish tendencies, translate currencies, calculate the tip to give every time I prepare to leave a restaurant, constantly think about time differences, or be informed about the latest happenings in my country a week late. I count down to the instant I can once again say that I’m back home.

But that won’t be for another month or so.


I never really got a fair grasp of university life abroad until I actually lived it. For some, adjustment is easy. But I happened to be among the few who thought otherwise. During my first few weeks in my new school, I woke up every day to the unfamiliar ceiling of my dorm room and suddenly felt this indescribable empty sensation. Reality sank in: I was alone, without my best friends, without my family, facing this overwhelming college experience all by myself (cue music). And it scared me.

I guess the prime suspect in this mystery of my sadness was that I clung to the Philippines so much. I was homesick often; Skype and Viber were my favorite companions. You can only imagine how happy I was when I found out that my campus has good WiFi. My eyes were glued to the pixels of my laptop or phone, chatting away with my friends and family back home (which was bad because it made me miss them even more). When things appeared on my Facebook feed, whether pictures or event promotions, it was sad thinking about the many moments I was missing out on being with my friends. And I guess I was also afraid that I might drift away from them. If I had stayed home, I would have been in that photo, I would have gone to that event, and I wouldn’t be missing out. If I had stayed home, I might not have to be afraid of being forgotten.


The culture here didn’t help stop my being clingy either. As an international student, I found it hard to relate to people who don’t understand the setting I come from or the things I know. It’s hard to connect to people who don’t understand a big part of who I am. If I had stayed home, it would be easier to relate and form bonds with people who understand my background, my humor, my ideals, and my being Filipino.

I tried focusing my energy on what I initially came here for: my studies. But in the academic realm, I had internal conflicts as well. With the many opinionated, outspoken and audacious leaders, debaters, writers, science enthusiasts, and best students in one of the top liberal arts schools in America, I felt extremely inferior.

That first month in school was tough; I couldn’t believe I was going to have to endure about 31 more! But the good thing was that it got better. It might have taken weeks filled with some loneliness, the occasional teary nights, numerous Skype sessions, and lots of feel-good food—and I’ll admit that I am still adjusting—but with the numerous extracurriculars, engaging and exciting classes, and new people to come across, it was bound to get so much better!

I’ve experienced my first official football game and, although I didn’t understand the rules, I still had lots of fun cheering my school on with the friends I came with. There are always student-run productions every weekend, so I get to support my schoolmates in their endeavors. I took a trip to New York with some of my best friends with the help of the regular shuttles that Wesleyan provides. And I’m able to attend the many events—theme parties, dinners, dances, barbecues, outing trips, concerts, open mic nights and such—every week.

The problem isn’t finding out where to go; it’s deciding which one to go to!

The extracurriculars that are available have helped me as well. I’m now a part of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, the Pinoy Club, the Fusion Dance Troupe, the Freeman Asian Scholars Association, and the Class of 2017 Council. I signed up for a bunch of other clubs as well, and I hope to be able to try new things in my stay here. We have about 150 official student groups that range from skiing to hiphop to Harry Potter to belly dancing, and so much more!

And, of course, the education is amazing, which is probably why many people pushed me to accept it. Although I felt inferior at first, I realized that the people surrounding me were helping me grow, and that’s what’s making the challenge all the more exciting. Because I’m in a liberal arts program, I’m able to try different classes that don’t necessarily have to count toward my major. I’m in a class called “Taiko,” which is Japanese drumming. I get to learn a little more about Japanese culture while having fun drumming with my classmates. In my classes, I’m also discovering newfound interests. My psychology class is even making me consider taking a double major! With the immense support from the faculty and their openness with the students, it makes it possible to do.


I do still miss my family and friends back home, but I’m finding ones I can be my weird self with little by little. It may sound like a cliché, but my true friends will be there for me no matter the distance, no matter the loss of proximity, no matter what. The people here may be harder to get to know, but once I got to know them, I was amazingly pleased. I met a Japanese person who has lived in Paris and Houston, a Taiwanese scholar who knows Chinese, French and Thai, a musician who can play the saxophone, ukulele, guitar, piano and gamelan by ear, a person who has two stepdads and an autistic brother but who still finds happiness in the beauty of photography, a Palestinian math genius, a British philanthropist who spent a part of her gap year working in a farm, and a Filipino who knows anything and everything about Japan. This diverse set of people from all walks of life makes things more interesting. My eyes open to the realities of life and the beauty that the world has to offer.

I’m gaining more friends, learning through different experiences, challenging my limits, and understanding more about the world and, of course, myself. I still can’t wait until my countdown reaches zero, but, at least now, I’m discovering happiness in every single day leading up to it.

Mikaela Reyes, 18, is a Philippine Science High School graduate and a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in the United States.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: adobo, food, news, paskong pinoy
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Stories from under-30s

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2022 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.