Christine Grace Catindig, Utica College
A blessed evening to all of you! I’m Christine Grace, a Communication student at University of the Philippines and Utica College, New York, and it’s a pleasure to be one of the student speakers this evening.
Even my most heartfelt words cannot express how thankful I am to the representatives of the U.S. Department of State and World Learning Team for guiding us. Perhaps, it is too often that we, students, progress through life that we forget to invest time in expressing our gratitude to you, our mentors, who consistently guide us through our journey despite our doubts and fears, so thank you so much. You’ve changed not only our lives but the course of the future.
Now, before I share my experience, I’d like to have you guys do something for me please. To those of you who have a birthdate that’s an odd number, stand up and do this (brings hands in front, maintaining distance from each other). To those who have a birthdate that’s an even number, stand up and do this (places hands in the center). Now, smile like you’re having the best time of your life. Let me take your picture! Now, please take your seats and I’d like to thank you because now I can go back to the Philippines, show this picture, and tell them that I got a standing ovation here in Washington D.C.
I’m just kidding. But the reason why I did that is to point out how there are times in life when what really matters is not what we see but how we see things.
As wonderful as it has been to be given the opportunity to study in the U.S. as the only Filipino scholar this year, I saw it at first as an intimidating and scary thing. However, time came when I chose to change how I saw it by taking it on as a challenge because, like you, my desire to learn, make an impact, and experience the difference was bigger than my fear to fail. The past months have been incredibly rewarding. If I were to summarize it all, I’d say that the Global UGRAD Program has helped me do three things: learn, unlearn, and relearn.
First, it was able to help me learn what it’s like to have a global perspective. When I got elected as an officer of the International Students Organization at UC and do my fieldwork as a pre-service teacher at New York Mills elementary to 17 students with and without learning disabilities, I was able to confirm that U.S. is a melting pot of a place where diverse cultures meet – something we all know very well by now. By the same token, when I got accepted as a marketing intern of the social service organization United Way and film intern at Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters and experienced what it’s actually like to work with people with different cultural backgrounds, I learned that the very essence of the Global UGRAD Program is the acquisition of empathy, which Senator Fulbright once described as the ability to see the world as how others see it for it allows for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see so that we can erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against each other.
Second, I was able to unlearn my youthful misconception that the only way how I can succeed in life is to do well in academics and in my jobs. I used to ignore things in the background and was caged in my bubble where all I ever cared for was to do well academically and professionally. Global UGRAD gave me a unique taste of learning and helped me realize that there is more to life than being an academic or a work giant. Human relations, values, and skills are far more important. These are the things I have proven to be true when I have explored New York, made connections on campus and off campus, where I volunteered in a senior dining center, where I met a Fulbright scholar who gave me a glimpse of how amazing it is to be an alumnus or alumna of a scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State, and Redeemer Christian Church, where I was able to do camera work and get involved in the community while doing what I love most.
Lastly, I was able to relearn what it means to be a young individual in today’s society, where we should not let anyone look down on us because we are young because, as 1 Timothy 4:12 says, as young as we are, we can set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
At the end of the day, if we use our skills to perform, our knowledge to inform, and our values to transform, it will not only be our families, universities, and friends who will be proud of us but those whose lives we have helped become better. So I dare you to make your last month in the U.S. count and to stay in your country after this program not just because it’s required but because you’re willing to wait until you make a significant impact before you leave again.
And who knows – maybe one day we can get that humbling, standing ovation that will confirm that we really are making an impact on a global level? Thank you!
Jorge Sandoval, Costa Rica, Old Dominion University
Today I want to express what Global UGRAD has meant to me, but I have to say what you all mean to me first. I don’t know your names, where you come from, or what you like to eat, but still, I do know you. That’s weird right? But I watch your eyes; the sparks of excitement, joy, and hope that fill up the environment and make me realize that I can relate to you. We all share different stories, and those wonderful stories are what made us come across each other at this moment of our lives.
I still remember the first day I came to this country; I still couldn’t believe it. “Who was I to be granted the gift to study abroad? Why am I here?” I mean, I had good grades and was an active student, but it meant a dream of lifetime to come here. “Why me?” At that time, I didn’t understand it, but now, I see that we all share that humanity. Think about those mistakes you made, maybe somebody you cared about left you, or you thought you would never be good enough, and yet, you and I have overcome those struggles, and thrived, too.
To me, fellow Global UGRADs, you all entail the complexity of this world; those differences, mindsets and perspectives have blown my mind since I arrived here. But seeing you go and grow throughout this experience makes me realize that I am not alone. That we are not alone. That is what this program has meant for me.
I truly congratulate you for being courageous to come here, and with courage I talk about that ability of yours to speak your mind by telling all your heart. I foresee these stories empowering people, transforming communities, and changing the world. When I go back, I want my story to continue striving for an inclusive society and a sustainable electronic industry. It will require hard work from my side, but I won’t be alone. There are community leaders and innovative entrepreneurs who want the same and need me there.
When I was applying to Global UGRAD, about one year ago, I did not foresee thinking that, I really did not imagine myself learning about arts, or becoming a volunteer spreading the healing and joy of the arts at nursing homes. I didn’t believe I could learn a new sport or be healthier. It is as if my world has changed because I have seen and learned so much. I’m very grateful to the people of the United States, for sharing their culture, their values and their stories with me. I also want to thank the State Department for making possible this life-changing opportunity for me, for all of us.
In that application, I wrote that my story started with a child growing in the watermelon crops of Guanacaste province in Costa Rica. For how it will end, I really don’t know. Maybe you won’t know the end of yours either. In any case, I’m sure that you all will finish with a story worth relating to others. I dare you to build that story now. Thank you.
Martina Dimoska, Macedonia, Kent State University
My name is Martina Dimoska, I come from Macedonia, and I call this speech A Brief History of MY Time.
Since I was a child I tried to fit in. And as I grew older and more introspective I yearned for a place that would accept me. Eagerly searching for that sacred little piece of land under this very vast starry sky that I will be able to call a home. But the search seemed… endless.
During that search I stumbled upon an essay stating that belonging to any particular group narrows your mindset. So, belonging to your usual groups…like your typical classroom, club, or even belonging to society has limitations, allowing for certain behaviors, subconscious patterns, and rules that exist and that you must obey in order to ‘fit in’. The essay also said that highly intelligent people almost never fit in. They prefer having one-on-one conversations because belonging to a ‘pack’ or group of people limits them. Intelligent people are inept, even socially clumsy, seeking knowledge instead of developing people skills, overthinking everything, and having a high level of conscience and guilt.
For a long time I believed this was true. I believed I would be a loner forever. But then I joined the World Learning program. And frankly I didn’t know what to expect. Like every loner out there I thought “It’s a program where I invest only my intellect while leaving my heart and soul aside.”
But something interesting started to happen. It seemed that somehow my constant search for a place called ‘home’ stopped. The restlessness and annoyance of being only in one place disappeared. I felt secure. My needs for knowledge, variety, experience and professionalism were almost magically, miraculously met.
Slowly but surely I realized that all my hunger is sated and my thirst is quenched. I wasn’t afraid to belong anymore. I wasn’t bothered constantly questioning myself if this is the perfect moment to belong to an activity. I was certain of it. And before I knew it, I felt so comfortable in my own essence, that I finally made peace with my inner struggles. My intuition took a break because…well, because I was home.
But the thing is, I am not the only one who feels like this. Most of us do. That’s why we’re here. We are the fortune seekers. The Bohemians. The influencers. The society shapers. The world changers. But most of all, we are family. And Global UGRAD is our peaceful destination that we all belong to and call home.