Jonathan Sison from the Philippines is majoring in public health at Hillsborough Community College in Florida.
Why did you decide to study in the United States?
Originally, I wasn’t planning on studying in the United States, but my older brother and sister were already studying here, and my parents wanted to keep us together.
How did you choose your college?
I recently moved to Florida, so I knew nothing about the colleges in the area, but a couple of Filipino friends of mine were going to Hillsborough Community College, so I decided to enroll there too. I also checked out the courses that they offered and found it better in the meantime to take classes and figure out what I wanted as a career.
What do you miss most?
What I miss most about the Philippines is the food and having most things in the household taken care of so I had time to focus on school and friends. But here in Tampa, I’ve learned to be more independent and take care of myself. For example, I can now cook for myself. I make a really good carbonara!
What was your biggest surprise?
I thought getting adjusted to Tampa would be a lot harder, but it’s very similar to the Philippines in terms of weather — and people are friendlier here. People helped me get adjusted so it was easier. Someone from the Filipino community bought a house to rent to Filipino students. It showed how close the community is here.
How have you gotten involved in the campus or local community?
I got involved in the local community by playing guitar for a Filipino church. Because of this church I was able to meet more Filipinos, who offered a variety of opportunities for volunteer work such volunteering at food banks and as an assistant teacher to Burmese refugee children.
How do you handle:
I’m sponsored by my parents. However, due to Covid it has been a struggle to maintain funds for school and rent. If it hadn’t been for the kind hearts of the Filipino community here, I probably would’ve been sent back to the Philippines.
...adjusting to a different educational system?
I’ve only completed an associate’s degree so I have no idea how the workload is as a graduate student, but I would say that it’s not that different from the Philippines.
What are your activities?
Currently I volunteer as a tutor and audio-visual coordinator at a place that helps teach refugee kids, and I play guitar, sing, and am the audio-visual coordinator at the Filipino church that I go to.
How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and the needs of your country?
My goal is to graduate and learn as much as I can about healthcare in order to complete nursing school one day. Getting the education is helping me apply to jobs at local hospitals to learn about healthcare administration and build job experience before completing the nursing degree.
What is your advice to others?
My advice to anyone moving here is to make as many connections as you can. Get involved in the community however you can. Join clubs, do some volunteer work, and get out of your comfort zone to try to meet new people and make friends because in doing this it leads to a multitude of opportunities to help you achieve your goals.
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