Leaving behind a full life in the Philippines to become an international student in Michigan, USA!
My name is Jairus Ozara Zebulun Castillo Meer, and I am a 20-year-old international student from Las Piñas City, Philippines. I am currently a junior studying biological sciences as my major and peace and justice studies as my minor at a small liberal arts college called Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
My young life in the Philippines
As an only child, I have always had a passion for being different and an observer. Having lived in a very bustling city, I always heard and saw a lot of modes of transportation, people, and tall skyscrapers. However, I always loved going to my parent’s hometown in Batangas, which is 2 hours from the city. There is this sense of peacefulness and loving energy that I just come back to!
I remember being surrounded by my family and friends as being one of the most loving and amazing moments I will forever cherish. From gathering together to tell stories and sometimes gossip to eating together, Filipino families emphasize the importance of the familial bond within our culture. I continue to think of my parents as my role models and motivation every single day. With the hardships that they have been through in their lives, they never fail to continue to guide me wherever I go!
The beauty of my home country
Growing up in a place like the Philippines, each of more than 7,600 islands has its own unique taste and culture. I just love the beautiful scenery and stories and being able to immerse myself in different experiences all the time. From swimming with whale sharks to underground cave diving, the beauty of being in the Philippines contributed to being observant of my own environment.
My young student life
Having moved to multiple schools within the Philippines, I have always been an “intellectual” kid as described by my friends. However, I also loved being immersed in sports such as ultimate frisbee, swimming, and basketball as side hobbies. I love hanging out with friends and spending spontaneous moments with them!
Realizing I wanted a different educational experience
When it was time for me to think about what was next with regard to my college education, I really wanted to stay within my comfort zone. I applied to schools and received offers from top-tier schools within my country. However, I knew within myself that I wanted a journey that was different from others.
I remember having a conversation with my parents about such a decision and they told me to always think of what was best for me and not what others want. I think that though there is an expectation to always please people, I think that taking a risk every once in a while in life will lead to new adventures in life.
A plan takes shape and then…
As such, I searched online and a few universities, through the guidance of StudyUSA and other peers, helped me land an opportunity to study abroad for my entire college career for four years funded by my college. However, the pandemic hit during this time, and my parents were very hesitant about me. Yet, I think that it was a sacrifice I had to make for them and for my future.
I could not fly to the United States as I was not able to obtain a visa due to the U.S. embassy being closed, so I started my semester off a laptop in my bedroom with a 12-13 hour time difference from Michigan. I tried to make the best out of this time, and I think that it was a very interesting semester. Though I was not able to be fully present on my college’s campus, I was still able to learn and able to network and connect with people.
Two suitcases and a long journey
As I left to pursue my studies on January 4, 2021, with two suitcases, it was a bittersweet moment to share, yet I would have not known that what will happen within the next few years would be history.
I am excited to share my introduction story about you and what you have to know as an international student.
Jairus Ozara Zebulun Castillo Meer from the Philippines is studying biological sciences and peace and justice studies at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
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