“You’re so amazing”, I repeatedly said to someone who changed my perspective of the world in one hour. People come and go but what matters are the lessons they impart. One lesson I will never forget is that I can always come back home. Home has several definitions which may be a country, a family or even a comfort zone. Whatever it may be, the choice of returning and making a difference is always present.
A year before that life-changing hour, my mother and I attended an advising session with the U.S Embassy to help us be familiarized with the visa and application process. There, I met Ms. Ireene Leoncio. After the session , I only remembered the words, “Ireene” and “Georgetown University”. We kept in touch, a year later, after I saw her name as a speaker on a recorded TEDx event. When I found out that she will be studying her doctorate studies in the UK, I contemplated on wanting to see her. She had inspired me even if I just listened to her talking to my mother. I was determined to see her again so I sincerely e–mailed her. She supportively agreed to it even if she will be leaving in three days. “You awakened a mission in me. “
That one hour conversation changed my life. Here is the summary of our conversation:
1. Friendships and connections abroad are priceless.
In Georgetown University, Professor Leoncio, became the teaching assistant of Professor Michael Czinkota. Later on, in her application for her doctorate studies, he wrote her a recommendation letter which was one of the reasons she got a full scholarship. Georgetown University also has the “International Students’ Association” and here, Professor Leoncio found her first friends. “You will always have friends whether it be fellow Filipinos, international students or local students.”
I believe that fostering relationships with people around the world makes us understand different cultures and upbringings. We will always have a friend and someone to lean on abroad. Knowing their individual stories and seeing their successes in the future are irreplaceable. We will never be alone in our journey to study abroad and travel around the world.
2. You will find and improve yourself in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.
The deciding factor that made Professor Leoncio pursue her graduate studies is an end to a long term relationship. “No one will bring me to the hospital if something wrong happens,” she said. She learned the importance of depending on solely, herself. Her will to succeed was greater than any obstacle that challenged her because she was determined to prove something to the world. She found her passion, which may have been overlooked if she didn’t study abroad, to teach when she became a teaching assistant.
I believe that exposing ourselves to unfamiliar places will make us appreciate our home country. We get to long for the little things that remind us of home. Soon, we get to make that unfamiliar place, our new home. We get to start with a clean slate and see the world differently. We might even get to discover our true passion while away from our comfort zones.
3. You can always come back home.
“I can be myself whenever I am in the classroom.” Professor Leoncio came back to the Philippines with a burning desire to teach. She was overwhelmed at the thought of helping others’ reach their dreams especially here her home country. Our friends and even our Alma Mater are there to support us. It is important to always give back to the Philippines and make the most out of our foreign education.
I believe that the best way to make a difference is to change the perspectives of people. Education paves way for change in the society. We should use our foreign education to help improve the lives of Filipinos. Teaching may be inappreciable but it is significant. Our inspiration must not only come from our will to succeed and make a change, but also from our loved ones who support us along the way.
Professor Leoncio has inspired me not only because of her adventure abroad but her decision to come back and help the Philippines. It is a courageous decision to go back home and face disapprovement from the locals. Working in the academe and sharing ideas to the leaders of tomorrow is a heroic task. Coming back home, with a greater sense of purpose to spread ideas or even teach, is a choice that we, the leaders of tomorrow, must choose. Let us be a hero and choose that path.
After being inspired, I am now motivated to research about universities abroad and I plan to attend education fairs to expand my university choices. I will be taking my SAT a few months from now and after, I plan to visit certain universities abroad during my next summer break. My college and visa application will take place next academic year. In the near future, I see myself also going back home with the mission to inspire others.
Watch her TEDx speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxRaXnWoVgk
Bio of the author
Hannah Gwynneth Pimentel is a current grade 11 student at the De La Salle University Integrated School. She is a strong supporter of quality and efficient education through the use of technology. She loves animals especially dogs and advocates for cruelty-free practices.