(or how I further cherished my independence while living on my own in the Netherlands)
It was in 2013 when I traveled for the first time to the Netherlands for a post- graduate diploma course on Children, Youth and Development in the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam. I was one of the scholars supported by the Netherlands Fellowship Programme, initiated and fully funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I found out about this opportunity through my friends at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City who had friends and loved ones who studied in the said institute. In our class, I was the only Filipino national along with students from Argentina, Austria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Uganda, United States of America, and Tanzania. The course lasted for 3 months and up to this day, I consider my stay there as one of the most exciting journeys I ever embarked on.
Friends from All over the World
Whenever we have our class discussions, I feel like I am traveling in our respective countries for we get to learn about each other’s context and experience when we get the chance to share our stories. We also get to spend a lot of time together outside the academic premise for we go out to stroll around the Peace Palace (where the International Court of Justice is situated), sing and walk around the Scheveningen beach, grab a drink and dance the night away in one of the pubs in Het Plein or simply hang- out in the dormitory. Even if 3 years have passed, we still get to communicate through the social media, thanks to technology.
Our dormitory was also an extension of my global class for I shared the floor with neighbors from Ethiopia, India, Macedonia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. While in the institute, I also found a family in the company of Filipino scholars doing their master’s degree in Development Studies in the same institute and a college batchmate who was studying at Leiden University. It is truly helpful to meet “kababayans” when you are in a foreign land. They are the best support group since you can be yourself and freely express your thoughts because you speak the same language. It is also with them that I draw my strength from whenever I feel like missing the comfort of the Philippines.
I also got to meet more kababayans in different events like the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Chief Negotiator of the National Democratic Front, freedom fighters, representatives of the Philippine government in the foreign ministries, Filipino migrant workers and fellow Filipino scholars who were studying in other parts of Europe. I also got the chance to reunite with old friends and meet new ones when I traversed other countries such as Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy and the Vatican State.
With fellow Filipino scholars during the Keukenhof Tulip Festival in 2013
Most importantly, I discovered more about myself while living alone. I learned how to become more responsible since I had to fend for myself and deal with my daily needs. I did all the household duties- buying and cooking my food, washing of dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning my place and all other things to be able to survive. I also loved the fact that I got to spend time with people whom I may never see again in this lifetime. It may sound tragic, but I guess, there is beauty in arrival and departure. You don’t really leave a place because in the end, you will always have memories that will keep that place alive and real in your mind.
Our class study tour in Brussels, Belgium
Fatima Gay J. Molina is a development practitioner since 2008. Her work focuses on research, training, and advocacy on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. She has implemented projects in collaboration with the UNESCO, UNDP, Oxfam, the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, Plan International, Save the Children, World Vision, JICA, Asian Disaster Reduction Center, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, International Recovery Platform, Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, USAID and The Asia Foundation. She served as a sectoral member of the Victims of Disasters and Calamities sector of the National Anti- Poverty Commission in 2015. She was an Asian Graduate Student Fellow of Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore in 2014. She holds a diploma in children, youth, and development from the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam and is currently completing her MA in Anthropology at the University of the Philippines where she also earned her BA in Anthropology (cum laude) in 2008.
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