Learning and dreaming for the country
These two words have always rung in my head. I never really acted on them until Australia Awards granted me the opportunity to study in Melbourne.
Who would have thought it would all start with a simple email? Indeed, life is full of surprises; and, as the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Last year, I chanced upon an email in my Yahoo Groups about the AusAID (Australian Government Overseas Aid Program) Australia Awards scholarships. What excited me the most about the scholarship was that it requires a Re-Entry Action Plan (REAP) that encourages candidates to go back to their home country to implement a development program.
I’ve always been comfortable doing social work. Aside from being passionate about it, I realized early on that it was something I was born to do. The Australia Awards scholarships came as the perfect opportunity for me to hone my skills as a social worker. It also gave me a chance to gain new knowledge and, eventually, to use my education in "Kapwa Kapatid," a non-profit group that provides education to less fortunate children in a slum area in Metro Manila.
My dreaming started in 2003 when I was in high school. Together with friends from Assumption, La Salle, and Poveda, we started Kapwa Kapatid to tutor and teach values to grade school students in Payatas. What started out as the daydream of a bunch of high school students has spread to countless volunteers and has fostered a community; Kapwa Kapatid is now a sustainable educational program thriving on the “pay it forward” philosophy.
Sharing dreams with people I would never have met had it not been for Kapwa Kapatid has given me an unknown energy that propels me ahead. This dream – that I can only describe as God-given – is like a North star steeling me on; ultimately transporting me to a different continent, a different time zone, a different tempo of living.
Studying in Melbourne
Dreaming big has taken me to the University of Melbourne where I am currently taking my Master in Social Work degree together with 10 Filipinos and 200 other individuals from different parts of the world. I keep telling myself I should be like a sponge and make the experience worthwhile by absorbing every lesson and encounter.
My classes in Social Work are really interesting. We learn through innovative ways such as practice learning. There is a lot of thinking, sharing, and tinkering going on as we are motivated to think “out of the box” and destroy our own comfortable ways of seeing things. In Counseling class, for example, we practice by giving counsel to each other. To help give each other feedback, we record the conversations on video even though it can be frightening!
Our professors teach us that it is okay to make mistakes, as this is how we learn. There may be times that I find myself falling asleep while reviewing my multiple readings (haha) or editing my paper a hundred times. I know, however, that one day, these little challenges will help me maximize my fullest potential as a social worker.
Beyond academics, I am also learning to be a student of life, which involves a great deal of listening, not just to professors, but also to my peers who have so many deep experiences to share.
I’ve learned a lot about the different cultures, faith and practices around the world. In fact, I am deeply inspired by a female judge from Bangladesh who, at the age of 23, became the youngest judge in her country. Even if we come from different backgrounds and have varied experiences, each scholar has a dream to help improve his or her community
I realize being a student of life also means enjoying and being charmed by the city I live in. I am quite fortunate to be in Melbourne, Victoria, one of the most livable cities in the world. If you are the kind of person who loves to walk, Melbourne is the city for you.
Every weekend there is a festival to celebrate here. The city never seems to run out of things to celebrate! My personal favorite though would have to be the walking penguins of Phillip Island.
But despite the refreshing newness of this city, I know my dream will eventually lead me back to my country. While studying here in Australia, I’ve realized that in our own little way, the development of our country is truly at hand and that anything is possible.
Proud to be Pinoy
I especially love sharing about the Philippines and our little pockets of successes back home. My fellow Filipino scholars inspire me. The Filipino community here has become my home away from home. Their smiling faces, countless stories, and their faith in God never fail to inspire me.
It is only my 3rd month here. I am barely writing the first chapter of my life as a scholar. Things may seem uncertain, but I am constantly reminded that I was led here by something bigger than myself. While the scholarship has been a good experience, I look forward to a greater adventure down the road.
Australia is a place where you can share, learn, and dream big. It is a place where I can nurture my dreams for myself and also for my country. – Rappler.com
Kritzia Santos, 27, is currently enrolled in the Master in Social Work program at the University of Melbourne. She is the co-founder and executive director of Kapwa Kapatid.
Applications for Australia Awards scholarships for 2014 will be accepted until April 30, 2013. Interested parties may contact the Philippine Australia Awards Scholarships Secretariat at (02) 638-9686 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.