Filipina Harvard grad: ‘Go abroad, then come home’

Danielle Limcaoco

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Filipina Harvard grad: ‘Go abroad, then come home’
'Filipinos should have the opportunity to leave, but should then come back with the skill sets and expertise they’ve acquired'

MANILA, Philippines – Nowadays, many balikbayans find themselves asking: “Should we stay here, or return to the Philippines?”

Michi Ferreol focused on this common, yet perplexing, dilemma, in her 2013 TedxTalk. She discussed the Philippine Diaspora and its resulting “brain drain,” and concluded that Filipinos should have the opportunity to leave, but should then come back with the skill sets and expertise they’ve acquired. 

A recent graduate from Harvard University, Michi works hard to put her words into action. To help other Filipinos have the opportunity to study abroad and become a balikbayan, she, along with two other friends, started CAMP (College Admission Mentors for Peers in the Philippines).

According to Michi, “CAMP was created to provide more resources and assistance to young Filipinos to apply to colleges abroad, no matter their socioeconomic status.” 

What initially started as a simple Facebook forum, turned into a full-fledged organization that runs an internship program, a mentorship program, and a yearly conference. 

In fact, in 2014, CAMP’s mentees received over 78 acceptances from 50 different colleges and universities from around the world, such as Princeton University, Dartmouth University, and Boston College. Currently, CAMP is working closely with educationUSA and to help further their goals.

Speaking from experience, Michi believes in the importance of learning overseas and honing one’s skills. By helping them achieve their dreams, Michi believes that they can help inspire the “Filipino youth to dream big about their futures by weaving together communities of students who are eager to do something of impact.”

Although she was busy in Harvard and had to learn how to manage time zones, deal with flurries of emails, and secretly do CAMP tasks in class, Michi claims it never felt like “work,” because it “gave [her] an opportunity to remain connected to the Philippines even whilst abroad.” 

Michi as a balikbayan

Undeniably, Michi practices what she preaches. She studied in Harvard to acquire new skills sets and knowledge, to later apply to the Philippines once she returns home. 

Michi dubbed her Harvard years as the “best 4 years” of “so far.”

“Being surrounded by intelligent, talented, and passionate people 24 hours, 7 days a week ignited a fire in my belly that I know will forever burn strong,” she said.

But more than just inspiring, her years there were also practical. She used the things that she learned in class and about American culture to inform her understanding and approach to the Philippines.

“[I] really tried to create meaningful impact by using what was at my disposal to possibly lift the Philippines to greater heights,” she said.

More so, she remained tethered to her Filipina identity by gravitating towards activities and projects that would help her share with the Harvard community everything she loved about the Philippines. 

Michi “definitely, definitely” hopes to return to the Philippines in the future. And with her, she plans to bring back “new strategies and innovations to the way we do teaching and learning in our public schools.” 

Although she plans to continue studying in the US, she aims to learn more about the different models of education and what may best apply in the Philippine context. “That way,” Michi asserts, “when I return, I’ll be in a position to be of as great help and impact as possible.”

Specifically, she wants to learn about “technology in classrooms, project-based learning, enhanced teacher training, and possibly a chain of schools similar to charter schools in the USA with high-quality education at a low cost.”

To Michi, being a balikbayan doesn’t mean living abroad. It means staying overseas and learning as much as possible to make herself become the best version of herself, so that when she comes back to the Philippines, she can make the greatest impact.

So should she stay or leave? It’s a given for Ferreols. She will be home. – 

There are great opportunities in store for you back home, kababayanClick here to find jobs in different industries across the Philippines.

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