I am Bea Querol, and I come from Manila, Philippines – the so-called Pearl of the Orient, right smack in the eastern portion of South East Asia, surrounded by huge bodies of water – an hour or so away from Hong Kong and about four hours to Japan. My country boasts of seven thousand one hundred seven islands; and that pretty much concludes the fact that the Philippines is home to some of the best white-sand beaches in the area, coming in close to those in Indonesia (Bali), Thailand (Phuket), and Australia (Bondi). Also, as a people, I would like to say that Filipinos are to be emulated for their great hospitality not only towards foreigners but to fellow countrymen as well. Most of us are bilingual, and are a generally friendly, hospitable bunch who love to eat mounds of food together – ranging from seafood to chicken feet, pork blood soup to ramen, rice cakes to burgers, pizza to gyros, paella to bubble milk tea – name it, we have heard of it (and have most likely tried or eaten it) – anytime, anywhere. This plethora of dishes is due to our rich cultural upbringing – we were once occupied by the Spaniards for three hundred years, the Americans for another thirty years and lastly, by the Japanese for about three years. Also, the Chinese, Arabs, Indians, and Malays have started trading goods with us as early as the sixteenth century.

Just like any other Filipino, I decided to test my luck in America. Journeying to the United States, or to any foreign country for that matter, is considered in my home country as an open window to a much, better life, but I for one know, that does not happen in all cases. So far, I have been finding my almost one-month stay in the United States awesome. Apart from the continuous support of all my relatives residing all over America (LA, SFO, DC, NY, Boston), Canada (Alberta, Vancouver, and Toronto), and back home, thanks to Navitas – I had been able to adjust fairly well enough to life in United States. Thanks to Navitas, I had been able to gain about thirty new friends in Facebook in just a matter of two weeks, expanding both my personal and professional networks. Thanks to Navitas, I had kept myself busy with outings, social gatherings, and preparatory courses for my Master’s degree.

Indeed, the Pre-Master’s program being offered to us by Navitas at UMass Lowell has been helpful in such a way that it has given us life-long tips for effective communication through speaking, reading (and researching), and writing, across cultures in both academic and communal settings. As early as now, I could say that I am partly geared up for my Master’s of Science course work under my major, Autism Studies. I chose this field of study for the very reason that it is much needed back home in the Philippines, and elsewhere around the world. It too is very enriching, fulfilling, marketable, and a relatively new form of science – understanding the behaviour of children and young adults, that is, with autism. Thanks to UML, I too have opted to be active in the Psychology Department as I have acquainted myself to the autism laboratory under one of the assistant professors. I intend to become a behavior analyst someday, perhaps after my studies and a series of supervised training.

Cheesy at it may sound, thanks to Navitas at UML for helping me bridge the gap between my goals and the means to reach those goals. I am certainly enjoying this whole experience. I am living the dream.

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