Soaring – A Miriam College IS transferee + shiftee student’s Retrospective

Wondering ‘Why?’

Ever had the feeling that the box that you’re in just won’t fit you anymore? By 2015, I had already accomplished 2 years of college at another school. Academically, I was doing stellar: Dean’s Lister ever since I started, Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA) 2015 competition candidate, and nominated and won best finals project from a well-known “terror” teacher in the course. Emotionally and spiritually, however, I was lost. I was pursuing a degree in Advertising & Public Relations at the time and I reached the point where drawing and art weren’t enriching for me anymore. I always found myself looking out the window of our classrooms, looking for something I didn’t have a name for. All I knew was something was missing from my life.

I had a growing interest and involvement in spirituality and as a wallflower, I used the alone time I had during breaks to read and study. The key themes I encountered in my spiritual studies were interconnectedness, how no human is an island, and that people who are called to do the healing work are here to do the healing work! I always devoted the healing work to only myself. Deeply traumatized by previous social experiences (and the incoming social experiences to come in that school), I prevented myself from mutual sharing and connection, and to add to the predicament, my previous school’s community was small and the only world I knew was one of art and communications. Long story short, I felt stuck in a loop. I was overcome by the longing to be part of the world and terrible loneliness, it came to the point I didn’t want to enroll back and decided to study abroad.

I attained a whopping 7.0 IELTS score, got a Foundation year offer from the University of Derby in England, but the money never came. It was time to make a decision: Go back to my previous school or find an alternative STAT. It was the middle of what would have been my first semester for my 3rd year when we went school hopping from La Salle to UA&P. At this point, I started to doubt what I was doing–what was I even doing?? My one and only plan fell through the roof, and the strongest motivating desire I had was to get out and find out what I was looking for, and I didn’t even know what *that* was! Nothing made sense and there was no end to shouting matches with my parents and my brother.

One day, I broke down with guilt and shame. I thought I really messed my life up. September came, I was supposed to be in England but the reality was I was at home grasping at the straws, being incredibly stubborn to my parents’ never-ending distress.

The next day, an old friend of my mom’s from the Air force reconnected. The friend recommended Miriam College, another all-girls school like my previous school. I was hesitant but did I really have any other options? Soon, I was in the admissions office facing three blanks on a sheet of paper, three courses to choose from. I felt like I was Neo from the Matrix at that moment: Do I risk choosing something new or do I risk missing that opportunity by choosing the same course? I perused the brochure just minutes prior. “What’s something related to traveling?” I looked to X course. “But is that all I wanted to do in life, to just live for myself?” I switched my gaze changed to the International Studies course. The course description read:

Why take up International Studies with MC?

Miriam College is among the few schools that offer specialized tracks under its International Studies Program. These tracks are International Politics and Global Development Studies, with emphasis on gender, peace and human rights. Our curriculum is designed to prepare students to pursue careers in local, national, and international agencies and organizations as well as in the government and the private sector.

– Features a program that is geared towards the needs of the international community, as well as the needs of national agencies as they engage, compete, and collaborate with other nations
– Goes beyond diplomatic and consular services, recognizing that, though crucial, Foreign Service is but one form of international engagement.
– Emphasizes on the importance of developing the competencies of young women for diplomacy, leadership, and innovation, be they employed by public or private agencies
– Features a curriculum that develops young women for active citizen engagement
– Takes pride in producing graduates who are hybrid citizens, meaning they are globally informed yet locally rooted

International Politics, minor in Peace Studies
This track focuses on the analysis of the shifting power dynamic and geo politics of the international community as well as of the global and regional institutions and mechanisms arising from these. Core subject include:
Seminar Course in International and Regional Organizations
Conflict Prevention and Transformation
International Peace and Security
Global and Local Peace Issues

Development Studies minor in Gender Studies
This track focuses on the analysis of and responses to persistent social and economic inequalities in developing countries and emerging global issues, as well as a critical understanding of the regional and global institutions/structures/mechanisms arising from such phenomena. Core subjects include:
Gender, Language and Education
Aid Development and Finance
Gender, Law and Politics: Women’s Leadership and Human Rights
Issues and Challenges in Developing Nations

At first glance, my head hurt. It sounded very complicated! But beyond what my ego craved, I knew I didn’t want to just travel the world, that’s something I can always do regardless of what path I take.

I was looking for a deeper purpose, to improve this very ill society full of suffering people. I wanted to understand:

  • Why the world functioned a certain way, who governs the system? What makes up the system?
  • Why is there poverty and human depravity? What are its causes? How do we solve this?
  • What is terrorism and how can we stop it? Why do countries communicate with one another and why do some of them clash and some of them cooperate?
  • Why does society function the way that it does? Why are women and men constructed the way they are?
  • Why are some countries rich and why are some poor? Where did these differences come from? And how did it become this way?
  • What power do citizens have? What can I do? Who’s accountable?

I passed the MirCAT and started my IS journey in the 2nd semester, January 2016.

The transition from Communications to International Studies

I remember sitting with the Chairperson in the IS office as we settled on the subjects to do for my first semester as an IS student. Many of my general education subjects from Comm were credited with only Theology 3&4, English 4, Filipino 4, Humanities, Statistics, Critical Thinking (Philo 101?), and CT101 left for me to do – which means I had a significantly looser schedule than everyone else in my first 2 years. my least number of subjects being 2 subjects a week meeting only twice a week.

My first ever major subject was Political Geography. Imagine: Just a few months ago, I was studying photography and copywriting, now I had to learn about territorial disputes and geopolitics?? We hardly had readings in my previous course. Now, I read an average of 40-80 pages per meeting per subject.

I had to adopt an IS brain and adapt to a different set of jargons. I had to learn how to consume large and various academic material in a short amount of time as well as report about it. It’s interesting how I became a significantly better writer through IS than I ever was in my previous course! IS will build your analytical skills and ability to write about things succinctly.

The shift to IS helped me identify what I truly valued in life which was not only to live for myself but to utilize myself and my unique perspective as a solution to the world’s issues. This can mean going out to the communities, contributing ideas to forums, and being a part of the government or NGOs.

Ripe with opportunities

I got what I wanted (travel) right away! By June 2016, just 5 months from my first month in IS, I had my first exchange program to Lille, France because MC was a partner school with Universite Catholique de Lille. MC and each course has various invitations, both local and international, to forums, conferences, exchanges, joint programs, scholarships, and so forth with different institutions. I have probably participated in maybe 50 of these activities during the duration of my degree!

If you’re an honors student, there are several ways you can get funding and sponsorships, but even as a regular student like me, I still am eligible for sponsored and fully-funded programs, just not shouldered by the school (can be shouldered instead by the partner institution or government). As of this time, I am going to fully-funded exchanges to Taiwan, *South Korea, *Japan, and *Singapore–thanks to my MC education, my passport to these opportunities!

One of the most exciting and signature activities of being an IS student being the Model United Nations done in the school and optionally abroad to San Francisco, California, United States. Through MUN, I have been able to step into the shoes of a diplomat representing South Korea, United States, Israel, and Australia, for different advocacies such as food and agriculture, technology, women and gender, and climate and environment.

Development and the Development (DS Track)

When I was a comm student, I was apathetic to world affairs. I generally found the world depressing and unchangeable based on a limited understanding of how the world is governed. Spirituality and personal development-wise, I was very ‘ungrounded’ — like my feet were floating on the ground rather than being rooted. I was stuck in the new age paradigm of “Just think the world will be a better place and it will.” We can’t just visualize a better world because we are the world! We have to act. During your course in IS, you’ll be discussing and dissecting different issues (such as the Rohingya genocide, LGBT persecution, drug killings, refugee crisis, etc.) and it will really sober you up to what really matters in the world and your values. You’ll find your priorities in life changing from me me me to us and collective progress.

I matured through IS. I developed a deep disgust with injustice and also hope because my IS, gender, and development lenses have given me tools to contribute to more thinking and solutions. As a gender and development student, I am concerned about societal and gender analysis, looking at things from the grassroots, the level of context, history, culture, and gender relations. Practically, for example, when an institution wants to set out a program, I can identify whether the people the program is intended for truly reaches them and meets what they truly need, is something they can understand/is relevant, and if change can be sustained and through what measures, Through the DS track, you’re an asset to policy-makers who have great ideas but need to understand the context, implications on the community and environment, SWOT, and so much more. My knowledge and training gives me ‘eagle eyes’ this way. If you choose the International Politics track, your ‘eagle eyes’ will be trained in a different way, on the level of state interactions and matters of security and peace.

Thank you, Miriam College

Do I regret not starting with IS from the very start? Absolutely not. I needed to learn what I needed to learn in my previous school, and it paved the way for an easier time for me in IS because the credited subjects allowed me to explore my other interests, devote to study, and rest and recharge.

What I would have regret was not choosing to transfer to Miriam.

In my coaching work, I have clients who are smack in the middle of confusion, just as I was when I irrationally wanted to change schools. When you’re in the confusion, it’s difficult to see past it. It’s difficult to pick a side because of the fear of messing up your life.

Don’t be afraid to “mess up” your life. By ‘mess up’, I mean choosing decisions that can contribute to expansion and growth, even if it’s not readily understood, even if it means stirring the pot.***

There are no complete pictures in the world. So, if you’re looking for a fully fleshed out story where you know how things are going to come out, not even the best psychic reading can tell you that because your path is being created by you now. The curriculum you are to experience is changing and evolving as you are.

You feel called to something more? Scratch that itch. You’ll find what you’re looking for. If you’re an incoming undergraduate, maybe it’s here in MC.

Thank you Miriam for opening my world and what I think is possible for me. Thank you for honing my capabilities, opening up new gifts, and helping me realize I’m a leader in my own way. Thank you for the friendships made, for a beautiful and secure environment, and for professors and staff who saw the potential in each of us and played a big part in us realizing it for ourselves.

Proudly BA International Studies major in Development studies minor in Gender

Therese, signing off.**

Apply to International Studies course offered by Miriam College here

*5/24 currently undergoing selection process. But even if I don’t get accepted, IPPO gets invitations to local and international programs every month so students can always apply to new ones.

**For the undergraduate program. Miriam isn’t done with me yet because I’m pursuing graduate studies here too, Masters in International Studies (Honors Programme)!

***Given you have the means and you have back-up plans.

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