Gay Marie Manalo Francisco was working in an educational institution in the Philippines as Vice-President for Administration when she decided to fulfil a dream of completing her postgraduate studies at a prestigious university abroad. She applied for a scholarship at the University of Auckland in New Zealand (NZ) and was granted the opportunity to study for a postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Media, Film and Television) in February 2014. She is now completing a Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the University of Auckland.
Why did you decide to study overseas? Why did you choose to study in NZ?
I decided to study in New Zealand because it is one of the countries I really wanted to visit. I had heard so much about how beautiful it is. It’s a good thing that I was granted a scholarship under the New Zealand Asian Scholarship program to complete my postgraduate studies in its top university, the University of Auckland, which is also a high-ranking university in the global university rankings. I love travelling and meeting people from other cultures. Studying abroad gives me the opportunity to do this.
Your move to study in NZHow was your experience when you made the journey from your home country to NZ?
I really enjoyed my move to NZ for my studies. I arrived before the start of the semester in February 2014. I came with some other Filipino scholars who were granted the same scholarship. I immediately felt welcome here. I did not have any difficulty adjusting to NZ life.
People often say there is a sacrifice when you leave your home country. Has the move been worth all the sacrifice for you?
I wouldn’t say that I had to sacrifice a lot. God blessed me with so much. I still have my job in the Philippines (I was granted a study leave) and since I am a scholar, I am being provided with everything that I need to complete my studies. Probably the only sacrifice is leaving my family for two years while I study here, but then because I was able to save some money since I was given the opportunity to work part-time while I am studying, I was able to make arrangements for my mum to visit me here in New Zealand. She attended my postgraduate diploma graduation and I gave her a tour of some of the nice places here. In addition, I have so many friends here from church and from university so I never get homesick.
What ongoing challenges do you experience as you make your life in NZ?
Nothing challenging. I know I need to go back to the Philippines to fulfil the conditions of my scholarship (and I am excited about that, too). It’s good to be able to apply the things that I have learned here and try to make a difference in my country. Unlike most students who are planning to become residents/citizens here, I don’t have any pressure thinking about those things. I’m just enjoying my life while I am here, making the most of my university education.
What have been some of the highlights of your student life in NZ?
I was blessed to be able to get good grades and graduate with distinction from my first degree. The professors are very helpful and they really want students like me to succeed.
LanguageHow did you go about improving and enhancing your English?
Practice! I talk a lot with my classmates and my friends from church. Unless you really use the language, you won’t be able to master it. I did not have much difficulty, although the accent here is different. It takes some time to get used to the Kiwi accent. I just talk to them a lot to be able to familiarise myself and get used to the accent. I speak English in school and in my workplace. Although, since I am tutoring international students and most of them are still learning/practising how to speak the language, most of the time I have to use very simple terms to explain the lessons to them.
What would you say to other people who are working hard on improving their level of skill in English?
Do not be shy or embarrassed to speak out. Do not think that people will judge you because of the way you speak. NZ embraces multiculturalism so you won’t get judged here. The most important thing is that you practise speaking the language so that you will be comfortable with it. I know of a lot of people who cannot speak English before they come here, but because they practise every day they are now really good English speakers.
AspirationsWhat are your plans after your studies in NZ?
As mentioned, as part of the scholarship conditions, I need to go back to my country and apply what I have learned in my workplace/community involvements. That’s exactly what I plan to do. Even now, I share the good practices that I have observed with my colleagues and superiors in the Philippines. I have learned so much here. I definitely think that my postgraduate education at the University of Auckland is a great boost for my career aspirations. It definitely opens more doors for me not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well.