Grace Villena, a certified Medical Laboratory Assistant/Technician, is currently studying General Arts and Science as one of the requirements to gain admission to a Collaborative Nursing program. It is an accredited four-year degree between Fanshawe College and Western University, leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BScN).
What motivated your decision to pursue a degree abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
I first came to Canada in the year 2017, to earn enough money to build a business back home in the Philippines. I completed a one-year course in Medical Laboratory Assistant/ Technician but had been unsuccessful in finding a related job. Then covid hit. I decided to pursue my dream career in nursing, and have been working to fulfill the requirements to obtain admission to the Collaborative Nursing program at Western University in London, Ontario. I'm currently studying at Fanshawe College, in the program of General Art and Science, to complete all the requirements prior to my admission to Western University in London, Ontario.
What has your experience been like? Can you share some favorite memories - and challenges?
My experience so far is very challenging yet fulfilling, because every time I finish the required activities in my course, I feel proud of myself despite all the difficulties of my everyday life. I am always determined to keep moving toward my dream. My favorite memories during my studies here in Canada have been when my classmates and I hang out after class when all of us are free. That is the moment we can talk casually and know each other more. Because of our different nationalities, we can learn about each other’s cultures.
What skills have you developed from your international education experience?
The most important skill I have gained during my education here in Canada up to now is communication skill. I must say that I am still not that proficient, but I am determined to improve these skills. Before I came here to Canada, I was afraid to go outside and communicate with others; even though most of the curriculum in the Philippines is taught in English, still it is dissimilar when you talk to foreigners. However, I realized that it is easier to communicate with a foreigner rather than to talk in the English language back home because professors and employers in the Philippines are very strict with grammar. But as you see here, if you can express what you want to say, it doesn’t matter if your grammar is incorrect. However, that is not the case when you are in school and applying for a job, because employers still prefer to hire people with above-average English proficiency, because in all industries, communication is the most important key for development.
What has surprised you most about earning a degree abroad?
When I completed my course in Medical Laboratory Technician, I realized that there are still paths for me to become more successful in my career. The opportunity to grow more will not be going to stop after graduation, but; it was just the beginning of more opportunities that are waiting for me.
Any advice for students thinking about studying overseas? What are some highlights or things that you gained or changed your perspective?
My advice for the student that wants to take their chance overseas before taking this risk is first to think about it not twice but many times. Ask for advice from people you know and gather information about the institution you are going to and the location. There are so many things that you need to compromise before you decide. Like, what will be your source of income there while you are studying, and where are going to stay during your studies? It is not that simple to just move to another country and study, but you need to be mentally, physically, and financially prepared, especially if unexpected situations come.
How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
I will not say that it has changed my cultural identity, but in terms of my communication and how I socialize with others, I have changed. Because back home, we have the same culture, so I know how to communicate with people. But, here in Canada, the culture is diverse and for that reason, I need to be careful with my words and body language expression because at some point it has different meanings from others.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
I just want to share that studying abroad is a risky and tough decision in your life, yet very fulfilling and worth it in the end. Be courageous and have faith in yourself that everything will be possible. Keep it up!