MANILA -- Four American students have completed their 10-month education program in the Philippines as they "successfully help" bridge gaps and promote understanding between Washington and Manila.
The four 18-year-old American girls, namely Emily Crumpton, Giana Scattini, Thamira Santana, and Kirianna Baker immersed in different communities around Luzon under the prestigious Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad program.
For 10 months, the four students lived with their Filipino host families and studied in their host schools in Batangas, Makati City, Rizal, and Laguna.
The program for American students coming to the Philippines is still nascent in stage, only on its fifth year this 2019, but Ryan Bradeen, assistant cultural affairs officer at the US Embassy in Manila said its initial goal was already achieved.
"They've given good examples how this program achieved its goal, which is to help bridge the gap between two countries, between two cultures and promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of the Philippines,” he told reporters in an interview.
Crumpton, the participating grade 12 student from Florida, said she was able to “abolish the stereotypes” of her Batangas friends about Americans.
“When I first went to my classes, my classmates would ask ‘Is American high schools like in the movies?’ and stuff like that. With this program, being there, I could explain that it’s not always like that, it’s not always like Hollywood, so I think that is a good thing,” she said.
Baker, for her part, said it allowed her to expand her understanding of other culture specifically that of Filipino’s. Among others, the program also helped shape her decision for college.
“When I first came to the Philippines, I wanted to pursue Aerospace Engineering but since then, I kind of re-evaluated myself, now I’m considering International Relations," Baker shared. "It’s a big leap."
Thamira Santana from Massachusetts, on the other hand, said her 10-month stay in Binan, Laguna, mingling with her Filipino classmates at the University of Perpetual Help System, transformed her into a “better person.”
"In the Philippines, we lived as Filipinos. We see the world through their eyes now, so for me, that experience is very eye-opening and now I know I'm a better person because of it," she said.
When they arrived in Manila in July 2018, Santana said she was clueless about the country.
“I was kind of a new baby but along the way, a lot of people reached out their hand and taught me what was right. A lot of people weren't seeing our mistakes as negative but they see it as trying to adapt to a new culture,” she narrated.
“Because of this, I now have an open heart. Now I could be a helping hand to anyone in the US, (because) I now know what it's like to be a newcomer,” she added.
The same goes for Scattini who lived with her foster family in Makati City. Coming from California, Scattini described her first trip to Manila as if being stripped off with “everything that she knew.”
“In the 10 months that I’ve been here, I kind of had to rebuild myself and learn what I like about and what I don’t like about myself," she said.
But through those long 10 months, Scattini said she was able to hurdle those "challenges."
“I’ve learned what I can live without and what I really don’t want to live without. I know personally that I’ve grown and that the person I was before is not the person that I am now today," she shared.
Pinoy youth's turn
The Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad program for Americans was initiated as a reciprocal extension of the same initiative extended to other countries with significant Muslim populations, including the Philippines.
In the Philippines, it was officially launched in 2004 and has already benefited over 545 Filipinos.
This year, the US Embassy said 30 of the 900 students who applied in May 2019 were accepted and are slated to depart from Manila in August. (PNA)