By Zoe Eluekezi
Chalk Campus Correspondent
Before I start sharing my experience, here's what you should know about me. I am Uchechukwu Eluekezi, but popurlarly called Zoe in the Philippines because my professors and friends couldn't go through the stress of pronouncing my native name Uchechukwu. (Trust me, it's not that difficult to pronounce.) Originally from Nigeria, I am currently a 4th year Communication Arts student in Trinity University of Asia, Quezon City. On February 20th, I'll be clocking 4 years here. I always wanted to study abroad, and although the Philippines wasn't my initial choice, I did find myself here after a friend whom I met online told me about the glories of studying here despite the initial skeptic reaction of my parents who I was able to persuade later on.
Traveling or moving to a new place either temporarily or permanently is usually exciting and fun. That is until the awesomeness that goes with being in a new environment begins to fade. As an international student, I have been in the Philippines for almost four years. Has it been fun all the way? Well, not exactly. Now I can say that I'm comfortably enjoying my stay, and I feel at home.
But it wasn't always like this. The Philippines didn't always feel like home.
When I got the news that my travel documents were finally ready, and that I would be leaving in some months time, I could barely contain my joy. I was super excited. and I just couldn't wait. I spent hours visualizing my life in a foreign land, and all the fun things I could do, the interesting people I would meet, as well as the great connections I would make. My picture of college life abroad was oh-so-perfect. Never for once did I envision anything less than the good life.
Finally, the day of departure came. Did I cry? Of course I did. But that was because it was my first time to travel for almost 24 hours to a place so far away from home.
By the time I arrived in Manila, the tears had dried up. Yes, I made it here. I was ready for my new life. You know , the new me, new life kind of vibes.
The first few weeks were great. I practically made sure I relished every moment. I started classes, met new people, made a few friends, and also visited fun places. Let's just say my first semester here was fulfilling.
It wasn't until the holidays came when I could no longer find the initial excitement I used to feel. I searched so hard for it, but boy, it was gone. All of a sudden I wanted to go back home. I gradually began to miss the now seemingly perfect life I had back home including my family, friends, my home–everything. At this point, the phrase "There is no place like home" started to make sense to me.
I didn't get along well with my housemates which made matters worse for me. So, I moved out and into a townhouse bedspace just before the holidays. It was quiet, neatly kept, and comfortable. Once the holiday kicked off, all my neighbors travelled to the province to see their families leaving me behind. I began to literally cry. It was at this point I knew I needed a home and not just a house to stay or a bunch of "let's hangout" kind of acquaintances.
Fortunately, an act of kindness from one of the Filipino friends I made in class during the semester, Flor, saved me. She called to ask if I'm okay and offered to come over. We chatted and went out for lunch. The following day she came over again. Soon, she invited me over to meet her family who are such loving people. They welcomed me with so much warmth and sincerity. Flor told me that I could come over to the house anytime, eat anything, and just do whatever I want. At first, I was reluctant, but then I knew this was exactly what I needed. So, I embraced the opportunity and I spent everyday of my holiday with them.
Fast forward to four years later, I still go there whenever I want, and everyone in the household are always excited to see me. Evey Christmas, we always share gifts, take family pictures, and go out.
There has never been a been a boring holiday for me because I have a home to return to whenever I feel homesick. Believe me, from time to time I still miss home, but the feeling has never been as intense as it was during my first holiday here.
Coping and dealing with certain issues has been alot easier because I have a family here that I share my experiences and daily encouters with, and they never fail to give me tips on how to handle those issues.
I found home in a foreign land, and I'm extremely grateful that I did because I can't imagine how my life here would have been if I hadn't. Maybe I would have gone back home, who knows? But, for now, I can truly say that I have found a real home away from home.
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