A blessing, literally speaking!

(Swedish teacher education student Angelica Högberg is from Jonkoping University’s School of Education and Communication. She spent her four-month internship at the USC College of Education, under the Linnaeus-Palme scholarship grant.)

After traveling for about two days, me and my traveling companion and fellow Swedish student Tomas Olsson Berfors arrived, tired and confused, at the airport in Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City. The Sweden we left had snow-covered ground and 20 degrees below zero. Even though it was evening when we arrived, the first thing that hit us when we walked out the door was a pulsating heat. Rosella from the International office then explained to us that it was not summer yet, it starts at the end of March. My first thought after she said that was; "Oh dear, I’m going to melt away"

My name is Angelica Högberg and I am a student at the School of Education and Communication in Jönkoping University, Sweden.  Exactly four months ago I started my journey to, what to me was an unknown country on the other side of the world, the Philippines. The trip is now coming to an end and it is time for me to say thank you and farewell to all the people I have met during my time here. When I got the opportunity to go to the Philippines I was not sure if I wanted to take it or not. Spending four months in a country so far away from Sweden, both geographically and culturally, made me doubt a number of things. After a while thinking I realized that this was a chance in a lifetime and now in retrospect I can see how this trip has change me in a way I never could imagine when I said yes to do it, and for that I am eternally grateful.

"Here in the Philippines ... the jeepney driver is the king of the road!” was one of the first sentences Father Louie Punzalan said to me after my arrival. This sentence is also one of the few sentences I remember from my first night in Cebu City. The traffic rules, if you would call it that (haha!), are just one of many cultural differences I have experienced during my time in the Philippines. Father Louie was absolutely right; here there is only one king of the road, and that king is the driver!

During my time here I got the chance to see how poverty exists in reality. A child begging on the streets, shacks and iron houses was something new and foreign for me before I arrived in the Philippines. This part has been the most stressful part for me during my time here. To sit at home in Sweden and donate some money to a charity event is simple and it gives your mind a clear conscience. After the charity show is over you turn off your TV set and continue your quite comfortable life, thinking you made a difference. Being in the middle of poverty, being powerless and not being able to help has given me a frustration I have never felt before. Here the poverty knocks on the taxi window and asks you for money. The difference here is that you can not turn it off if it gets too heavy, the way you would turn off your TV.

Even though the poverty is so intense here I must say that Filipinos are still the happiest people I have ever met. In Sweden we complain a lot, especially about the weather. When it is summer, it is too warm and we want the winter to come back, but when the winter is back we think it is to cold and we miss the summer. This now seems ridiculous to talk about. Here I have had conversations about losing family members and trying to get over the sad experience. Yet, it feels like every conversation I have had since I got here has ended up with a smile. It’s a way to see the best parts of life and a willingness to help those who are in need has been awakened in me and I have all the Filipinos that I have met during my study trip here to thank for that, all of you.

Poverty, however, is just one of many things you encounter when you arrive in Cebu. One must not forget that I had to leave cold, miserable Sweden to go and study on an island surrounded by paradise beaches. That alone is a luxury in itself. I have during my time here been able to do things I never even dreamt about doing, for example, swimming with whale sharks! The time in this country has created new and fulfilled dreams for me and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to do the various adventures.

I had, during my time in the Philippines, a six-week long internship. This practice was carried out at the USC South Campus (high school department). To say that the Swedish school and the Philippine School have some differences between them is quite an understatement. Everything from access to the materials to the school way of teaching was new to me. Not having access to a computer and being able to use PowerPoint was completely new to me and it did force me outside the framework of learning that I am used to. That I was forced to think about the way I teach and do things differently from what I am used to is probably what has given me the most when it comes to my way of teaching in the classroom during my time here.

Finally, I would like to end this reflection by giving thanks to the University of Jönköping and the University of San Carlos for having created this opportunity for me and, also other Swedish and Filipino students to come. I would also like to pay a special thank you to my supervisor Mrs. Vilma Mendoza who helped me develop, both as a person and as a teacher. She will always be remembered as a source of inspiration. An additional thank you to the remaining teachers at USC basic ed who opened their hearts and shared their culture to me, I am forever grateful.

"Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away" – Unknown.

Thank you, the Philippines, you did take my breath away for sure!
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