By Mariano Valiente Jr.
(Mr. Mariano Valiente, Jr., BSE Physics-Mathematics graduating student, had been another recipient of the Linnaeus-Palme exchange student scholarship program. He was also sent to the School of Education and Communication, Jonkoping University, Sweden, from December 2012 to March 2013.)Besieged by a warm breeze of air in a usual school encounter, I directed my eyes into a simple and tired sheet posted in a bulletin board, whose inability to intricately appeal itself into a crowd of students who seemed to have rather pressing matters as they traversed the demanding staircase and never sighted the similar sheet reappearing in each floor, made it interesting for me to check it. Never at that moment I expected to linger at glancing its contents repeatedly. The determined paper spoke to me, incredibly offering a life-changing opportunity I couldn’t believe, yet, I couldn’t resist. This is the strangest of beginnings fate plotted for a truly awesome journey. Doubts hit me of course, nevertheless, I owned the challenge.
I am Mariano L. Valiente Jr., a Bachelor of Secondary Education student major in Physics and Mathematics, and a proud pioneering exchange student to Jönköping University, Sweden. Being the former is absolutely a blessing and being the latter is extremely more blessing. If I could only drop my jaw a lot further and if I could jump a lot higher, I definitely would have done as I was informed that I, together with Kristel Pacana, was chosen to study and to spend a portion of my practice-teaching in Sweden. This news was startling just as the twists, turns, ups, downs and flats that welcomed me even at the instigation of the entire course. In fact, processing my passport and visa became an adventure itself. True enough, since it’s my first time to travel abroad, the odds can be unkind but for things worth fighting for, no amount of it can undermine at any trace my league of defense—my heart for it, family, friends, the College of Education, the Office of External Affairs, DOST colleagues, SMED, SESO and Tingog Carolinian Family.
It is a strange thing, but when you would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up. Three months in Sweden, as I hitherto perceived, is but a long span of time, adequate to miss Christmas, New Year, and Sinulog here. However, it instead flew really fast. When the Swede part of me started to flourish, I needed to leave the counry and be home in the Philippines. It’s a sad thing, yet, for multitude of amazing things the exchange program taught me, the experience is truly priceless. First, seeing the spectacular expanse of snow is one thing and shivering into the tremendously cold weather is another, yet, from a tropical country’s origin, they’re just so amazing things a lot of Filipinos wish to have encountered. Second, being a foreigner is a foreign feeling. Seeing Europeans stealing glimpses at my Asian features and adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle, from bus transportation to a different assortment of food, from a hard-to-articulate language to a distinctive system of education and a whole lot more, are really challenging. Third, I was assigned to teach both my major in Erik Dahlbergsgymnasiet, a public high school with a Philippine-University reputation in the city of Jönköping. The warm welcome was evident in the school and that I had my own teacher’s desk, an account in the school’s website, free lunch stamps, my own set of school keys, a borrowed school netbook, meet-and-greet encounter with teachers and staffs and a personal kit of the school’s background. More so, observing class, as a necessary first step, had been awkward especially when students seemed to be reluctant. However, when I began to teach, they became more open and cooperative. In fact, their level of attentiveness, which was so affixed at me, and their size somehow distracted me at first, yet, I found it fitting later as they are in a more mature age group (16 to 19 years old).
Furthermore, a different curriculum and sequencing of topics surprised me as they are rather indicative of a carefully gauged phasing where levels of difficulty fall under appropriate high school year. I learned to cope up and to adapt with new teaching methodologies from a culture not my own. Fourth, I attended the Sports Tradition in Swedish Perspective class in the School of Education and Communication of Jönköping University. I am more than happy to experience a week in Vemdalen where I get to know my International and Swedish classmates more deeply. Vemdalen gave me a feeling of what it’s like to be a happy kid again, yet offering me an opportunity to hold cautiously a sense of responsibility with my actions. It creates an impact of change as I become more deeply conscious of my strengths, weaknesses, limitations and progress with its daily mandate for survival because normally as it does to me, I first rely on myself before asking others to assist. There, we see how each other grew. Just as I am, the very first handling of skis hadn’t been easy for me as I couldn’t even move myself an inch or so, telling others to go on and I should be able to manage myself, yet, they insisted to wait, that we were bound to begin at the same time, to pace with each other and that, by which I am very pleased, no one should get left behind. Fun games in the snow, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, trekking, and games associated with them wouldn’t be as much fun as it had been if not for these same set of people who work for them. Three months in Sweden is a decade’s worth—unforgettable as it would surely ever be.