Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas get a taste of 'real world' in Philippines

Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas get a taste of 'real world' in Philippines
Kumi Miyamae with street children at Quezon City

More often than not, I am asked why I decided to pursue my undergraduate studies in the Philippines.

The answer is simple: Ateneo is my dream school. Born in the Philippines, I grew up longing to cheer for the Ateneo Blue Eagles at basketball games. (It is similar to how Japanese students dream of rooting for Waseda or Keio at their much anticipated sporting events.)

Even after I moved to Japan for high school, I was set on Ateneo.

Ateneo de Manila University boasts the most government officials and nongovernmental organisation founders in the country among its alumni.

Growing up, I had always wanted to elevate the status of the Philippines, to help minorities and the poor. I believed that Ateneo was the best school to help me achieve this.

Its education based on philosophy and theology allows students to discover not only what they want to do in life, but also why they want to do it.

Every year, the school prepares a programme for students to get a glimpse of the "real world." As a junior, I had to participate in the Junior Engagement Program. I was required to work a 16-hour-a-day job involving manual labour.

What I chose was street vending.

Over four Saturdays, I spent four hours selling street food. This was an eye-opening experience for me because I never realised the hardships these people go through in order to make a living.

At the end of each day, I earned about 150 pesos (S$13 roughly ), which was below the standard of living.

Having gotten a mere glimpse of their lives, I am able to comprehend the essential things they truly need. It has motivated me to do what is necessary to help.

This is the kind of experience that most exchange students treasure forever. Ateneo accepts exchange students and requires them to undergo the same programme. All of them are from partner schools around the world. In Japan alone, there are 22 schools.

To receive an Atenean diploma is not only an achievement of academic excellence but also an acceptance of the responsibility to become "men and women for others." This is Ateneo.

Ateneo de Manila University

Founded in 1859, Ateneo de Manila University is one of the premier educational institutions in the Philippines.

Located in Quezon City, Metro Manila, the university's motto is "Light in the Lord."

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