Three years ago, I quit my job, packed up my life, and moved thousands of miles to Canberra to pursue graduate studies. Earlier in 2013, I did exactly the same thing all over again—dropped absolutely everything— and moved even further around the world to start up my doctoral studies here in Rome.
For those who don’t know, this is incredibly scary.
First of all, I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to be a doctoral candidate. Equally troublesome was that I was afraid of leaving a set of established friends to leave for Italy— where I knew literally no one. Then there was the whole process of setting up a new doctor, new home, new bank, new sukis, new habits, if life had a reset button this would be like hitting it twice in a row. In Italy I had no friends, no family, and I could only speak enough Italian to ask someone how they were today. This was terrifying!
Then things all fell into place. The boy decided to fly to Italy to be with me, an act of love rarely seen in today’s modern relationships. The boy also found a job within a month of arriving, something even rarer to be seen in Italy!
I realized that doubts about being good enough are good and natural, and that anyone who thinks they are ready for a doctoral degree are decidedly not ready— and people like me who were in some state of distress are by far not ready either, but at least more self-aware about it.
I’ve met wonderful friends, Italians and non-Italians alike, and a handful ended up as true friends, people I wouldn’t mind spending nine hours of class with and not be averse to still being together for dinner afterward (it has happened). Some people say that being an academic and having to uproot yourself every year destroys any opportunity for true friendships to form, but I say it’s not so. My heart has roots in Philippines, and in Australia, and now has sunk in roots in Italy as well.
I daresay I’m also grateful for the bureaucracy, though this is the one and only time I would say it. Discussing where I needed to go and what further papers I needed to bring to whom has brought my level of Italian up much faster than it would have had the process been smooth! And I’m also very grateful for my Italian classes at LUISS, by far my favourite way of spending my Saturdays.
Basically, for all my doubts about this year and for all the stress moving from one side of the world to the other Italian-speaking side has caused, I am eternally grateful for everything.
For my darling boy and for being able to now erase “long distance” from our vocabulary.
For all the paperwork help and financial aid from my family back in Manila and from Società Dante Alighieri and their patience with my request to cram two sessions of language lessons into a few weeks.
For all the love and warm welcome of my boy’s family, and our home-away-from-home in Sweden.
For friends wherever in the world they may be, for the quick online chats and coffee and snacks and care packages and postcards and for just being there.
For the existence of the European Union and EACEA, for granting me this scholarship.
For fellow GEM fellows— out of all the applicants of all the world, I was assigned the best of companions.
For classmates and friends at LUISS.
For the crazy Italian bureaucracy that allowed me to repeatedly travel far and wide across the city.
For Erasmus Mundus Philippines, for being the most welcoming, most supportive group of people I’ve met in a long time.
For Italy, and Norway, and Sweden, and the Philippines, and Thailand, and all the places that have touched my feet this year and all the places that very nearly happened but didn’t (Poland, your visa application process is terrible.)
My gratitude for a year filled with challenges and growth, headaches and stress, never-ending airports and train stations, and above all endless happiness and love.