I started January of 2019 by applying for a visa to the Philippines. Fortunately, the consulate was open even during New Year’s Day. Because I was applying for AIM, visa processing was quite easy. Doing this on the very first day of the year, it was an indication that 2019 was going to be a different year in a different country. By January 13, 2019, I arrived in the Philippines to take my Masters in Development Management program in Asian Institute of Management.
My encounter with the immigration officer at Manila Airport made me realize how good the program is, as the immigration officer appreciated me for choosing Asian Institute of Management. I got the clearance done and took a cab to the college. On the way, I was surprised to see left-hand driving. Traffic looked absolutely odd as we have right-hand driving in Nepal. It was Sunday. Since there wasn’t much traffic, which is unusual for the capital city, I was able to reach the college in less than an hour. It was a weekend, but I still got an easy access to the college. A cheerful guard came to help me lift my heavier than usual luggage and escorted me to the dorm building. Another guard in the dorm building was well instructed, so I was taken to my room, 604. There, I met my roommate Doctor Rinku from India. He had come a few days earlier and had already explored the city. He happily shared his experience in the new country. He felt like an older brother to me in a foreign land, far away from home. We had our dinner at McDonalds that night, and I absolutely loved it. It was a new taste for me because we didn’t have McDonalds in Nepal.
My first day in college was filled with AIM’s information sessions and orientation programs. The best part, undoubtedly, was knowing about my classmates who have different backgrounds from my own. They came from diverse experiences and nations. About one-fourth of the total students represented foreign nationalities. Our School Head Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go enthusiastically shared his experiences of working in the development sector. Some of his ideas are actually thought-provoking for me. I clearly remember him talking about the difference between equity and equality. He mentioned “rather than giving different kinds of boxes so that everyone would actually see beyond the walls, we need to break the walls”. This challenged me to see things from a different perspective from that day on.
As I began to learn more about the Philippines, I was surprised to know that most of the people followed Christianity. Since it is an Asian country, I thought that the country would be dominated by Buddhist religion. Of course, I was wrong. All of the names of my classmates were easy-to-pronounce Western names; names that we had been hearing in movies and books all along. My first shopping experience was also really surprising. In the Philippines, they follow SRP (Suggested Retail Price) which is quite amusing. We found that some convenience stores charged almost 50% higher than the department stores. In Nepal, since we follow Maximum Retail Price (MRP), the prices do not change by location.
To be a Nepalese in a different country is interesting. It is because Nepal is a mountainous country. One time, Professor Ricardo literally drew a mountain and a man on its top to represent me. And honestly, I am proud to represent Nepal. I even had a good story to share about my arduous trekking to Everest Base Camp last year. But sometimes I really had to explain that Nepal was not just about mountains. We have a lot more, and I turn myself as an ambassador of the Department of Tourism of Nepal. Moreover, many people shared that they viewed Nepalese as generous people. Even my name “Sher- pa” may mean generous (to share more) in the local language in the Philippines.
I am amazed by the wit of the professors. They surely know how to catch the attention of students. Some Professors actually point out students and ask questions with so much ease. They create an environment where we can make mistakes and learn. Another professor tried to drill a lot and challenged us to push our boundaries. Even with experiences and qualifications that they carry, the professors still are very humble and approachable.
During my 5-month stay in the Philippines, I have seen so many sides of a Filipino. However, I am mostly impressed by the empowerment of Filipino women. Women work in various fields and even take charge of their families.
Overall, the Philippines is a beautiful country with several islands. Having visited few tourist destinations and having enjoyed the beach here, I can say that this country deserves more inflow of tourists. Makati, where AIM is located, represents the world with people from different countries. And the world is trying to find a space in Makati and in AIM, including myself.
Written by Jigme Sherpa (Nepalese)