Studying abroad comes with different purposes and motives. For some students, it is just to travel, familiarize with the place, experience new things, and find friends. But for several students, there’s a deeper reason why they go overseas to study.
My name is Jan Art Serna, 16 years of age, and I’m an exchange student from the Philippines. I’m just like one of those kids who dreamed of going to another country and experience new things, but I never thought that I was able to do it as part of my high school life. I was excited to engage myself in a global community. I came here because of the prestigious scholarship program that I passed. The program is called Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Study year in America. It started after the 9-11 attack, and this was offered to outstanding Muslim students from countries with significant Muslim population. It’s main objective was to promote a mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians and break the misconceptions and stereotypes that are causing the world’s conflict. The goal of this program motivated me to leave my country for a while and go abroad as a Youth Ambassador to contribute on making a peaceful world for everybody.
Exchange students like me stay with a host family until the end of the year. Life here in the United States was a contrast from where I grow up, particularly when it comes to religion ideology. In Islam, we have food restrictions. First and foremost is no to pork, also Haram (forbidden or proscribed by Islamic law) foods. Adjusting to a new environment is one of the biggest fears of other people, but for me I told myself that I would get used to it soon. I chose to be here, and that means I have the responsibility to make myself comfortable.
There’s a lot of stuff that I enjoy about being here in Colorado. It’s the perfect state for me. When I heard the winter season was about to start, I freaked out and got really excited because I’ve never seen or touched snow. What I love about people here in Colorado, especially in school, is that they are so welcoming and friendly.
I am proud of myself that I was able to represent the entire country of Philippines on a larger perspective. Delineating Filipino culture, tradition, and values show the world what Islam teaches us as a Muslim. I want to tell some people that their perception about Islam or how they see it today is not the right thing. I am Muslim, and I care about peace and am willing to take a time to help people understand the truth. My advocacy of dreaming for a tranquil world is here to show that terrorism can be done regardless of what religion believe; we all deserve to be respected and loved. The world could be a better place if we all work for a greater cause.
Jan Serna, exchange student