Funner in the Philippines

Student studies abroad in Philippines


Photo by Photo used with permission of Cayla Stubler

Cayla Stubler, sophomore, does karaoke with one of her friends. Karaoke was one of her favorite activities to do while in the Philippines.

If you could go back and spend a school year anywhere else in the world, would you? This year Cayla Stubler, sophomore, is returning to Lake Zurich after spending her freshman year in the Philippines.

Stubler said she was very excited when the opportunity to study abroad was brought up in fifth grade. Her mom grew up in the Philippines and her relatives live there, and her parents believed that it would be a notable experience for resumes and college applications. As freshman year drew closer, the reality of traveling alone to a new country began to set in.

Stubler’s mom and brother flew over with her, and her father met them there. Her family helped get her situated at her grandmother’s house and then left. The next time that she would see them would be Christmas. 

“Being in a new place with new people really scared me because everything that I was going to be doing was new. It was a new culture, new times, traffic, weather, food, family, friends, so it was all difficult to get used to,” Stubler said.

According to Stubler, communication in general both culturally and linguistically was hard at times because she did not speak Filipino (Tagalog) when she arrived in the Philippines. Her extended family at home may have spoken English, but even culturally, it was difficult for Stubler and her grandmother to see eye to eye at times.

 “My grandma didn’t understand why I wanted to go out so much, because she really sheltered my mom,” Stubler said. “She is very protective and didn’t really understand why I wanted to be so independent like I was [in America] because, in the Philippines, everything is done for you.” 

Many households in the Philippines have one or two maids as well as a driver “it’s not like you have to be extremely wealthy to do it,” Subler said. Most people choose to have maids and drivers because it is convenient, according to Stubler. “So [my grandma] was so freaked out when I wanted to carry my own bag to school and do things on my own.”

Filipino culture is very family-oriented and well mannered because they focus on respecting your elders, according to Stubler. She noticed that there is not as much disrespect towards teachers and others who work in the school as she had seen in America, she said. In fact, school was quite different in the Philippines.

Stubler attended school at Colegio San Agustin. In school students do not switch classes. Instead, teachers move class to class. Each class period is one hour, and then students have about two hours for lunch and recess. The curriculum focuses on what you can use in your day to day life. Students learn how to do taxes, cook, clean, and take care of their family. 

“School was my favorite part. It was the first time I enjoyed going to school because everyone was so friendly and fun. I loved my teachers, I loved my class, and I loved my grade,” Stubler said, smiling. “All my friends were in school and the times that I was not in school, we went out. I made so many memories in school that I was able to bring [with me to the streets of the] Philippines. Everything stemmed from school, and the lessons I learned about myself and everyone else. That was probably the best part.”

When Stubler had free time, she went out with her friends. They went shopping at malls and would go out late at night to walk around the strip. A popular pastime in the Philippines is karaoke, she said, “karaoke all day, every day.”

“[I learned] so much culturally, and [I met] people [from around the world that I’m going to be grateful] for the rest of my life,” Stubler said. “I know people from the Middle East, India, China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Germany, Sweden, [pretty much] everywhere. And looking back, it was tough sometimes,” Stubler said.

It was difficult to stay in touch with her family due to the large time change, Stubler said. Not being able to talk to them was hard, “but the experience as a whole, oh my gosh, it was the greatest thing. And I won’t forget that,” Stubler said.

 “I think it is, honestly, the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. If I could give that opportunity to anyone and everyone I would,” Stubler said. “No one realizes how big of a world we have until you step outside your comfort zone.”