Just like the old saying goes: “Hard work pays off.”
Michiko Je M. Bito-on, a senior Mass Communication student has just opened another chapter of her life. The former editor-in-chief of the Weekly Sillimanian has just made it big abroad as an exchange student. Summer this year, she received a study grant from the Global Undergraduate Exchange (Global UGRAD) Program for East Asia and the Pacific and the Western Hemisphere. It is a substantive exchange program designed to expose students to the U.S. educational system, society, and culture. Getting into the program was tough; only four among the 41 students who applied were accepted and Michiko is among them.
It took her more than six months to work on all the requirements for the Global UGRAD study grant, which included; writing essays, filling out application forms, doing several interviews, and taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). She describes the whole process as “suntok sa buwan” knowing that there is only a slim chance to get the scholarship. But she never expected to get accepted in St. Catherine University at St. Paul, Minnesota, USA and study in a place miles away from her friends and family. “God has a plan and I’m going there for a reason. It’s going to be a year of adventure and not getting to see my parents every day. It’s going to be hard and fun at the same time, but I’ll try to manage,” she says.
At 19, she already earned numerous academic and extracurricular awards, and all of these are fruits of her hard work and sacrifices. In her elementary years, she already knew how to manage her time being the editor-in-chief and a member of the varsity swimming team. She was a consistent honor student and even graduated as valedictorian of Catherina Cittadini, St. Louis School.
Nothing came easy for this young lady. Just like any other kid, she had a hard time taking all things at once. She admits that she is not good in both Math and Science, but excels in subjects related to Languages, Literature, and Journalism. “I don’t hate the subjects, they just don’t seem to love me back,” she shares. Forgetting about her dreams of becoming a writer even crossed her mind, so she could focus on the subjects she is expected to be good at. But she can’t seem to find an easy way to stop writing stories and telling them. She did not stop believing that her talent for writing was there for a reason and she should not hide what God has given her.
Her talent for writing did not only bring success to her school and make her teachers and schoolmates proud; it also brought her to different places because of the various press conferences she had attended. In her senior year in high school, she was awarded as the Most Outstanding Campus Journalist among the best of the best campus journalists in the country. She said that all the competitions that she has joined, contributed to her being competitive, confident and grateful for who she is today.
Just like any fresh high school graduate, Michiko had also gone through the which-course-should-I-take dilemma. In college, she was pressured to take up a medical-related course because everyone seemed to be going for it and Mass Communication was not one of her primary choices. But taking that risk to pursue Mass Communication turned out well for her. “Writing classes and broadcasting classes felt like home to me,” she shares.
Michiko is just like the other typical teenager, who enjoys teenage stuff like watching movies and talking to friends about her favorite series, The Game of Thrones. After all, she is like any other girl who just enjoys discovering different fields and things that interest her. She is a sensitive person, but she likes anything out of the ordinary.
The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program is another huge accomplishment she has on her list of achievements. Being able to study abroad and represent Silliman University and the Philippines in a different community is something which Michiko can brag about, but she remains to be a down-to-earth person. Michiko is expected to arrive in Minnesota on the 26th of August and will be back after a year to continue studying her degree in Mass Communication here in Silliman University.
A piece of advice she would like to give to students is, “Having an attitude for gratitude is important because it is what makes people achieve their dreams. You have to realize that no matter how skilled you are, you won’t be who you are without the people who have helped you achieve your goals.”
She chased her dreams and she pursued what she really wanted to do. She did not let any obstacle and pressure bring her down. “I give my 101% in everything and I put everything I learn from my teachers in both heart and soul,” she says.
Here’s a simple lesson we could all remember from the young achiever herself: “What’s in your heart, follow it. It’s in your heart for a reason. Don’t ignore the whispers that may become loud voices.”
By Rhobie Ruaya