From left: Ronghua Cao, Ronto Katsura, Steve Akomo, Stewen Jain

LANGUAGE and culture are the main identities that set a country unique but these also pose as problems to foreigners in a new environment.

Foreign students enrolled in UST are no exception.

Ronghua Cao, a Chinese journalism sophomore who has stayed in the Philippines for over a year, admitted he is having a hard time communicating with his classmates because he learned the English language at a later age.

“I cannot use the Filipino language to talk with them and try to understand what they are saying and my English isn’t that good as well,” Cao told the Varsitarian.

To aid its foreign students, UST’s Department of Filipino offers a special Filipino curriculum aimed at addressing issues concerning language barriers and learning the Filipino language easier and faster.

Alvin Reyes, chairman of the UST Department of Filipino, said this program which started in the early 2000s, is designed to help foreign students understand the language easily by giving them a curriculum that is different from a regular Filipino class.

“[The curriculum serves as an] effective scaffold in communicating [using] the national language [through the] rich practical activities and cultural immersion,” he said.

The special course is headed by Assoc. Prof. Arthur Casanova, who has taught foreign students l from Brent School of Manila and has been a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The course is optional for foreign students and the Office of the Registrar assists them in dropping their regular Filipino classes and enrolling in the alternative course that the school offers. Currently, there are 39 students enrolled in the special Filipino class.

“We study very simple sentences and do activities like role playing and practic[ing] our vocabulary. I want to learn English and Filipino so I think this class makes us familiar with the language,” Cao said.

Ronto Katsura, a Japanese commerce senior who is also enrolled in the special class, said the course helped him understand lessons in other subjects.

“Since it’s easier than the regular class, we could learn without the stress,” he said.

Thomasian education and culture
The history, culture and traditions that UST has are also some of the factors that brought in foreign students like education senior Kim Dong Min.

“Unlike Korean universities, UST celebrates Christmas on a large scale and [that] impressed me a lot,” he said.

Korean communication arts senior Park Joo Yeon added that being the Catholic university of the Philippines, UST has impressive traditions and celebrations which are also his reasons to enroll in the University.

“I am actually proud of UST [because] it is the most traditional school in Asia, [and since] it is a Catholic school, all of our lessons and seminars are related to religious morals and I learn a lot from it,” she said.

Thomasian athlete and Cameroonian Steve Akomo, in contrast to other foreign students, was recruited by a University representative he met in Cebu who gave him an opportunity to experience the best of both worlds of acquiring quality education in UST at the same time doing what he loves which is basketball.

“[I] got a chance to be able to study in one of the oldest universities in Asia [and] this is a big opportunity for me because I have the chance to [acquire] high education from skilled professors,” he said.

Second home
UST International Students Association (ISA), a socio-cultural organization that promotes amity and unity of diverse culture within UST, offers activities that will help all students to further understand the Philippine culture.

“I spoke to a member of mine, he said that it is difficult because they need to understand and learn what they’re going through and that’s where [we] come into play, to help them adjust gradually and have someone they can relate to,” ISA President Stewen Jain said.

Jain said that the programs and activities offered by the University like the International Food Fair, Cultural Night and Ask Me About my Country, to all the international students through the ISA made them feel like they are in a faraway home where they can still practice their cultural traditions.

“Our activities are centered on [familiarizing] the Philippines but at the same time, we have an activity where we are able to [share] a piece of our culture to [other] Thomasians,” he said.

In the University, Park has experienced celebrating both the Korean and the Philippine culture as she became vice president of a university-wide Korean organization in her sophomore year.

The Office of the Registrar recorded a total of 371 foreign students enrolled this academic year, majority of which are from Asian countries.

The Graduate School houses the majority of foreign students, accommodating a total of 57, followed by the Faculty of Sacred Theology and College of Commerce and Business Administration with 50 and 42 foreign students. A.C.A. Gonzales AND Katrina Isabel C. Gonzales


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