For two Palaweña scholars who finished their Master’s Degree in Mental Health Education this year, studying at the Hainan Normal University (HNU) in Hainan, China was a life changing experience .
Kate Adrianne Sy, who hails from Narra, is now a registered psychometrician. Kath Cañete, from Puerto Princesa City, is now a registered social worker. They were among the first batch of scholars of the Provincial Government of Palawan (PGP) sent to study in Hainan, China in 2018.
Sy graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology at St. Scholastica College Manila in 2013 and served as psychometrician in Ateneo de Davao University while Cañete is a product of Palawan State University (PSU).
Sy said studying abroad helped her to explore and appreciate the culture and tradition of their host country.
“In general ay masaya, hindi lang ako natututo ng lessons kundi pati ng culture ng China, kung papaano sila nabubuhay dito, new environment. Every day may nadi-discover ka na bago. But at the same time mahirap dahil malayo ka sa family at friends,” she said.
Cañete said studying abroad helped her gain a deeper and wider outlook in life.
“It may sound exaggerated but for me it is life changing. Marami akong natutunan at mas lumawak yung pananaw ko sa buhay,” Cañete said.
Challenge in HNU
The two consider the language barrier as their biggest challenge while studying abroad.
Sy said although they studied Chinese language for one year, they still had to make many adjustments living in a foreign country.
“Difference talaga ang language. Mayroon din naman marunong mag-English pero since nandito kami ay kailangan naming mag-aral ng Chinese. Although one year kami nag-aral ng language ay mahirap pa rin talaga makasabay sa lessons and kagaya ng thesis ay kailangan isulat sa Chinese. Dapat mas masipag ka kasi iba ang challenge na pinagdadaanan mo,” she said.
Cañete said she had to deal with homesickness despite being in constant communication with her family. But she also realized that there were many opportunities abroad.
“Masasabi kong mas challenging and I have to go an extra mile dahil na rin sa language barrier na nakakaapekto sa pag-aaral ko. Di rin maiiwasan na ma homesick kahit pa may constant communication with family. Pero ang kagandahan rin naman ay matututo ka ng ibang language, maa-appreciate mo lalo ‘yong ibang culture at mare-realize mo na may magagandang oportunidad pa para sa’yo sa labas ng bansa,” she said.
Sy said one of her unforgettable experiences in HNU was their first day because they struggled in reading and writing Chinese words.
“Maraming nangyaring unforgettable experiences namin kagaya ng first day namin sa school na para kaming mga bata na nagsisimulang magbasa ng words, ng sounds, mag-sulat. We had to start from scratch,” Sy said.
She also said she was given a chance to conduct a lecture in Hainan middle school and provide individual counselling to Chinese students.
“Then noong nag-intership ako sa Hainan middle school at nag-discuss ako ng psychology class, buong period ‘yon in Chinese. ‘Yong school na ‘yon ay para siyang middle school in the province where we were given a chance na mag-lecture at magbigay ng individual counselling sa mga Chinese. Super memorable ‘yon kasi unang-una mga Chinese ‘yon,” Sy added.
For Cañete, one of her unforgettable experiences was joining the language competition where she was able to represent the Filipino Culture through cultural dance.
“’Yong pagkakataon na naging bahagi ako ng Chinese Language Competition ng aming unibersidad dahil sumali ‘yong kapwa ko Pilipino sa kompetisyon na ito. Bukod sa araw-araw lang na klase, nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataon ulit na makapagsayaw ng ating cultural dance at Chinese cultural dance kasama ang iba pang Pinoy at nirerepresenta namin ang Pilipinas,” Cañete said.
Effect of Pandemic
Sy said the pandemic also brought challenges to their life as students although the island of Hainan was not greatly affected by COVID-19. There were many adjustments, including the handling of online classes.
“’Yong pandemic, since nasa Hainan kami at island na nakahiwalay ay hindi sobrang lala ng COVID-19 dito. Nag-online class kami, okay naman kasi mabilis ang internet dito, lahat ng instructions ay binibigay naman. Although kailangan magadjust kasi ‘yong language barrier pa rin,” she said.
Cañete said she regularly experienced anxiety attacks and difficulty in online classes during the pandemic.
She was worried she might get infected by the deadly virus that was why she had a hard time sleeping. When she coughs or experiences itchy throat, she would immediately think it’s Covid.
“Noong nag-uumpisa pa lang yung pandemic, halos araw-araw akong may anxiety. Takot at worry na baka magka-Covid kami. Hirap din ako sa pagtulog noong mga panahong ‘yon at konting ubo or pangangati lang ng lalamunan sobrang natataranta na ako. Tingin ko dahil sa sobrang anxiety kaya ako nagkasinat noon,” she said.
“’Yong classes naging online na, sobrang struggle din kasi ikaw mismo kailangan mo i-manage yung oras mo. Napakadali rin antukin o ma-distract during online classes kasi nga nasa kwarto ka lang at sobrang komportable. Pero all throughout, nananalangin ako for His protection at guidance. Prayer at dedikasyon para ma-overcome yung struggles,” Cañete added.
As a scholar, Sy vowed to be a good example to the Palaweños and to future scholars.
She also said that she will be able to help the province of Palawan in its problem in mental health through different activities.
Sy also encouraged all sectors to be involved in different interventions to address mental health challenges in their areas.
“I’ll try my best to be a good example as a scholar sa mga kababayan natin d’yan lalo na sa Narra. Na kahit small town lang ay pwede makatapos ng master’s sa ibang bansa. Willing to share my experiences and learnings din para maka-prepare ang mga future scholars,” she said.
“To solve that ay very important ang information dissemination lalo na kung paano made-stigmatize [ang mental health problem]. Kailangan mas maraming tao ang nakakalam lalo na maraming misconception about mental health. Very important po ito, kailan government, schools, hospitals at hindi lang private companies,” Sy added.
Cañete emphasized the importance of mental health, particularly among young people who are battling depression.
She said mental health should be given attention and properly addressed to save lives.
“During internship namin sa isang senior high school, na-remind ako na ‘yong mga kabataan sa ganitong edad ay nakakaranas na ng depression, at anxiety lalo na pressure sa pag-aaral at from family na rin nila. Di lang nabibigyang-pansin o pagpapahalaga ng iba yung pinagdadaanan nila kasi iniisip nila na baka normal lang naman ito o takot sila na ma-judge,” she said.
“Base sa natutunan ko rito, magandang idea na magkaroon ng psychology class ang mga high school. Kagaya rito, nagkakaroon sila ng kaalaman at nagiging mas aware papaano ma manage ang pressure, stress, papaano ang positive self-talk, at marami pang iba na maaring maging dahilan ng o simula ng mental health problem. Mas maiintindihan din ng mga kabataan na hindi dapat ikahiya or ikatakot ang paghingi ng tulong,” she added.
The scholarship in Hainan Normal University was a part of the Sisterhood Program among the PGP, Provincial Government of Hainan, and People’s Republic of China that started in 2018.