In June 2019, Small World Christian School Foundation (SWCSF) located in Baguio, Philippines participated in their third consecutive NZ Cultural Immersion Programme. For one lucky student, the programme was especially memorable and life-changing. Carlo, 18, was chosen as the first-ever recipient of the new SSNZ Scholarship. This initiative was launched by Mr Matthew Harris as a way to give back to the Philippines and to help students who would otherwise not be able to participate in the programmes offered by SSNZ.
This was Carlo’s first overseas trip, and I had the chance to speak with him about his kiwi adventure shortly after his arrival back into the Philippines.
SSNZ: What insights did you gain about the NZ culture from your trip?
Carlo: Having no experience of travelling abroad whatsoever, I tried to have as little expectations as I can get. With this, I was able to go to New Zealand with an open mind learning things that are different from the culture I grew up with here in the Philippines. Throughout the trip in New Zealand I could not help myself to be in awe seeing the culture in New Zealand, one thing that caught my interest was the fact that the people from New Zealand are very respectful. During the trip, I was placed in situations where I was able to see the general kindness of the people and how much they respect me and other people. One small event that happened was as simple as crossing the road, whenever my friends and I cross the road here in the Philippines, we always have to let the cars pass by even when we’re on the pedestrian lane, however, I was shocked when the cars really stop for a few seconds just to let the people cross the road safely.
SSNZ: What school activity did you like the most in NZ?
Carlo: My favourite school activity was probably meeting the students for the first time and seeing the Haka in person. Seeing the Haka in person is probably one of my favourite moments during the trip. I’ve seen the Haka dance on the internet before and I’ve always been interested in it and I’ve even researched about it way before I even knew I was going to New Zealand. Other things like learning how to speak Maori and doing cultural things were also very fun for me and I enjoyed it a lot.
SSNZ: What are the similarities/differences between the BMC school community and that of SWCSF?
Carlo: One of the things that I noticed right away was the fact the teachers were very close to their
students. When I still studied in Small World Christian School Foundation, one of the best
attributes of Small World is the close relationship between teachers and students. I was able to see the same thing in BMC, the teachers were very kind and the students seemed like they really know their teachers.
SSNZ: What was your homestay experience like?
Carlo: My homestay experience was lovely, even though I was a bit nervous at first, I am very happy they became my homestay “parents”. I can’t express my gratitude enough to Mr and Mrs Nicol for taking me in and providing me with a place to stay and food to eat. Even to their two daughters, Amy and Paige, who made me feel like I was welcomed and talked to me whenever they could.
SSNZ: Describe your first time being in the snow?
Carlo: My first time being in the snow was very cold but very delightful. The white-tipped mountains and the cold weather was a beautiful view and very relaxing. It was fun experiencing how to ski and doing all sorts of activities I wouldn’t be able to experience here in the Philippines.
SSNZ: What did your trip mean to you and your family?
Carlo: My family and I are very thankful for having this opportunity given to me. Never in a million years would I ever imagine going to New Zealand for a vacation and because of SSNZ, I was able to go to a different country and experience a whole new culture. This also opened my eyes to the different cultures around the world.
SSNZ: Describe the moment when you first learnt you were awarded the scholarship?
Carlo: I was caught by surprise when Matthew told me that I was given the scholarship, I told my mom and my dad immediately and they were very surprised as well. I was in shock and I couldn’t believe it at first. Not everyone is able to go to New Zealand for free with all expenses paid, which is why I was very happy and thankful to Matthew for giving me the opportunity to open my eyes and enjoy the trip.
SSNZ: What are your messages to SSNZ and the people of NZ?
Carlo: First and foremost, I would like to give my sincerest gratitude to SSNZ for giving me this scholarship. Matthew, thank you for giving me this opportunity and I would be forever grateful for this experience which I will carry on forever. I would like to thank everyone from BMC for being welcoming and for being hospitable to your guests. Thank you for allowing us one of the best times of our lives and showing us your culture.
SSNZ has always endeavoured to make international programmes available to as many students from a range of different backgrounds as possible. These encouraging words were very much appreciated by the SSNZ team, who will continue to give more opportunities to well-deserving students like Carlo.