Foto: HSS-Auslandsbüro Süd-/Ostasien

Nicole Yu über ihren Umzug von den Philippinen nach Deutschland

A passion for Obazda

Veröffentlicht am 2. Oktober 2021 von Nicole Yu

Nico­le Yu stu­diert an der Uni­ver­si­tät Bonn Public Poli­cy and Gover­nan­ce. Die Phil­ip­pi­ne­rin hat in ihrer Hei­mat bereits Betriebs­wirt­schafts­leh­re stu­diert und wäh­rend die­ser Zeit ihre Lei­den­schaft für Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on und Ent­wick­lungs­po­li­tik ent­deckt. Nach ihrem Abschluss krem­pelt sie ihr Leben kom­plett um.

Sie ver­lässt den siche­ren Pfad der Wirt­schafts­welt, auf dem sie bereits Fuß gefasst hat und macht sich auf den Weg nach Deutsch­land. Sie berich­tet von den Erfah­run­gen, die sie auf ihrer Rei­se gesam­melt hat und den Vor­tei­len, die ein radi­ka­ler Lebens­wan­del haben kann.


The decisi­on to pur­sue grad school wasn’t made over­night. It was a choice four years in the making—four years of pati­ence, con­fu­si­on, under­stan­ding, and discovery.

You see, the Phil­ip­pi­nes is a coun­try brim­ming with tra­di­ti­on. Roles are often set and paths are laid out for the taking. Suc­cess can be easi­ly deter­mi­ned through a defi­ni­ti­ve check­list; each with a set of line­ar steps or check­points to achie­ve in order to be deemed suc­cess­ful. Stu­dy a major, gra­dua­te, get a job in your cho­sen indus­try, climb the ranks, buy a house, and reti­re com­for­ta­b­ly. Pret­ty simp­le and qui­te strai­ght­for­ward. Any attempts to go against the grain are deemed reck­less or foo­lish. Why risk fail­u­re when it’s best to always be on the safe side of things?

Gro­wing up I had no clue what I wan­ted to do. All I knew was this set of inst­ruc­tions that I nee­ded to fol­low. I wasn’t par­ti­cu­lar­ly pas­sio­na­te about anything eit­her. I wasn’t invol­ved in any sport. I didn’t do bal­let clas­ses nor did I learn how to play an instru­ment like most kids my age at the time. I had no spe­ci­fic incli­na­ti­on but what I did have was a gre­at curio­si­ty for things and an open­ness for learning.

I come from a rela­tively simp­le back­ground: my dad is a sea­fa­rer, my mother is a house­wi­fe. I am the youn­gest of two kids—the only girl or “uni­ca hija”, as we Fili­pi­nos would call it. A nor­mal midd­le-class fami­ly in a 15 by 4 meter 2‑storey apart­ment com­plex in the heart of bust­ling Metro Mani­la. Every day star­ted gree­ting us by the usu­al sounds: roos­ters cro­wing at the crack of dawn, coco­nut and “taho” (soy­be­an curd with syrup and tapio­ca typi­cal­ly eaten for bre­ak­fast), ven­dors cal­ling out for cus­to­mers on the streets, and the loud hon­king of cars spee­ding through alleys in hopes of avoiding the drea­ded Mani­la traf­fic. Life was mun­da­ne, but life was also hard. Smo­ke and dust fil­led the pol­lu­t­ed air, debi­li­ta­ting infra­st­ruc­tures are spread across the city, child beggars con­stant­ly race towards the clo­sest pas­serby to ask for lef­tover food or spa­re chan­ge, wages are unjust, and peop­le basi­cal­ly live from paycheck to paycheck.

So natu­ral­ly, I took the age — old ada­ge to heart — that edu­ca­ti­on is the key to a bright future. School had to be trea­ted serious­ly and no sub­ject was ever taken for gran­ted. I felt I had to do my part in ticking off the boxes of my obli­ga­to­ry check­list: attend clas­ses, be on time, pass exams, always do home­work. This, to me, was the only way to thri­ve. I thought that as long as I kept this up, the­re was litt­le room for disap­point­ment. Not­hing could go wrong: all I nee­ded to do was to stay on track.

The years that fol­lo­wed began rewar­ding me for all the hard work and effort I had exer­ted. I was given oppor­tu­nities to stu­dy in pri­va­te insti­tu­ti­ons through grants, I was acco­la­ded for a job well done and even­tual­ly were offe­red to stu­dy in the country’s most nota­ble uni­ver­si­ties. This seri­es of events has only streng­t­he­ned my will that going with the crowd is the way to be, that con­for­mi­ty is king and it was not until uni­ver­si­ty that my per­spec­ti­ve began to change.

Upon ent­e­ring school, I cho­se busi­ness as a major. Some say it’s the most prac­ti­cal opti­on, while others would argue it’s a major one takes when they’re not sure of what they want to do in the future. At that time, it made sen­se to me, becau­se it was one of the pro­grams whe­re finan­cial aid was avail­ab­le. Howe­ver, in retro­spect, the lat­ter appeared to be true. The time I had in uni­ver­si­ty was a jour­ney its­elf. I would descri­be it as a time of lear­ning, unlear­ning, and relearning.

As lec­tures began and I star­ted stu­dy­ing about balan­ce she­ets and finan­cial jar­gon, I found it har­der and har­der to stay focu­sed and inte­res­ted. It was dif­fi­cult for me to deve­lop an appre­cia­ti­on for some­thing I had no real con­nec­tion with. Ins­tead, I saw mys­elf loo­king at extra-cur­ri­cu­lar acti­vi­ties that were more attu­n­ed to my pre­fe­ren­ces and gro­wing pas­si­ons. This was when I deci­ded to swim against the current—the first of many side steps.

I got invol­ved in acti­vi­ties that were way bey­ond my degree pro­gram. I worked as a wri­ter for natio­nal broads­he­ets, beca­me a radio disc jockey at a local FM radio sta­ti­on, and dou­bled my time as a sports broad­cas­ter on natio­nal television—all while stu­dy­ing full-time.

I was also an acti­ve mem­ber of the school com­mu­ni­ty as a lea­der in the stu­dent government, and a com­mit­ted vol­un­teer in various socio-civic endea­vors out­side cam­pus and the metro­po­lis. Peop­le then star­ted to ques­ti­on the decisi­ons I had made. They were con­fu­sed as to why an accoun­ting stu­dent was so inves­ted in com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and out­re­ach ins­tead of stocks and cor­po­ra­ti­ons, and the thing is—I was con­fu­sed too. I didn’t know why I was moti­va­ted to do things like tea­ching, vol­un­tee­ring, wri­ting, and spea­king. What was clear to me was that I loved doing the­se and that the­re was a sen­se of ful­fill­ment each time I was given the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do them. With the­se, I found pur­po­se and rea­son: two things I had never encoun­te­red with anything I had ever done before.

Nevertheless, I mana­ged to stick to my pro­gram and gra­dua­te des­pi­te wea­ring mul­ti­ple hats. Then I was offi­cial­ly in what many dub­bed as the real world, whe­re the pres­su­re to con­form and to go along the strai­ght line was even grea­ter than that wit­hin the con­fi­nes of uni­ver­si­ty. Even­tual­ly decisi­ons had to be made and I found mys­elf stan­ding at the cross­roads, choo­sing bet­ween taking the path towards the illus­trious cor­po­ra­te world or going for what came natu­ral to me: the deve­lo­p­ment sector.

Alt­hough the pull to ser­ve the lat­ter had been grea­ter, I still gave the audit indus­try a try. It didn’t take long for me to rea­li­ze it wasn’t a fit. And I began my search for what felt right. The next thing was being on a pla­ne visi­t­ing dif­fe­rent pla­ces, back­packing throughout Sou­the­ast Asia, and vol­un­tee­ring in remo­te are­as in the Phil­ip­pi­nes and Viet­nam. I worked as a faci­li­ta­tor and men­tor for several youth pro­grams, and atten­ded various ses­si­ons on women empower­ment, diplo­ma­cy, and civic enga­ge­ment. And whilst in the grass­roots, I felt I got the ans­wer I was loo­king for. That ans­wer even­tual­ly led me to app­ly for grad school to stu­dy public poli­cy and gover­nan­ce. I reco­gni­ze that if I wan­ted to work in huma­ni­ta­ri­an aid or deve­lo­p­ment coope­ra­ti­on, I nee­ded to go back to school to build my credi­bi­li­ty as a pro­fes­sio­nal in the sector.

Edu­ca­tio­nal ine­qui­ty has long been a major pro­blem in several deve­lo­ping coun­tries such as the Phil­ip­pi­nes. Alt­hough the Edu­ca­ti­on sec­tor the­re recei­ves most of its fun­ding from the government, the­re is still not enough to accom­mo­da­te or resol­ve the under­ly­ing issu­es. The­re still is a huge lack in resour­ces, faci­li­ties, space and qua­li­fied tea­ching per­son­nel. The­re­fo­re stu­dy­ing abroad appeared to be a via­ble solu­ti­on to gain know­ledge and expe­ri­ence in the field. After exten­si­ve­ly rese­ar­ching coun­tries, insti­tu­ti­ons, and pro­grams, I drew the con­clu­si­on that Ger­ma­ny, par­ti­cu­lar­ly the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bonn, was the place for me—given the country’s repu­ta­ti­on for world-class edu­ca­ti­on, and its exper­ti­se on the intri­caci­es of demo­cra­cy. Which leads me to today: Wri­ting an arti­cle about my expe­ri­ence, while I am loca­ted in Munich, just a few days shy of the begin­ning of clas­ses, over­whel­med by a sen­se of gra­ti­tu­de. In the three weeks I have been here so far, I made a lot of new friends, visi­ted the Hanns- Sei­del- Foun­da­ti­on head­quar­ters, lear­ned how to pro­per­ly eat a ‘Weiss­wurst’ (thanks to a ran­dom ‘Opa’ dres­sed in tra­di­tio­nal garb at ‘Vik­tua­li­en­markt’), I deve­lo­ped an obses­si­on for ‘Obatz­da’, expe­ri­en­ced more of Bava­ri­an cui­sine, explo­red cast­les, and even cele­bra­ted  a Covid-time ver­si­on of the ‘Okto­ber­fest’.

Being immen­se­ly gra­te­ful for all the sup­port the foun­da­ti­on has given me, and for their firm belief in my abi­li­ty to do gre­at things for the world, I was also con­fron­ted with fee­lings of pres­su­re and fear, as it has been exact­ly four years sin­ce I have set foot insi­de the four cor­ners of a class­room. I am worry­ing about still being able to keep up with the load of cour­se­work in the inten­si­ve mas­ter pro­gram, or if I will be able to suc­cess­ful­ly adapt and absorb infor­ma­ti­on quick­ly in a stu­dy not clo­se­ly rela­ted to my major stu­dy. But more than anything, I am exci­ted to embark a new chap­ter in my life. And to final­ly pur­sue a goal I’ve tried so hard to reach for so long. I am loo­king for­ward to dis­co­ver new pla­ces, meet new peop­le and beco­me acquain­ted to new ide­as, while streng­t­he­ning my values and principles.

I feel that the world has given a lot, much of it unde­ser­ved, as I belie­ve, that the­re are peop­le being smar­ter, more hard­wor­king and more talen­ted in dif­fe­rent aspects. I am hum­bled by the oppor­tu­nities I have had the plea­su­re to expe­ri­ence. And with this pri­vi­le­ge, I car­ry the respon­si­bi­li­ty to do my part to pay back and make oppor­tu­nities more avail­ab­le, to tho­se who deser­ve and seek them. Going with the tide has its perks: it pro­vi­des secu­ri­ty, assuran­ce, and prac­ti­ca­li­ty. But lea­ving the usu­al path and chal­len­ging the sta­tus quo is what gives yourself the chan­ce to reach your hig­hest poten­ti­al. Being lost for years was anything but plea­sant. Trea­ding waters with no sen­se of direc­tion can be frus­tra­ting and some­ti­mes even pain­ful. But the return always out­weighs the cost, and it can start with just one side step.