Photo by: LB Times
LRC’s SOAR 2024 sends off 16 outbound exchange students

Sixteen outbound exchange students prepared for their respective international academic journey through the pre-departure orientation hosted by the UPLB Learning Resource Center (LRC), Office of International Linkages (OIL), and the Society of Exchange Students-UP (SExS-UP) SOAR or “Send-off, Onboarding, And Pre-departure Orientation for Outbound Exchange Students” on January 24, 2024.

On its third installment, LRC’s flagship program, SOAR, is designed to equip exchange students with practical tips and invaluable insights for adapting to their host university’s culture.

OIL Director Anna Floresca F. Firmalino emphasized in her welcome remarks that the primary goal of UPLB’s exchange programs is to expose students, faculty, and staff to different cultures and academic systems. 

“[This is] so that we have a wider appreciation of our global landscape. Not just in higher education but also in other important concerns like the economy, environment, tourism, and relationships with other citizens of the world,” she said.

Firmalino expressed her hopes that the students would take full advantage of their programs and serve as UPLB ambassadors while still enjoying themselves.

The first session, “Checklist: Travel Tips and Getting Settled,” reminded students of the necessary travel and medical documents to prepare and relevant items to pack before boarding their flight. 

“It’s these little things of preparation that can make or break all the plans,” said Dr. Maria Claret L. Tsuchiya, international relations officer of the College of Arts and Sciences.

John Joshua A. Azucena, special science teacher at the Philippine Science High School – CALABARZON Region Campus, kicked off the second session (“Connect: Preparing for your Study Abroad”) by displaying some text messages he sent to friends during his first few weeks as a Queen’s University Belfast exchange student. They showed how he was unaware of and struggled to cope with culture shock in the United Kingdom.

“Kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa LRC and sa OIL na meron tayong ganitong [orientation] part for our outbound study abroad students,” Azucena said. He discussed some factors that contribute to culture shock, the stages of culture shock, practical coping strategies, and heartfelt reflections on his experience.

One of LRC’s partner organizations, SExS-UP, was then introduced by its president, Angelo James Fababeir. He proudly shared that the five resource speakers for the breakout session activity were products of previous SOAR orientation programs and expressed hope for more SOAR sessions in the future.

For the final session, “Create: How to make meaningful memories out of your exchange program,” the outbound exchange students were divided into breakout rooms to interact directly with speakers who had studied or were studying in universities abroad.

The five resource persons and the countries where they had been exchange students are Frances Marielle Nicolas,  Korea; Zuriel Gene Micor, Japan; Prince Joemardy Barro, Taiwan; Kate Abulad, Czech Republic; Fae Coleen Lagura, Indonesia; and Darelle Anne Ebron, Thailand.

Danielle Nechaldas, a BS Nutrition junior bound for Tokyo University of Agriculture, expressed appreciation for the accommodating and enthusiastic speakers. “Malayo pa pero marami na ‘kong nagawa, and in progress na rin po lahat.”

LRC OIC Director Gonzalo H. Amante, Jr. wrapped up the orientation with encouraging words for the participants as they cross borders to achieve their goals. “Always remember that things [can] happen if we follow our hearts and react [to] our dreams.”
The SOAR orientation and echo seminars with returning students called “EXchange students’ Challenges Experienced and Lessons Learned (EXCELL) Sharing Series” are part of LRC’s internationalization programs designed to promote excellence, lifelong learning, and resilience among UPLB students. (Jennina Marie Mora)

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