Why did you decide to come to the US to pursue your degree and, specifically, how did you decide to come to Philly, Drexel and materials?
There are only a few universities offering graduate degrees in Food Science and Engineering in the Philippines and the opportunities of doing interdisciplinary research work is very limited with little or no government funding at all. These are definitely the major driving forces that made me decide to pursue an M.S./Ph.D. here in the US.
My decision to apply to Drexel University came after a long search of universities where I could possibly do interdisciplinary research in a more metropolitan area. I was accepted by the MS Food Science program of Drexel but continued to look for a research lab in engineering where I could pursue food packaging-related research. A term after, I was accepted by Dr. Caroline Schauer of materials to work with biopolymer fibers that have great potential for use as filtration devices and antimicrobial packaging systems.
Moreover, I've always planned to be on the northern east coast not only due to my personal desire to live independently in a city with a four-season climate (which we don't have in the Philippines), but also due to the region's rich history infused with vibrant cultural and demographic diversity.
What are your favorite things about Philly?
The three major things I like about being in Philly are: 1) that it is a metropolitan area but is not too populated and polluted unlike other big US cities; 2) with the many universities in the area, it is home to both young and seasoned educated professionals and international graduate students, which allows for great networking opportunities and "cultural-enlightenment"; and 3) the Phillies - watching live baseball games at Citizens Bank Park is unlike any other American pastime.
What is your typical schedule like during the week and weekend?
My weekdays are often spent doing either laboratory or TA work, going to classes or writing/reading research papers. At certain times of the month, if there are outreach activities related to the department, I will often volunteer to perform slime and foam demos.
As for weekends, I made it a point to spend them doing extracurricular activities. Most of the time I travel to different cities and visit friends and relatives, visit local spots, watch annual shows, to the beach or mountains, check out local restaurants, and visit town fairs. At times, my weekends are spent attending conferences that are out of state or baking cookies and experimenting with various recipes with my housemates.
What do you find are the biggest differences between your home country and the US?
Philippines, a developing Asian country, is so much different from the US. The top three differences are that first, the US has advanced transportation and communication systems. Though the Philippines is considered the texting capital of the world, it is still a bit behind the US in terms of the use of the web, email or social networking sites in disseminating information. Secondly, almost all activities here are dependent on the weather. Coming from a tropical country, I was not so used to checking the weather and temperature every day before I leave the house. Lastly, Americans are so accustomed to looking for or expecting convenience, which I believe, can be costly. Filipinos have seen poverty and I believe improvisation, creativity, hard work, and determination are constantly being instilled in the younger generation so that they will know how to cope, survive any inconvenience, and be successful. They often try to save resources even if it means giving up some products that would offer convenience.
What are your plans after graduation?
I intend to pursue a 1-2 year post-doctoral position after graduation. In about 5 years, I would like to see myself as a junior faculty doing interdisciplinary research work that is focused in biomaterials for filtration and active food packaging.
How do you feel your Drexel materials degree will prepare you for your post-graduation plans?
The numerous opportunities and experiences given by Drexel materials coupled with my research advisors' training and advice has greatly equipped me for my post-graduation plans. I'm confident that, after my graduation, I'll be ready to immerse myself in more in-depth interdisciplinary research work.
Do you have any advice for international students looking to study in the US?
Read, review and carefully evaluate all aspects of doing graduate studies in the US. I personally suggest asking current students that are already in the university or research labs about what they think about the school, area, advisor, community, and international student support from the university itself.