Filipino Student Discovers America Beyond the Media

July 30, 2013

Gabriel Billones, an aspiring journalist from the Philippines, expected American culture to resemble what he saw in the movies.


Gabriel B. Gabriel Billones during his Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) in New Media and Journalism Program

“My views changed in a positive way as I realized that movies portray Americans very differently than what I experienced in the U.S.,” says Gabriel, who spent several weeks during the summer of 2012 in Indiana for  the Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) Program in New Media and Journalism. “The immersions, home stays, and even the simple living that we had in the university made me realize that there’s so much to appreciate about American culture.”

Gabriel was especially impressed with the diversity of the United States and with cultural celebrations, especially Americans’ patriotism on the Fourth of July.

“I was amazed with how the Americans really value this Day of Independence, whether it’s watching fireworks or listening to concerts” Gabriel says. “That is quite different from how we spend Independence Day in the Philippines, where people often just stay in their houses or have family time since it’s a holiday.”

“Even though the American and the Filipino culture differ in a lot of aspects, we also have some commonalities, one of which is being hospitable to visitors. In most of my visits, I’ve encountered a lot of hospitable Americans who are very welcoming and smile at us.”

Although Gabriel loved his time in Indiana, his most memorable moment was his trip to New York City.

“It may sound cliché for people to say that New York is amazing, but being in New York made me feel that I really achieved something,” says Gabriel. “Being able to enter The New York Times newspaper building and talk to editors, who are just virtual entities to me miles away in the Philippines, gave me the best feeling in the world.”

For those thinking of doing the SUSI program, Gabriel stresses that applications “must be prepared.”

“Always plan ahead,” says Gabriel.

“And the best way to have a strong application for a program is to be true to yourself. Be clear about your goals. If your goals are clear, creating a strong application will always be the result.”