Nestled in a cozy book at the corner of a cafe is 20-year-old Filipina exchange student Mariel Lopez. Studying Communication for a semester in Ateneo de Manila University, Mariel is originally from Aurora, Canada, who has often found her herself visiting the country she has since left and loved since she was five years old.
Mariel was born in Mandaluyong Medical Center and spent the first five years of her life raised in a small townhouse in Quezon City. Following her father’s desire to be independent from the family business, their family, along with three children moved to Canada, where her two other siblings were born.
Currently, Mariel has fully immersed herself back to her home country, as she connects with the locals as well as students on exchange program. Jumping back from Canada and the Philippines was something Mariel has always struggled to balance as she constantly tries to balance the cultures of both countries.
“Exchange was such a fun, uplifting, and memorable experience. Meeting and becoming friends with Filipinos as well as other exchange students was so the highlight of my time here.’ Mariel says, ‘Also, spending time with my family was really rooting experience.”
Mariel’s parents as well as her three younger siblings moved back to the country last 2017 when her grandfather passed away and her father continued to help in their family business of concrete.
Before coming back to the Philippines to study, it was always just her and her brother, Augusto, studying in Canada.
“I think I experience cultural exchange different from the other foreigners because I look at it from an entirely different perspective. I’m reconnecting to my own culture and experiencing everything first hand, it’s like making up for the years I was in Canada.” She says, recalling the semester that has recapped.
“The most beautiful part of all this for me is seeing what my life could have been if my family never moved. I think I would be a completely different person.’Mariel says in thought, ‘But the good thing is that even if I am this eclectic mix of two cultures is that I have people to help me navigate my way around the lifestyle of being Filipino-Canadian.”
After Mariel’s semester in Ateneo, she hopes to stay here for a few more months until going back to her university in Canada, although she hopes to settle down in the Philippines after she graduates. “I will always love this country, and this is a place that I consider my home.”