An Interview with Julianna Patricia Varga
Julianna Patricia Varga (DESM 2010 - 2015)
I am Filipina/Hungarian, born in the Philippines and raised on the small island of Boracay. I went to international schools in the Philippines and grew up with English as my mother tongue both at school and at home.
I grew up in an inter-cultural environment and I am still keeping this open-mindedness towards other cultures in my life. After all these years in the Philippines, I moved to Germany for my studies in 2015. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supported me with this move. At the age of 20, I have now completed my bachelor's degree in biology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, following projects abroad, for example a research stay in Cambridge, England. Now, supported by both the DAAD and the Studienstiftung, I am taking up my Masters’ degree in Molecular Biosciences with a major in Cancer Biology in Heidelberg.
Besides studying, I keep myself busy with creating art, especially in the field of photography and design. I was part of the collective and open studio 'the Stu' in Munich for one year and am currently working on a photo microscopy project 'it's a small world' that mixes biology with art.
Why did you enrol in the German School Manila and how long were you there for?
In Boracay, I spent the biggest part of my school years at Brent International School. When I was in grade 6, the school ceased its operations, and BEIS, the Boracay European International School, opened their doors; hence I spent one school year there. In 2010, I had to move because at the time, the school in Boracay only offered classes up to grade 7. Since BEIS was a partner school of the GESM, I received a partial scholarship for the school in Manila. From 2010 to 2015 I was enrolled with GESM and I also completed the IB diploma here.
What kind of conflicts and challenges did you have to overcome?
For me, the change was particularly difficult to suddenly study in another language that was completely new to me. Since most of the subjects were in German from the 8th to the 10th grade, I had extra German lessons outside the teaching hours and had to schedule a little more time at home for my homework. With the language as an obstacle, I found it difficult, especially at the beginning, to feel at home. However, the students and teachers were all very nice, open, and helpful, and whenever necessary everything could be clarified in English.
In addition, of course, I had to get used to the city life. As I grew up in Boracay, everything was completely different here in Manila. However, the years in Manila were definitely a very important time for me, during which I learned a lot, both in and out of school.
Did the years of schooling at DESM shape you personally? Would you be a different person if you had not had this experience? To what extent? Is there an experience that expresses this in particular?
The time at GESM had a big impact on me. What fascinated me most about the school is how inter-cultural it was, and still is. Not only did I learn German at GESM, but I also had the opportunity to meet many great personalities. Being surrounded by so many people with different cultural backgrounds was the perfect atmosphere to develop positively and inter-culturally. Thus, the adjustment to yet another new country was made easier, when I started my biology degree in 2015 in Munich.
What is particularly important to you in terms of education and upbringing? To what extent did you find this at the GESM back then?
What is particularly important to me is that I find the initiative within, to learn something that really interests me. Obviously, at school you do not care equally about all subjects, but at least you should understand that a varied education helps to maintain a wide knowledge and it gives you the ability to learn something new with different methods. Thus, one remains both interested and committed. This is exactly what GESM offers, all the way to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP). What I appreciate most about my time at GESM is that I learned how to work most effectively. Especially during the IB DP, I’ve learned how to practice good time management. I think the ability to plan the time well is the perfect preparation for further education at the university. Of course, this is also important for many other aspects of life.
What do the Philippines as a country and the people there mean to you today?
The Philippines is my home. My mother is Filipina, and my father a Hungarian who spent a large part of his childhood in Germany. However, I grew up in the Philippines speaking English and German. So, I identify with different cultures, but what characterizes me is the Philippines as my home. In my opinion, however, it is extremely important to experience something new, especially other cultures.
My parents are still living in Boracay; but I would like to explore the world in the next few years. But of course, it's nice to know that the Philippines is always there as my home, a place where I have a family background and can always come back to.
How do you explain the fact that the Philippines is a largely unknown country for Europeans and tend to have a bad image?
What could be done to make the Philippines more popular and to revise the bad image?
Of course, a country is not only characterized by positive things; The image of a country consists of the impressions of many people and is therefore very complex to define. With the Philippines as a developing country, it is particularly important to not only bring the positive sides into the spotlight, but also to remain honest in the narration of one’s own experience. Everybody views a country differently, and in my opinion, the Philippines has a lot of positive aspects that easily cover up its negative sides. In order to find these positive sides, having the right information is crucial, and so is being open-minded – the best way is to experience everything yourself - before forming an opinion.