Recently our UNE Sydney International Student Advisor, Genevieve Stewart, caught up with current student Andrea Vilaray. In their interview Andrea sheds some light on her background, studying at UNE, life in Sydney and her animal-loving goal of meeting a quokka. Read on for more about Andrea’s story. 

Gen: Hi Andrea! Could you please introduce yourself for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you yet? 

Andrea: Hello! I’m Andrea. I’m originally from Manila, Philippines but I now reside in a province called Nueva Vizcaya. I finished my undergrad in June 2018 and was offered a government work two months after I graduated. After almost a year of working, an opportunity to pursue my masters here in Australia was presented to me. Seven months later, I am now in my first year as a Master of Business Administration (International) student at UNE Sydney.

Gen: You’re now studying a Master of Business Administration at UNE, but where and what did you study before in your undergraduate degree?

Andrea: I finished my undergraduate degree in University of the Philippines Baguio campus wherein I received my Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences. In my program, I took up Economics as my major and Political Science as my minor. My university is one of the top-performing universities in the Philippines and the students are trained to do everything with honor and excellence. The education they provide their students are deemed to be competent and I’m grateful that I was able to experience that kind of challenge for four wonderful years. Just like UNE Sydney, UP Baguio is a constituent campus of the UP System which was located in Baguio City, an urban life located in the mountains of the Cordillera. Before I started with my undergraduate, I had anxiety of moving out of the comfort of our home in the province. But later on, I realized that Baguio, with its cool weather and pine trees, has the perfect amount of rural and urban life and it made me feel less homesick.

Gen: Is there anything specifically you really enjoy studying and find interesting?

Andrea: In most Filipino high schools, the students are required to take a career assessment examinations in order to help the takers in choosing the career path they want to pursue. When I got my results, it suggested that I should pursue a career related to Psychology. I have always been interested in the way people think and the reasons behind their actions. It was initially my choice for my undergraduate course but eventually, I found myself wanting to study the social sciences as a whole. This led me to choosing Economics and Political Science as my major and minor, respectively. Up until today, I still have the curiosity on the things behind people’s actions but I found them more interesting with economic and political perspectives.

Gen: What made you interested in what you study?

Andrea: In my undergrad, we were taught that humans are innately social beings which, in most ways, makes us different from animals. The way we make our decisions have always been a curiosity for me because for every bit of our everyday lives, we choose from options presented to us, we decide. In order to make the world a better place, there must be a way to influence our decision-making skills by studying how and why we practice them. With the lessons I acquired from Economics, I found the business sector really interesting because it is one of the things that make the markets move. Under the MBA program, I realized that it’s essential to study how businesses manage their workforce and somehow influence the decision of the consumers.

Gen: How many Languages do you speak?

Andrea: I speak 3 languages: Filipino(Tagalog), English, and Ilocano. I have been speaking Tagalog since I was born and English was instilled to me as early as my kindergarten education, just like any Filipino kids. Ilocano, on the other hand, is the native language in my province where I reside now. My father is the only fluent Ilocano speaker in our family but my mother is Tagalog, so I wouldn’t say I’m fluent enough to communicate with other Ilocano speakers. It’s safe to say that I’m able to understand under context.

Gen: Are the way classes are delivered here in Australia different to back home?  

Andrea: The ways the universities in the Philippines and Australia deliver education greatly differ. Back in my university, students are expected to be competent. I can say that we are required more assessments per subject in the Philippines. I don’t think there is an average number of school works we’re asked to do because the grading system is cumulative. The students are graded based on various ways – surprise quizzes, random assignments, and even our class participation (recitations) is also largely considered. The only assessment that is planned is our examinations. So it was a total culture shock for me when I started the trimester here. My training back in my uni helped in some ways when I needed to do things under pressure. Another difference I could think is that here in UNE, we are encouraged to do self-study since everything can be accessible online. In the Philippines, we are also asked of that but it’s more crucial to attend classes and to participate since we also get marks for our activity inside the classroom. My former uni’s online systems are only developed for the enrolment processes and viewing of grades. Overall, I think the main difference between the two lies on what skills they encourage the most but I believe that the two education systems only pushes for the excellence amongst students.

Gen: How has it been adjusting to life in Australia?

Andrea: I’m currently living with my aunt, her husband, my four lovely cousins, and the cutest family dog. They are basically family and they’ve helped me adapt to the Aussie culture. They taught me words like Maccas and mates, which are apparently two very important words in this country. 😅 Before the classes started, they toured me to see the city and shared with me some short tips on how to survive in Australia 101. It feels like I’m not really 6,000 miles away from home since the house is still basically a Filipino household. 

Gen: Was there any clichés you had heard about Australia before you came?

Andrea: I have heard before that wildlife here in Australia is sort of un-contained. For example, when someone is just simply walking around, there would be random snakes or spiders that are seen around. Fortunately, I haven’t witnessed random reptiles and arthropods on the sidewalks yet. The only wildlife I’ve only encountered are birds and they are really loud here compared to the Philippines. 😅

Gen: Do you have any goals that you aim to achieve whilst here in Australia?

Andrea: I’ve been to some of the typical tourist places like the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge but due to the pandemic and in obedience to the rules by the government, I’m not able to do more touristy activities to totally have that “Australian experience”. When all of this is over and everything’s back to normal, I would like to see some kangaroos, koala, and quokka and take selfies with them. That would make my animal-loving heart happier.  

Gen: What is one touristy thing in Sydney you would recommend doing?

Andrea: Like I mentioned, I haven’t done plenty of touristy things due to the pandemic brought by COVID-19. But from all the things I’ve experienced since I arrived here, I would recommend walking around the city, specifically around the Circular Quay area. And when you feel yourself wanting to take a rest, buy yourself a frozen yogurt from Royal Copenhagen Ice Cream and enjoy the seaside view.

Gen: What is one touristy thing in Sydney that you would not recommend?

Andrea: I would recommend not using cars when exploring around Sydney. Not only because it’s environment-friendly, but it’s more fun to walk around and use the public transportation to really experience the Sydney vibe. I have a soft spot for vintage buildings and rural sceneries so it was a nicer feeling to walk than to be inside a vehicle.

Gen: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you here in Australia?

Andrea: The funniest thing that’s happened to me here was when I used the bus for the first time alone. I was going home from school and decided to try the bus that day. I was already instructed where to stop so I felt confident that I can pull it off. When I can tell I was near the stop, I pressed the stop button but to my cluelessness, it was not the right stop and I pressed too early. Since I was too shy to tell the bus driver of my situation, I just let it go and got off the bus. I had to walk home from that stop and it was really hot that day. I was tired and frustrated when I got home but I find that experience funny now. One thing I learned from that day: Always look at your TripView app.

Gen: What is one thing you wished people knew about you?

Andrea: I am one of those people who believes that “on time is late”. I have been always arriving at my meetings minutes (sometimes an hour) early. I’ve never been late on my classes back in undergrad and also when I was still working, unless of course there was an emergency. I think this is because of how I was raised when I was a child but in the bigger picture, I realized that it’s important to respect other people’s time. It’s being sensitive of other people’s agenda and acknowledging the idea that I’m not their only schedule for that day or certain time so I like to make most of the provided time scheduled for me.


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