European Union offers scholarships for Filipino students for $1,330 -$3,250 allowance

Filipino students will be treated to wide-ranging opportunities for study and travel in Europe at a higher education fair to be held by the European Union's (EU) Delegation to the Philippines next month.

Dubbed as "Brighter Prospects," the European Higher Education Fair Manila 2012 will be featuring a total of 22 European higher education institutions at the exhibit. The second in the country, the fair will be open to the public for free from 2:30 pm to 8 pm at the Peninsula Hotel on November 14, 2012.

Julian Vassallo, political counselor at the EU Delegation to the Philippines, described the event as a milestone in strengthening the people to people links and relations between the EU and the Philippines, particularly in the area of higher education, which he said was a priority for the EU.

"The EU is modern, open, sophisticated and fun and we want to open the doors for Filipino students to enjoy this," Vassallo said in a press briefing held at the Oakwood Center, in Mandaluyong City. Vassallo said that participating European institutions would come from eight EU member states—Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Vassallo, in explaining the programs for students, noted that while Europe takes pride in its reputation as a home of world-class universities, what they wanted to highlight was the unique cultural experience and dynamic multinational environment that it offered. He said that in Europe, universities were "very much embedded in the towns and villages" and that more than the interesting courses they offered, scholars would experience living with the European local communities and living the European life.

Vassallo also noted that prior to the fair proper; an EU-Philippines symposium would also take place. He said the event would solidify partnerships between European and Philippine higher education institutions by providing a venue for stakeholders to discuss how Philippine institutions could facilitate working partnerships within the European higher education framework.

Filipino officials from the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education would also be invited to discuss the state of play in higher education, the rationale of and status of the current K-to-12 initiative, among others. 

Erasmus Mundus Scholarship

Vassallo noted that this year's fair was particularly significant because it marks 25 years of the EU's Erasmus Mundus Scholarship programme, which he said was one of the most successful European programs in the last 56 years of the EU.

He said that apart from the scholarships offered by the individual member-states, which would be present at the fair, the Erasmus Mundus was a major option for Filipino students, academics, and researchers who cannot afford to finance themselves and carry out their study in Europe.

He noted that the scholarship covers air travel to Europe, tuition fees, and a monthly living allowance of between 55,000-135,000 depending on the course.

"Since 2004, almost 200 Filipino scholars, students, and researchers have enjoyed the benefit of what I could say as rather a generous program of the EU," Vassallo said.

Vassallo noted that a particularly "pleasant" aspect of the scholarship was that it allowed students to pursue their studies in two or three European universities and campuses, giving them the chance to have a taste of the different approaches of the European universities.

Filipino enjoying the first world

Vilma Del Rosario, described by Vassallo as a pride of the Erasmus Mundus programme and was also present at the press briefing, said that three words summarized her experience as an Erasmus Mundus Scholar—learning, sharing, and discovering.

Del Rosario, who now works as a project management specialist at the Energy Development Corporation, took up her master's degree in strategic planning management under the Erasmus Mundus Programme. She stayed in Europe from September 2006 to February 2008 and in a span of 16 months, she was able to experience studying in three different European institutions in Italy, Scotland, and Sweden.

Del Rosario noted that while she learned much from the critical issues discussed by the institutions, she realized that what she enjoyed the most was her experience of getting out of her comfort zone and learning and appreciating different kinds of people.

She said that their batch comprised of 26 individuals from different cultures and educational backgrounds, and she was the only Filipina.

"Truly there is joy and challenge in a multicultural mix. For 16 months we shared the pains and pleasures of life in Europe, and engaged each other in heated debates and discussions while coming to respect each other's differences," she said.

She also said that more than the perks of studying and traveling, the experience was also about discovering one's self in a dynamic and multicultural setting.

"It was a balancing act of appreciating the system and the progress of the first world and experiencing their culture without losing my identity as a Filipino," she said.

She said that the great possibilities opened for scholars challenged their choices and decisions, but that she chose to return to the Philippines and use her acquired skills back home.

"I now work at a renewable energy company providing reliable energy sources. The knowledge, skills, and competencies I have acquired have helped me now in facilitating the company's journey into continuous improvement in formulating strategies for its implementation," she said.

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