For Americans choosing to study abroad in Asia, living in the Philippines may be a good place to start. Not only is the country incredibly beautiful, but Filipinos also speak fluent English as a result of the 49-year American occupation. This is one of the country’s greatest advantages for international and US travelers alike.
Home to more than 61,000 foreign students, the Philippines offers a unique experience for those wanting to study engineering or medicine. The majority of students are from South Korea, China, or the United States and are looking to expand their global experience at an affordable cost.
What to Expect from the People
According to Time Consult, the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has an unblemished track record of racial harmony between Americans and the locals.
Hospitality is also one of the many great qualities of Filipinos. They certainly know how to treat guests in their country and it shows through their generosity. The people are incredibly friendly and you will be hard pressed not to see them smiling. It’s just the Pinoy way.
Mall culture is a big part of life when living in the Philippines, because Filipinos love to shop! So much that so that a SM Mall of Asia can be found on almost every street corner if you are staying in Metro Manila.
The Specifics of Life in the Philippines
Cost of Living
According to The Informatics Group, “one can comfortably live on $25 per day” in the Philippines. In most cases, that equates to 50 to 60 percent less than westernized countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, or England. However, this rate doesn’t apply to everyone’s lifestyle. When planning your budget, consider the following items:
- Accommodations ($100 – $1,000 per month)
- Utilities ($30 – $150 per month)
- Food ($250 – $750 per month)
- Transportation ($.50 – $5 per round trip ride)
- Clothing ($100 – $1,000 per month)
- Telecommunications ($25+ per month)
- School Fees ($3,500 – $5,000 per year)
The local currency is the Philippine Peso. It typically exchanges at 45p for every $1. All stores and establishments will accept this form of currency, in addition to all major credits, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club.
Selecting a local cellular provider is suggested while staying in the Philippines. Roaming calls and data can become quite expensive if you don’t switch to a local plan. The Philippines offers three service providers – Globe, Smart, and Sun. Each comes with a range of telephone and Internet access options. Prepaid cards are most common, which allow for unlimited access and start at 50p or $1.07 per day, or roughly $32 per month.
Dining out and frequenting bars is a big part of the social scene in the big cities. Fried foods are a particular favorite of Filipinos, especially delectable chicken and pork. They even have delivery from KFC.
You will also see halo-halo available in most small street shops, combining an array of ingredients like rice, milk, ube ice cream, beans, and gummy candy. The treat is highly representative of Filipino culture, which they consider to be a hodge-podge of other nations.
In addition to fried pork and halo-halo, expect rice, pancit (a thin rice noodle dish) and fresh fruit smoothies with almost every meal.
What to Wear
The weather is very hot, humid and rainy throughout the year. You will want to pack light, as the temperature never drops below 70 degrees in Manila.
Casual dress is the norm for most situations, but certain establishments like universities, restaurants or nightclubs may require more formal attire.
With the Spanish influence on Filipino culture, most people identify with being Catholic. Many churches can be found throughout the country as well as religious symbolism in architecture and other establishments.
However, as more Chinese and Indonesian citizens migrate to the Philippines, so do their faiths. You will find Buddhist temples in Chinatown and Islamic mosques scattered around Metro Manila.
While motorcylces, mopeds, and jeepneys are the most common forms of transportation for the locals, cars and the metro rail transit system provide adventurous alternatives. In Manila’s Intramuros, you will often see Kalesas (horse drawn carriages) and pedicabs chauffeuring people around the “walled city.”
Like any country you visit…be careful and stay alert. Know where your embassies are located and inform them of your stay ahead of time. Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings, make sure your valuables are hidden on your body, and don’t walk with your head buried in your phone.
The Must-See Places
The Philippines is home to some of the most pristine beaches and mountain ranges in the world. Once you leave Manila, the country opens up and embraces your heart.
It is essential to make the most of your time and visit the environments that will create lasting memories. If you want to see something truly breathtaking, take a trip up north to visit the Banaue rice terraces in Baguio. Here, you will learn how rice is harvested and witness the amount of hard work it takes to maintain the land.
Looking for some beach time? Head south to Batangas, where you will enjoy white sand resorts, scuba diving, snorkeling, Jet Ski rides and a dip in the warm ocean water.
North of Batangas and slightly south of Manila is the mountain town Tagaytay, which overlooks Taal Volcano Island. This area is home to some of the most beautiful pineapple groves that rival those of Hawaii.
Living in the Philippines as a Student
The Philippines is a destination that is quickly moving to the top of many travelers’ “must-see” list. To fully immerse yourself in the culture, why not live there for a few months? Electing to study abroad in Asia is a big decision for millennials. Do your research, speak to others who have visited the region, and open your mind to a life-changing, intercultural and exceptionally rewarding experience.