Since this is my first ever international conference outside the Philippines, I am so elated to record the memory through this blog post. If you are interested to know how to be qualified for an international academic conference, click here to read more about how I started my own journey.
After five months of hard work, waiting, and prayers, it was time to go to the conference. It may sound so easy to fit in a sentence the agony of waiting for the funding and visa approval, but, there’s so much joy the moment God answered all our prayers. Our here means my family and friends who helped me through prayers and every means they know of.
So to begin…
My boyfriend went with me to the airport and made sure I have everything set and ready. It was my first international flight alone and his help was deeply appreciated. It was a combination of comfort and excitement having him around. But, I have to admit it was quite lonely knowing that I was about to leave him in a few hours after this photo was taken.
So a peculiar thing about me is bringing this stuffed toy. Having this pink fluff gives me a sense of home, whenever and wherever. It also helps me sleep, and fast, even when I am in a new place. So having long hours of flight wasn’t much of a problem to me that time. Having this stuffed toy around allows me to be at ease and you know how long flights could be!
After 12 hours of in between flights and layover, I finally arrived at Perth Airport. However, I immediately faced a problem in activating my Telstra sim card due to a character in my surname. I immediately sought for help and learned that I have to go to Perth City to have my sim card activation fixed.
That is why, I ended up taking a photo of this bus time table to help me find my way there. As ordinary as it looks, I was pretty overwhelmed with how efficient their public transport is.
Since it was my first time to be in a foreign land alone, everything seems wonderful to me. It was also worth noting to be the foreigner this time. Everyone looked extraordinarily amusing to me too. I can’t help admire diversity and I even find it attractive. I took a photo inside this bus to renew my mind about my prejudice in public transport. Public doesn’t have to mean discomfort.
Without the internet to tell me my exact location at the time, I asked my seatmate in the bus how long would it take me to reach Perth City. She was so kind to tell me that since she’s heading to the same stop, she’ll tell me by then how to find my way to the Telstra shop. When I arrived in Perth City around 7:30 in the morning, I still had an hour and a half to wait for the shop to open. So I spent the first hour by reading a book while taking in the cold morning breeze and basking in the coming and going of people around me. I really enjoyed listening to every accent I get to hear while pigeons roam around me out of curiosity. For the remaining time I had, I spent them roaming around some parts of the city. Here are some photos I took:
How I wish that right after I got my sim activated, I finally enjoyed the much needed internet. However, it did not go as planned. After almost losing my phone that morning when I forgot to pick it up where I left it off in the toilet, I finally resolved to rely on everything not digital. It felt that misfortune gave me the warm welcome in Perth. I was also getting a bit annoyed because I was already missing the Tutorials in the conference. So while tempering my exasperation, I figured out how to go to the venue, Murdoch University, by asking stranger after stranger. I also learned that buses and trains only accept coins for payment if you are paying cash so I was forced to have my notes changed. Good thing I found an affordable doughnut store nearby and ended up buying a Simpson’s doughnut as shown below. Since I was also exhilarated with how convenient their trains are compared to Philippines, I can’t help myself taking photos of the experience.
Having no internet in a foreign land was really challenging for me. Once I left off Murdoch Station, the quest on looking for my accommodation began. The main takeaway in this experience is to never be afraid asking people. There will always be someone ready to help you out. That’s why I found it important that prior your flight, you must ask God that He’ll prepare people to help you in your journey.
While I was in Bus 514, clueless where to actually drop off, I found three Indians get into the bus when we stopped at Fiona Stanley Hospital. I noticed that each of them have their luggage and so I thought that they were also heading to the same conference I will be going to. As minutes passed and some internal dialogue in my head, I braved out by asking them whether they will be going to attend the ICPES 2019. When they said yes, I was so overjoyed to finally have someone who can relate with me! So I took my chances by telling them my situation. When they got off, I got off as well. They offered to help me look for my address since they have a working WiFi. With everything sorted out, we bid farewell as we looked forward to see each other again in Murdoch University.
All alone in the suburb and under the heat of day, I observed that the neighborhood was so quiet. It must be what a first world suburb looks like. With each passing car, I get to notice that I don’t see anyone walking in the streets. So while dragging my luggage against the pavement, I felt so lonely enough to be desperate for human interaction. Even if I was following the direction the Indians told me to follow, I walked back again to where I started because I know there’s some shortcut somewhere (based on my research prior my flight). But after some time of walking, thirsty and tired, I began to regret my choice. I never felt so lost my entire life! I have to admit I started to murmur how everything started so bad until now and I was asking the Lord if only He could send just one person! While walking and pleading, I was so surprised to see a lady just appeared to go out of her house! The Lord indeed answered my request right there and then.
Thinking that the Lord willed that particular meeting, I asked the woman if she knows how I could get to 30 Bibra Drive and she willingly searched for it through her phone. Having the same directions with the Indians, I decided to take it as my signal to really follow the path this time. So we bid farewell and I started to drag my luggage across the road. However, the lady called me back and asked me if I mind she’d give me a lift. I gladly accepted her offer and hopped onto her Lexus. I even joked that helping me is checking off her bucket list of helping a stranger. I learned that if we’re given a chance to help, we must do so joyfully. Driving around the road where I could have spent around 10 minutes walk, we finally arrived to the house where I ought to check in. She kindly helped me figure out the black box and the next thing I know, we exchanged our goodbyes and I’m finally in the comfort of a home.
After having everything settled and my internet finally configured with the help of Chris, the host’s son, I went to Murdoch University to get a head start of what I am about to do the next day. And because I was unfamiliar with the bus routes, I just hopped onto Bus 514 and dropped off Fiona Stanley Hospital. Looking at the map below, it was quite a long walk between points; enough for me to experience the Australian sun while walking in my corporate attire and heels. I barely saw people walk the streets like I did that I wondered how I looked to the locals that time.
The moment I arrived in the vicinity of Murdoch University, the place reminded me of University of the Philippines Diliman. They resemble each other except that I saw more cars than people in the former. I also observed many wildlife signs around making the whole experience worth noting. The gallery below shows some photos I took while on campus.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch up with any tutorials for the day so after having my registration confirmed at the booth, I stayed over the free benches near Building 440 while waiting for the Welcome Reception later that afternoon.
I found it quite challenging to really blend in the conference welcome reception because it was represented mostly by men. But meeting Jinping, a PhD student from Murdoch University and a volunteer during the conference, I began to enjoy the afternoon. She told me stories after stories that made me comfortable enough to roam around and talk to people too.
She became my first female friend at the conference. It was really nice to connect with a woman from another part of the globe (China). Jinping was really a wonderful host and I will surely treasure the times we were able to share with.
We had the chance to take another photo together during the gala dinner at the Fraser’s after the second day of the conference (as shown in the photo above).
I was also able to reunite again with the Indian friends I met in the bus and I took the chance to have a photo with them. Mohit (left), Afzal (middle), and Shivaraj (right) presented their papers as posters during the conference. I never had friends from India before and spending time with them throughout the conference made me learn about their distinguishable traits. I have to admit I really learned a lot from them as I experienced first hand how intelligent and witty they are. They really are some trusty friends and I am so glad to meet them.
I also made friends with Enkhtsetseg (Enkhee) from Mongolia, a PhD student at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University.
It was actually a friendship I never thought of. She just made herself comfortable and the next thing I know, I am already hanging out with her throughout the conference. She has this motherly vibe and through her, I learned a lot of things about socialization in the conference and things to consider when planning to take up PhD. Wherever she goes, she just drags me along with her.
I also admire her skill to connect people. At one time, she just asked me what research field I am interested in. From that moment on, she kept on introducing me to different people from Australia to United States who held the same interests like I do. If I’ve learned so much about socializing during conferences, Ms. Enkhee deserves most of the credit.
I was also able to spend time with other Filipinos who participated in the conference. All of them are from the University of the Philippines and are wonderful researchers in their own fields. We were not complete in the photo (as shown on the left), however, we sure did have a fun time together as a group.
The photo on the right shows a snapshot of myself while presenting my paper on the third day of the conference. I was so grateful that Shivaraj had the initiative to take a photo for my remembrance.
The experience of discussing my paper in a multinational audience for the first time was both uneasy and exciting. I really felt my heart beating on my throat before and during the presentation. Even so, I cherished every moment of it and am glad to be able to answer the inquiries from the audience. It really pays to prepare your presentation before the conference so that you can make your slides more concise and also still have time to practice for the delivery.
It was even heart warming to have someone approach you and comment on the good notes about your research. Ashkan, a PhD student from Brussels, expressed that it was good for me to consider energy and policy at the same time. Talking with him also allowed me to learn breakthroughs on battery systems and electric charging vehicles across Europe.
Choongman is a masters student from Korea I met during the gala dinner. It was quite a memorable experience to rate his poster and then see him get awarded as best poster later the afternoon during the last day of the conference. Talking to him also made me realize why Filipinos are fond of Koreans. It’s their gestures and seemingly humorous appeal that makes them familiar.
Peter became my housemate during my stay over Bibra Lake. It was actually a whole new experience for me to live with strangers in an intimate setting like a house. However, he proved himself a family. He was kind enough to give me a lift to Murdoch University one time and I sure did learn a lot with all his insights about politics, news, and daily living throughout my stay in Perth.
My stay in Perth, Australia will never be complete without my lovely airbnb superhost Fiona. She’s been so kind to me since day one. On the day of my flight, she really made time to take me to Coles so I could buy some stuff to bring back to the Philippines. She even offered to drive me to the train station! What I really enjoyed about her is the stories she shared.
She took me to places from London, to her workplace, up to the comfort of her house, story after story. I really learned a lot from her. Fiona treated me like her daughter and gave me a home in Australia. Indeed, a mother is a mother wherever she is in the world.
If you are staying around Murdoch, I highly recommend Fiona as your airbnb host. You can check her property listings through this link.
As my week-long stay in Perth, Australia came to end, I can say that the Murdoch Station played a central role throughout the week. In this station, I met new people and some of them became friends.
This station also told me about transport systems and to trust the reliability of the time tables. I learned independence here.
And surely, I will miss the Australian sun.
After considering all the things I experienced in this week-long adventure, I learned that God is faithful. It was Him who made this story possible. God surely wants us to have every experience worth remembering.
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