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Kristen Cyr
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For international student, experience of getting out of comfort zone at CCRI was 'priceless'

May 6, 2015

Aia Taguinod Aia Taguinod

If Aia Jean Taguinod, 24, has one piece of advice to impart to her classmates at the Community College of Rhode Island, it's this: "Opportunities won't come to you; you have to go find them."

The phrase really rolls off her tongue, and it's no wonder; to find her opportunities, she traveled 8,000 miles – 22 hours by plane – away from everyone and everything she knew in the world. Originally from Makati in the Philippines, Taguinod now lives in East Providence, excelling in her General Studies major at the college with a 4.0 GPA. In the fall, she will transfer to Rhode Island College, where she will pursue computer studies.

Although she's young and far from home, Taguinod came well-prepared to seek out these most recent opportunities. After the native Tagalog, English is the second language in the Philippines, and so students there learn it from an early age. And although Taguinod's parents, a stay-at-home mother and a father who works in a security firm, didn't take the path to higher education, Taguinod already holds a college degree in nutrition studies from the University of the Philippines.

"Students are very fortunate here, that's all I can say. I came from a poor family; my mother didn't finish high school, my father didn't finish college. Here, I feel that students and people in general are more fortunate compared to others in Third World countries; it's a great opportunity for anyone to come to America and make the most out of it," she said.

In 2011, Taguinod found employment in Middletown through an agency in her home country. There, in what was her first job in life, she worked at the front desk of the Holiday Inn in an entirely foreign land. She struggled with homesickness but stuck with the job, returning to the Philippines only when her visa restrictions dictated, and then returned to Canada for another hospitality job before making her way back to Rhode Island.

"I researched schools and found that CCRI was a good school and affordable," she said.

Taguinod said that there was no question in her mind that she had made the right choice. She looked at more than just the education, although that was important to her; she said what she most valued was the experience of getting out of her comfort zone.

"If you are brave and you can be with yourself in a different place, it builds character. You have a different perspective in life; you meet different people. It's priceless."

While her first foray into life in the States was a difficult transition, by the time she returned for college, it was relatively smooth sailing. She found the professors approachable, always eager to help and spend extra time explaining unclear subjects. Taguinod describes herself as disciplined in her studies, and the diversity of the student body at CCRI – veterans, older students and younger students, international students – made it easy for her to feel comfortable in the mix.

In addition to her studies, she tutors in math at the Liston Campus in Providence, a job she describes as fulfilling.

"When your students tell you that they got an 'A' on their test, it's like you got an 'A' on your test, too," she said.

As she looks ahead to life at RIC, she still said she doesn't spend time looking westward, back over the expanses of the Pacific to the life she left behind.

"If you keep thinking about what you left behind, there's no going forward. And it's not just about finishing a degree, or getting a good GPA. It's about how you'll apply these skills in the future, and how you'll make a significance after school. What will make you significant in this world?"

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Last Updated: 8/25/16