We're Heading to Sydney

Jaykie, IDP education agent Alma Galvez, and me at the IDP Philippine office

Remember in the Filipina Elsewhere series introduction when I said--

I've thought about studying abroad--and I got stuck with just thinking about it. Especially when I saw the forms and the fees and the requirements.

Well, I turned thirty (one) and realized: if I don't do this now, while I'm (literally and figuratively) mobile, I may not be able to do this at all.

So I did it

I did the research. I paid the fees. I gathered the documents. I asked for reference letters. I polished a short story for submission. I took the TOEFL*. And I got into the University of Sydney's Master of Creative Writing program. (With a scholarship offer!)

*a note about TOEFL (Test of English Language as a Foreign Language): US universities accept this, Australian universities consider this, but some Canadian and UK universities only accept IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

Now, about education agents

I didn't know they existed. Or, rather, I knew they're around, but I thought you had to pay them? It turns out, you don't. They provide their services for free. Jaykie's sister referred me to Alma Galvez of IDP Education Limited, which has its local offices in Ortigas. IDP co-owns IELTS and "is an ASX listed company that is 50% owned by 38 Australian universities."

16/F Marco Polo Ortigas Sapphire Road, Ortigas Business Center Pasig City, Philippines 1600

Phone: +632 535 3320
Fax: +632 535 3941
    Student Counselling: info.manila@idp.com
    IELTS: ielts.philippines@idp.com
Hours: Monday - Friday: 9:00am-4:00pm Saturday: 8:30am-3:00pm
Country Manager: Ms. Maria Aurora Dela Vina

IDP Education Limited Ortigas
Ideally, you meet with an education agent before applying to the university so they can help you from the beginning (choosing the university, application) to the end (pre-departure, or even up to changing schools, if you decide to do that) of the process. They call themselves a "one-stop shop" for students, so they can also help you with other tasks (such as opening a bank account). But they can also jump in and help you at whichever point you decide to meet with them, which in my case is already at the enrollment and visa application stage. 

To be honest, you can figure out the process and lodge the visa application by yourself since there's a lot of information already published online, but an education agent can look at the documents you already have and anticipate what else the Embassy may require from you as proof of your intentions as a student. 

For example, Australia (usually) does not interview visa applicants, so your documents will have to speak for you. Which means you need to provide A LOT of documents. But which documents? Your education agent can identify what you need to provide. Australia also has something called a genuine temporary entrant (GTE) requirement. Every piece of paper will go through the education agent (as they will check and scan all the original documents and lodge the visa application on your behalf), and they can read your GTE letter and give you advice. 

I also found the Pre-Departure Seminar very helpful, as IDP discussed practical aspects of moving to Australia ("How much should I set aside for utility bills?" "Can I bring food in my luggage?" "Do I need to bring power adapters?" [short answer, yes] "Who should I inform about my new address in Australia?"), and provided a venue for me to meet other Filipino international students (some of whom are even going to attend the same university).

IDP has a large network, a long history, and a great support system in place, so if you're thinking of studying abroad, consider calling them up. I also recommend Alma, who remained pleasant and patient despite all of our emails and all of our (my?) anxiety-ridden questions. 

I'm still anxious

It's a new city--a new continent!--and I'm returning to school years after getting my bachelor's degree (do students still take notes with pen and paper this is a serious question)--but now, having booked the flight and a place to stay (at least for the first few days), I've finally allowed myself to become excited. 

Wish us luck! 

In the Pre-Departure Seminar goody bag: International Student Guide 2018, travel pillow, bag tag


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