In a time when countless maritime experts here and abroad are questioning the quality of the Philippine maritime higher education system, a good number of aspiring seafarers remain certain that this country produces world-class mariners so much that young foreigners would travel all the way here to take up a maritime course.
Case in point is Victor Jornwi Chu, a 25-year old Nigerian who perseveres amidst homesickness, financial constraints, cultural differences, and language barriers in pursuit of his dream of becoming a seafarer. For Victor, the joys and trials of studying abroad create a well-rounded person who is educated, cultured, and exposed to the ways of the world.
Victor is one of the many foreign cadets who came to study in the Philippines. Unlike the others, however, he was not among the juvenile delinquents who were sponsored by the Nigerian government for society reintegration. He volunteered to study Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation in the Philippines to take advantage of the strong maritime education system of the country.
“I’ve always seen myself making it big in life,” says Victor. “I want to be that kind of person by being a maritime professional.”
Hailing from a Christian family in Nigeria, Victor was the seventh of eight children. The urge to see and experience another country was what led him to the Philippines. “I wanted to study in a different environment, see new places, meet other nationalities and get to know their way of life and culture. I chose the Philippines because we know that you offer good marine education,” the young man said.
As with many Filipino maritime cadets, Victor is driven by goals of earning well to support his family while seeing the world.
“Two of my brothers are with the Marines and they are doing very well. This encouraged me to likewise work for a better future for myself and our family; my father supported my decision when I chose to take a maritime course and he sponsored my overseas education,” Victor recalled, adding that he would assist his father by earning for himself.
“I love putting on good clothes, like African wears. This is part of the reason why I’ve put up my clothing line, Negro Chu Collection in Accra, Ghana. I’ve always believed in myself and I intend to work hard to make a great life for myself and my family,” he said.
Stranger in a foreign land
Victor’s enthusiasm and determination hasn’t always served him best, especially in a foreign land with different culture. It also did not help that he came from a country that is commonly known in the maritime industry as the base of armed pirates.
“Regardless of where you came from and which country you are going to, it’s almost certain that you’ll end up feeling like an outsider, at least for some time.”
Victor felt the cultural and language barriers when he started studying at the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in Las Pinas City. It was there that the young man was struck with reality no matter how he pre-conditioned his mind to meet different people with different languages.
“Not knowing Tagalog and its nuances felt like a disability for me. I was not able to understand what they were saying and I could not communicate properly, I felt really stupid,” he recalled. The language barrier between him and his friends eventually affected Victor’s social life as he would beg off of gatherings due to uncertainty. “I wanted to be part of their social gatherings but I was not sure whether anyone was speaking English there. I wouldn’t even understand what they were laughing about and I’d end up looking like an idiot,” Victor lamented.
“Not understanding what people are saying made everything extremely difficult for me even with the most trivial of tasks such as running errands in the grocery or looking for an apartment. I expected this would happen when I moved here in the Philippines but actually figuring it out was hard,” he said.
At the end of the day, Victor triumphed over his struggles and slowly learned to understand Tagalog, bit by bit along with some of the Filipinos’ culture so much so that he eventually became the school’s Vice President of Maritime Students Council.
As a budding businessman from one country to a maritime cadet in another, Victor learns to sail through life with bits of wisdom from the people he meets along the way.
The values of professionalism, teamwork, and excellence that his school has instilled in him shall go a long way, not only for his shipboard profession, but also for boosting the human capacity development of Nigeria in the maritime industry as part of its National Seafarers Development Programme.