Keeping Up With SHS Alum Julia Cuneo

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Keeping Up With SHS Alum Julia Cuneo

SHS alum Julia Cuneo (far left) is spending a semester in the Philippines

SHS alum Julia Cuneo (far left) is spending a semester in the Philippines

SHS alum Julia Cuneo (far left) is spending a semester in the Philippines

SHS alum Julia Cuneo (far left) is spending a semester in the Philippines

Caroline Stevenson, Managing Editor

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The Scituation is following one of Scituate High School’s finest on her study abroad experience in the Philippines…

Studying abroad is one of the most anticipated aspects of college life for many students–and rightfully so. Having the opportunity to explore a different part of the world, studying at some of the most prestigious universities, and learning, first-hand, about different cultures (not to mention cool Instagram posts) are some of the notable aspects of spending a semester abroad. 

For Julia Cuneo, a 2017 Scituate High School graduate and current Boston College junior, studying abroad was always part of her college plans. She began her application process during her sophomore year of college, narrowing her choices down to Hong Kong or the Philippines. Cuneo selected the Philippines as her preferred destination, applying to study at Ateneo de Manila, a university in Quezon City, Philippines. Cuneo saw this as being a “unique and new opportunity that would be exciting and different than many other abroad experiences.” Alongside her Boston College roommate, Noelle Indingaro, a graduate of Triton Regional High School in Newbury, Massachusetts, Cuneo was soon jet-setting on a 20-hour flight to the Philippines.

Since her arrival in early January, Cuneo reports that living in the Philippines has been nothing but a whirlwind of experience and exposure to a different culture in a truly remarkable sense. “We’ve been able to go to some museums in the capital city, Manila, and learned some of the Filipino history and tried lots of local food,” says Cuneo.  “We’ve also had the opportunity to meet and spend time with other exchange students from around the world.” 

For Cuneo, meeting local Filipino students, as well as students from the Netherlands, Australia, Spain, France, Morocco, and Japan has been one of the most intriguing aspects of the program.  Meeting other individuals from different parts of the globe represents one way to escape the “bubble” and gain exposure to the diverse, modern world. According to Cuneo, “We see a lot of homeless people and children and lots of stray animals everywhere,” which has changed her ultimate world view and shown her the true nature of human kindness.“Despite some of the circumstances people are facing here, everyone remains very positive, and always are extremely friendly and welcoming,” she said. This friendliness and openness inspired Cuneo and her peers, cultivating positive feelings for their trip.

Nevertheless, their optimism was briefly halted when one of the most profound natural disasters occurred just days after their arrival. On January 12th, the Taal Volcanic Eruption in the Philippines shocked the world, as nearly 376,000 individuals were forced to flee their homes in fear of destruction and harm. Many people began to fear for the country and its people, unsure of how large-scale the destruction was, or what this event meant for the future. For individuals back home in Scituate who were following Cuneo and her travels, these concerns were only amplified. 

Luckily, being located far enough from the erupting volcano, Cuneo and her peers were not directly impacted. They did have to cancel a trip to the area surrounding the volcano that was set to take place the following week, and they were advised to stay inside to avoid debris. Cuneo said, “We ended up going outside, but we had to wear masks to cover our mouths so that we didn’t inhale any of the volcanic ash or debris.” Thankfully, Cuneo is still able to embark on her journey around the country, as her program will continue.

As the first month of Cuneo’s endeavor concludes, she looks forward to the adventures that will occur over the next four months in this beautiful country. With anticipated trips to Palawan (a chain of islands in the Philippines, home to some of the most beautiful beaches and natural landscapes in the world), Siargao, and Siquijor, Cuneo and her peers still have much to anticipate. Cuneo encourages any Scituate students thinking of studying abroad to go “out of your comfort zone and get a once in a lifetime experience like this.”