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Why I Never Considered USA for Graduate Study

People often ask me why I never applied to any university in the US, considering that there are so many school and program options, it’s not too expensive, and that I have so many relatives and friends living in both the West and the East Coast—Island states Alaska and Hawaii included.
The options are all alluring, considering that most of the Top 10 Universities in the World for many years now are all in the US. Not that I can get in these Ivy Leagues, but this just proves that the US has set the bar for all other universities in the world.
The highly-respected Ivy Leagues
So, as someone who has aspirations of being in the academe or in research, the question is, Why?
Lack of convenient and efficient public transportation
Sure, there’s Greyhound and Amtrak; but once I get off the bus or the train, what do I do next? I can walk for miles and miles and run the risk of walking without a sidewalk from Caltrain LAX, which is the nearest station to Universal Studios; but with kids and with grandma? Taxi should be a better option.
Long-distance train travel along Yosemite National Park sure is majestic, but once I hop off Merced, I only have two options: I should have a friend pick me up for the two-hour ride to the park, or I should wait for the 9 AM shuttle bus which is, of course, not free of charge. Amtrak has only one morning schedule bound for Merced, and coming from Southern California, it arrives at around 4 am.
Caltrain: SoCal’s intercity connection. Once you get off, that’s where the story starts.
I experienced these first hand touring the US, and I was surprised, considering that it IS the USA. But, if I were to surmise, the country also values independence, which definitely reflects in the 1:1 ratio of people and cars clogging up the already-dense downtowns.
Of course there is New York, which has one of the most efficient public transportations in the world.
Which brings us to the next point…
I can’t take the metropolis
A weekend in Manila sure is fun with my family and friends: window-shopping, eating, watching movies, walking along what is left of the bay side.
But, the nose-to-nose traffic; the periodic honking of cars, trucks and buses; vehicles almost screeching to a halt; the asthma-inducing smog of smoke; buildings and subdivisions rising up everywhere as if blueprints weren’t planned enough for the half-of-the-year unpredictable rainy season in the Philippines; everyone so busy; time so short and fast…
I just couldn’t keep up with the impending crazy and rather short life in the metropolis.
New York’s road congestion. Manila, is that you?
This is a very personal choice, and I attribute this to the way I was raised: in the province with a family who loves the outdoors, and who take great pride in eating locally-grown produce. In college, I switched campuses so I can get away from the densely-congested Padre Faura site of UP Manila; to the more relaxing and tree-and-bird-haven of UP Diliman.
For work, too, I switched from the highly cosmopolitan city of Makati; to the cyclist and runner-friendly environ of Los Banos, Laguna.
These experiences attest that I really cannot, and will never, enjoy living in the metro.
Too machine-dependent
One time I wondered whether the US can still hold itself as the most powerful country in the world given a massive blackout. Many people say it will never happen, but who knows? US banks drowned in pain and losses with the Love Bug Virus back in Year 2000; and history is repeating itself yet again with the recession that has claimed so many lives and properties to this date.
As with anything, there are upsides and downsides with depending too much on machines. Advantages would be time and energy efficiencies, and the fallout of human error; disadvantages include the diminished need for human interaction which is vital for mental, emotional and physical health (see Nat Geo’s Secrets to a longlife), and the lack of resilience in the face of uncertainties—world electric supply for one.
Public transportation: More fun in the Philippines!
Assimilation of important habits is necessary when entering the domain of a new community, and being machine-dependent draws on the most crucial skills needed for survival in the US. Someone who does not know how to use the GPS, use Skype and/or Viber, use the Internet for lab test appointment, ticket purchasing, and a host of other things… All I can say is, Good Luck.
As for me, I’m not ready to accept this process. I’d rather bike to school than rent a car or splurge on taxis. I’d rather manually squeeze lemons for my favourite juice than use an electric juicer. Heck, I live in Asia, you know?
Convenience foods
Many disagree with me on this, but honestly, I’d rather live on rice and soup if that’s all there is than feast on canned and packaged foods for most of the week.
Cooking at home is by far one of the greatest treasures in life, because I get to really feel a connection with what I’m putting in my body; and, more than that, I see it as a great communication and bonding tool with my family and friends.
In the US, time is so fast yet precious, that’s why home cooking is such a big deal in the US. It is mostly done on day-offs, weekends, and the inevitable lay-offs. It’s such a big deal in the sense that people even take multiple photos of the cooking process, of how fun and great it is, and put these on their blogs or social networking accounts. It’s great because at least, people still find the time to do it; but on the downside, is it too much of a once-in-a-blue-moon event to be celebrated over?
Too much choices, so little time!
As for me, a hearty eater, the sight feasting is great: 20 kinds of olive oil, 50 flours to choose from, over a hundred chocolate choices, and the list goes on and on… But if I take the time to really make my way on the grocery aisles, yes, I do see organic and locally grown vegetables and meats–which are by the way my thing–but they’re just too expensive!
My preference for affordable locally grown produce just does not coincide with how the food industry grows in the US.
To sum it all up…
The environment ultimately decides for me. In my life decisions, I never really go for what is the BEST, the FIRST, or all that. I try to be as insightful as I can with the cultural domain I’ve decided to put myself into, and if I have this gut feeling that I like it, I’d go for it.

Life, after all, is too short not to pursue your dreams!

Photo credits: 
http://www.transalt.org/campaigns/congestion
http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2011
http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2009/02/reports_of_bike_activists_win.php
http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/21c872/