By Ashlee Levy, Marketing Services

The UVic Philippine Community Club or UPC's mission is to act as a community and home away from home for Filipino students studying with Continuing Studies at UVic. The club was started in January 2022 and was ratified as an official UVSS club for the second time last month.

"When I came here in the fall of last year, I attended clubs and course unions days together with fellow Filipino students. We couldn't help but notice that there weren't any clubs we felt we could fit in," says the chair of UPC, Ryan Justin Garcia. "There was a Brazilian club and other international clubs, but nothing specific for us."

Since starting the club, Ryan and the other 300 members have hosted a variety of in-person and online events. In addition to social events like game nights, UPC also hosts informational webinars. These sessions are geared toward future and prospective international students. Attendees have the opportunity to connect with peers as well as learn about what to expect when arriving in Canada and at UVic.

"It's hard to uproot your life," says the club's vice-chairperson and ScoutBees founder, Gaze Del Castillo. "Having a solid support system that truly understands what you're going through is something that I'm very proud of and something that I want to continue."

UVic Philippine Club members Members of the UVic Philippine Community Club having fun on campus.

UPC members say that mentorship and community are some of the main benefits of joining the club. In the face of the isolation and culture shock that many international students experience, a community like UPC can make all the difference.

"It's nice to know that you're not doing life alone," says Ryan. "It's really comforting to know… that someone here understands what I'm going through."

As Continuing Studies students, the group feels it is especially important to have a community on campus.

Claudine Lo graduated from Continuing Studies' Diploma in Business Administration program in 2019 before UPC existed. During her time at UVic, Claudine struggled to access the same on-campus resources that are available to students in other divisions and faculties. "I always felt like I was outside the umbrella," she says. For example, at the time, students enrolled in programs at Continuing Studies were not eligible for health insurance through the UVSS.

"The good thing about joining a club or creating your own community is that you have a voice," says Ryan.

Since January, the club has successfully advocated for Continuing Studies students to have access to the same services and resources as other students on campus. Health insurance and gym access are two of the changes that have come about as a result of the club. Members also hope Continuing Studies students will soon be eligible for on-campus housing.

"International students right now are so lucky," says Claudine. "They have a community that will not just help and support their transition into the school and work, but also [provide] a sense of belonging."

UVic Philippine Club members in front of the Continuing Studies building. Members of the UVic Philippine Community Club in front of the Continuing Studies building.

  • Posted October 21, 2022