My name is Charissa Soriano. I am a 24-year-old from the Philippines, and I had just discovered the kind of work I want to do for the rest of my life—to tell compelling, real and relevant stories. I want to be an exceptional storyteller.
Before entering college (2010) I was committed to studying Economics primarily because (I initially thought) it was the practical choice, it would lead me to stable jobs. But after more than a year into my university’s Economics program I found myself feeling restless, constantly mulling over “What am I going to do with this degree? Why am I here?” Until towards the end of sophomore year. It was then I decided to minor in Development Management (or Development Studies) to understand better how organizations such as United Nations, World Vision, Human Rights Watch, help people through their programs and projects. I had found that what I was getting from my Economics classes were the exposure to rampant socioeconomic issues in the world and, it piqued my interest and ignited this burning desire to serve communities and create good impact in the world. This sounds very cliché, yes, but it is my truth. Two months prior to graduating from college (January 2015) I had learned and researched and written about globalization, income inequality, poverty, drug-trafficking, political dynasties. I had crafted projects similar to a nonprofit’s deliverables: community project proposals, media kits, creative presentations. Yet again I had no idea where to work, what I would do with my degree. I had second thoughts about working as a researcher or finance analyst because I was intrigued with and passionate about artistic pursuits too. I was doing travel and events photography and videography from freshman to senior year. I had the opportunity to immerse myself in two different worlds but I did not know what to do with it. You can imagine my dilemma at that time. My determination to learn about myself, in the process what I could give to society, did not falter however.
Last year while interviewing small business owners and writing their stories, I felt full and contented. The challenge to effectively communicate with people—which entailed being open and attentive to them during coffee conversations—was there. But just having the space to ask questions and learn about different people and write their stories and distribute them to an audience left a remarkable feeling in me. “This is what I want to do. This is how I can use my creative gifts to contribute to the good being done today,” I thought on my second or third assignment. “I want to be in communications. I want to tell stories.”
From then on in my spare time I would study about communications and storytelling, read more memoirs, non-fiction books, news and magazine articles. It has been my method of learning storytelling (and writing) on my own. Sometimes I would casually interview my friend about her past: "What was it like migrating to America? How are Filipinos in America different from those in the Philippines?" Other times, over breakfast or lunch, I would ask my dad about how he overcame poverty, or how his life was in Kuwait as an engineer. Afterwards I would note down their answers, capture lessons from their stories. These are examples of ongoing conversations with people in my life. This is what I would do: I would raise questions, try to engage people; in turn know more about them.
Thankfully last March I received the news from University of Washington (UW) that I had been accepted to Master of Communication in Communities and Networks, a program grounded in storytelling and community-building. Perfect for what I need to continue learning. You might be wondering why I had decided to study in America. I will keep this brief: most, if not all, of the stories we encounter everyday are produced in America. Be it a magazine or news article, a Hollywood blockbuster, a short film, a social media post gone viral, or a New York Times Bestseller non-fiction book. America is brimming with creative and talented storytellers from all over the world, and I seek to learn from them. I am dedicated to study in UW. I will excel in my program.
Apart from studying and creating projects for my classes, I will explore journalism in The Daily (student newspaper of UW) and Flip the Media. I will assist in a UW department such as Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center to learn more about what it means to be a leader with a servant heart. I will volunteer in University Presbyterian Church in my spare time and teach immigrants from Asia or Europe or South America the English language. I will keep conceptualizing and planning for creative projects I could pursue while fulfilling my master’s. After this program I hope to work for publishing companies like The Atlantic, California Sunday, The New Yorker, and obtain journalism grants that will allow me to cover stories in America, Philippines, anywhere in the world. All in all I will not stop to grow in my chosen vocation—I have not stopped, since last year. My heart is in this.
The pursuit of stories of individuals and communities in order to share them with our global community excites my bones. These stories, I only hope, will drive people to become increasingly aware of those around them, shaping their minds to not only be concerned but also actually move. My journey is unimaginable but ever bright, and it will continue in UW, Seattle, WA. I believe this. I hope you see it.
The financial support you will give through this crowdfunding campaign will be for my future and those whose stories I will passionately and purposefully share with the whole world. You can trust that I will take full advantage of your financial support, using it to develop my skills as a storyteller, a student in the rapidly evolving communications landscape. I will represent and honor you in every endeavor I will undertake in UW.
Going into more serious details:
As an international student, I would have to take the full-time 15-month program and fulfill at least 10 credits (or two or more classes) per quarter. The total tuition and fees per quarter cost $9,438 last school year (2016-2017) based on UW’s data. Average living expenses for nine months (academic year) is $20,251, $26,898 for 12 months (calendar year). So for the whole duration of an academic year I would need to have $20,251 plus $28,314 (9,438 x 3 quarters) which totals $48,565. For a calendar year it's $26,898 (living expenses) plus $37,752 (tuition and fees) which is $64,650. It’s certainly an overwhelming amount, but with all the resources available (scholarships, sponsorships, your crowdfunding help), I believe I’ll be able to pay for all of it. In this campaign I am asking for help to pay for my tuition and fees for a quarter in UW. That’s around $9,438 or $9500. With your generosity I could raise this amount, probably even more. (More would be awesome. It will all go to my studies.)
If you want to see my offer letter from UW, my writing samples and photography portfolios, please go here.
I hope you are hearing me out. I can talk with you more about who I am: my heritage, my dreams and ambitions, my hopes. We can correspond via e-mail (my e-mail: [email protected]).
I hope you walk with me on my journey. Your generosity will allow me to study in UW and live in Seattle with ease. Really, any form of help is welcome. You can give assistance through this crowdfunding campaign or sponsor me.
Thank you for reading my current personal narrative.
Thank you so much.
P.S. If you want news regarding scholarships I’d previously applied to, please let me know!