Katrina Navallo — A Filipino Expat in Japan, Pursuing a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University

With a wealth of diverse experiences ranging from consulting for the Asian Development Bank and Civika, a local NPO to working in the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines, Katrina Navallo was ready to embark on a fresh new challenge — one that would take her to Japan to research about migrant workers in the social sciences field at Kyoto University. But it wasn’t without challenges. In fact, she was initially rejected in her first attempt to earn the prestigious Monbukagakusho MEXT Scholarship. Through grit and determination, she studied how to earn the MEXT Scholarship, and crafted a winning application the following year.

After learning about her acceptance, Katrina took an enormous risk by packing her bags, saying 'goodbye' to loved ones, and moving to Japan with close to 0, Japanese language skills. All of this was done, to pursue her dream of earning a Ph.D. in the Graduate School of Asian and African Studies at Kyoto University, in a topic that she was truly passionate about.

A Personal Story

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Both of Katrina's parents worked as migrant workers throughout her childhood — a fact that shaped the direction of her life. In fact, her father lived apart rom his family for over 19 years — an unbelievable and unfathomable sacrifice, so that he could provide financially for his family of 5.

Although it was an incredibly challenging upbringing, it shaped who Katrina is today, and what motivates her to make a positive impact on the lives of migrant care workers, who face a multitude of challenges — physical and emotional constraints, no legal rights in many countries, no health care services, language and cultural barriers, and homesickness.

After successfully obtaining her Ph.D. with an expected graduation date of March 2020, Katrina is considering to pursue a Post-Doc Fellowship abroad, or work for an international organization, with a special focus on a cross-country comparative analysis of the caring labors of migrant workers in the domestic service and care industries.

A Glance Into Katrina’s Research Topic

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Using an anthropological lens, Katrina looks at how care is constructed, negotiated and performed between the Japanese elderly and migrant care workers, and how the transnational and transcultural differences influences and shapes their migrant lives in Japan. Specifically, she is focused on Filipino migrant care workers to better understand the transnational caring experiences of these academically, underrepresented populations.

Goals for 2018

This year, Katrina’s goal is to disseminate her research through publications and presentations in conferences. Typically, conferences require around 8,000-14,000 words about one's topic, generally need to be submitted ~8 months in advance, and January is one of the busiest months for 'calls for submissions.'

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By sharing with everyone she possibly can about what types of conferences she is interested in speaking at and attending, subscribing to emails of related organizations, and following her topic on various Facebook groups, Katrina is able to learn about new opportunities. But she doesn't stop there. She always shares it on her social media channels to inform others, who may also be interested in participating.

A go-getter, who puts in the hours to acquire new opportunities, it's no wonder that Katrina earned a full scholarship to attend an international conference at my alma matter — UC Berkeley — in March 2018.

Part-Time アルバイト Jobs

When Katrina is not working full-time on her Ph.D., Katrina teaches English to Japanese elementary students at a part-time job — an opportunity she discovered through a Filipino friend. Similarly, she learned about the Monbukagakusho MEXT Scholarship from her fellow university classmates. Astoundingly, a number of her fellow classmates from her university in the Philippines earned the prestigious MEXT Scholarship, not only because they were capable and well-prepared candidates, but also because they worked extremely hard to secure the possibility.

Appreciation & Gratitude

The power of networking and giving back to society is quite evident in Katrina’s example. Plus, she feels extremely grateful for this specific scholarship and others that have supported her research trips to the Philippines to interview migrant care workers.

Every day, she reminds herself of how grateful she is to be living and researching at a top university in Japan, sponsored by the Japanese government. And fundamentally, Katrina knows that she will use this as a stepping-stone to accomplish more in society to help migrant care workers and nurse, and create a more equitable society.

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Thank you very much for reading about how Katrina Navallo was able to pursue her passion for researching transnational care services, why she decided to take an enormous risk to study in a foreign country with practically no Japanese language skills, her overall goals for 2018, and her sense of deep appreciation for this wonderful opportunity.

In the next article, learn more about Katrina’s personal story, and the advice she has for anyone who is looking to follow in her footsteps.

This article was originally published on Schoolynk in March 2018.