One of SDSU’s goals is to develop global citizens — as embodied by students like 2019 graduate Marjon Saulon.
Marjon was born in Manila in the Philippines but spent his formative years studying at the Kaohsiung American School in Taiwan after a family move. His studies would eventually lead him to San Diego State University as a business major. After joining the student organization AIESEC (Association for International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce), a global nonprofit, Saulon decided that the comparative international studies major would be a better fit for a global citizen.
It was around this time that Saulon returned home for the summer to take an internship in Kaohsiung at the Philippines Consulate, giving him the chance to learn more about the real-world applications of his major.
Like many other SDSU students, Saulon had a study-abroad requirement, and he returned to the region to study criminal justice in Xiamen, China. He experienced a familiar area in a whole new way through the lens of his studies and career interests.
Saulon, who graduated in May 2019 and was chosen as an Outstanding Graduating Senior in the comparative international studies major, continues to explore his professional opportunities through his job at the Philippines Consulate in downtown San Diego. He took a few minutes to reflect on the challenges and rewards of his Aztec Experience.
Q: What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?
A: I would give three pieces of advice: embrace your independence, get involved in the community and set a foundation for your career.
First of all, it’s important to take ownership of your college experience when you arrive at SDSU. Use the freedom and opportunity you have to take interesting classes, get to know your professors and discover what you’re passionate about.
Secondly, getting involved in the community will be crucial. Get involved on campus, join different clubs and, once you’re settled, begin to discover the diverse communities in San Diego. It will be your home away from home.
Thirdly, set a foundation for your career by gaining work experience and developing lifelong skills. Prepare and apply for internships, utilize our career services center and find your own unique voice in the vastness of the college campus. You have your own story, and it is what will set you apart from everyone.
Q: What is one biggest challenge you faced over the past four years and what did you learn from the experience?
A: The biggest challenge I faced was being on my own.
While I always felt supported by my family and friends, I ultimately had to learn a lot of things by myself. That ranged from simple things like getting a driver’s license, moving apartments and paying for bills,to gaining work experience, learning to navigate through a new city, and having the courage to meet new people. Even when things would go well, there were times I just wished I could be with my family, especially during the holidays. It is a luxury that we simply don’t have as international students.
As a result, however, I learned to be independent. I became more grateful for what I had, and grew more determined to work harder for my own future.
Q: What motivated you the most?
A: I was motivated most by my desire to be of value to society.
Once I changed my major to comparative international studies, I began discovering my passion for public service work, writing and politics. Much of what I was able to accomplish in college, either academically or professionally, stemmed from my desire to find my place in the world. Once I began learning of the unique skills and perspective that I had, I was determined to find ways I could be of service to others.
I also wanted to make my family proud. I wanted to make sure that their investment in me was worthwhile.
Q: What is your favorite SDSU memory?
A: My favorite SDSU memory is reading aloud my first published newspaper article in my Asian studies class. We were given a writing assignment where we were asked to write about our cultural upbringing. I decided to write about my experience moving to Taiwan from the Philippines and the challenges I felt growing up as an outsider. Mine happened to be the first one published, and our professor asked me to read it out loud to the class. It was so exciting and empowering at the same time, seeing my own my words and story come to life. That was when I discovered my love for writing, and I now get to use my voice to feature stories of community leaders in San Diego.
Q: How has SDSU’s International Student Center assisted your Study Abroad experiences, both as an international student in San Diego, as well as abroad?
A: They’ve always been so supportive, giving me opportunities to grow and develop. The [International Student Center] invited me to co-host and speak at International Peace Village and as a guest speaker at International Student Orientation in 2018. That was really empowering for me. They made me feel like my story and my development at SDSU was something of an example to others. That meant a lot to me.
I know that in my first two years, they were very willing to support me — I would get their emails and, whenever I would visit them at the office, they would ask me how I was doing, if classes were going well and if there was anything I needed help with. They were always helpful when it came to work opportunities because you need to go through the International Student Center if you want to work part time off campus, so they were always willing to explain the whole process for me. If they weren’t as helpful, I don’t know if I would have felt confident in seeking employment opportunities off campus. They were very supportive of that. Even something like this, it meant a lot to me that they thought that my story should be shared through an interview.
Q: What advice would you give to any SDSU student who is on the fence about studying abroad?
A: Ultimately, I feel like any study-abroad experience is going to allow you to grow, which I think is the whole point of going on a study-abroad experience. I personally had the time of my life in my experience. I’d say just doing it and finding a way to make it happen would also be a piece of advice that I have. Money and time are always going to be two factors that will stop people from doing anything, whether it’s studying abroad or moving out of your hometown.
In the end, I would say the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward! If you don’t put yourself out there and really do something that scares you or is difficult, you limit the potential that you have to grow. Study abroad is one of the most eye-opening experiences where you don’t realize that you’ve grown until you come back to the United States or even a few years down the road. Be open-minded to just going into it with good spirits with no expectations. I found that those who didn’t enjoy their experience were the ones who came into it without an open mind towards doing things that they normally wouldn’t do, not talking to people they normally would not speak to.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: In five years, I see myself as an attorney, looking to get into a form of public service or community work in California. While I hope to gain valuable legal experience in the corporate world by then, I also hope to contribute to nonprofits, schools and immigrant advocacy groups during my spare time. I hope to be involved in whichever community I am in, while still maintaining my love for writing and reading.
Marjon Saulon is a new graduate in comparative international studies. He is originally from the Philippines and spent 12 years in Taiwan prior to his arrival at SDSU.