There are many international students throughout Walla Walla University’s campus. The Collegian interviewed Jonster Lin-ao, who is a freshman mechanical engineering student from Silang in the province of Cavite in the Philippines. He attended Hong Kong Adventist Academy before joining WWU this last fall and can be seen playing violin in the University orchestra.
When Lin-ao considered post-secondary education, he initially decided to attend Andrews University. However, many of Lin-ao’s high school teachers were WWU graduates, which convinced him to join because of his passion for engineering.
Although Lin-ao speaks Tagalog and Bisaya, he knows English well because his mother is a teacher. “I was shocked to see that many people thought that I was not from the Philippines. They would say, ‘you don’t sound like you’re Filipino,’ and, ‘your English sounds very good.”  This made Lin-ao proud of his proficiency in English.
Although there are many cultural differences between the U.S. and the Philippines, there are many similarities. The U.S. annexed the Philippines from 1898 until 1946 when they were granted independence following World War II.
There are many American fast-food restaurants and most Filipino people speak English. The food that Lin-ao eats at home is much different than what he eats at WWU. “In the Philippines, we love rice on almost everything, at almost every meal. When I came here, there was almost no rice.”
The weather was also a big adjustment for Lin-ao. “In the Philippines, there is only a dry and wet season, but in Walla Walla, it fluctuates a lot. It doesn’t stay warm, it gets wet sometimes. In the Philippines, if it’s dry, it’s dry the whole day. If it’s wet, it’s wet the whole day or week.”  Lin-ao hadn’t seen snow before he came to Walla Walla, which he doesn’t particularly like because he enjoys summer more than winter.
Lin-ao mentioned that the differences between conservativism and liberalism have been perplexing. The Philippines is a relatively conservative nation, which was exemplified by Lin-ao’s mention that the wearing of jewelry is looked down upon. But when he went to Hong Kong, he got a taste of more liberal philosophies from teachers since many are from America.
During high school, Lin-ao went to Hong Kong Adventist Academy. During this time, the Hong Kong protests were in effect. They began in June 2019 over plans to allow the extradition of criminals from Hong Kong to mainland China and against police brutality.  Lin-ao's family and friends were concerned about him because of viral media depicting rioting. However, Hong Kong Adventist Academy was separated from the city.
Going to the city was, at times, unnerving. “When I was playing basketball at night in Hong Kong, people would say, ‘we have to leave because there might be a mob here.’”  The protests could be frustrating because they interfered with the daily lives of people in Hong Kong. School stopped for a week because the only road leading to the academy was blocked off by protesters. However, the protests largely subsided when COVID lockdowns began.
Lin-ao is enjoying his time at WWU. He is a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Club and the Volleyball Club. He also plays violin in the University orchestra. Although he misses home at times, he knows he has a family with his friends and faculty at WWU.