Kate Ortega Graduation Speech

I’ve never been surrounded by so much diversity in my life - not until I came to CMU.
Did you ever dream as a child and then wonder what journey that would take you in life?

My journey with CMU started in 2013 when God planted a desire in my heart to study overseas. A dream that I knew would never happen because financially we couldn’t afford it. But in 2017, the Department of Budget and Management in the Philippines where I am working, sent an email calling for nominations to the Australia Awards Scholarship. It was in that year when my dream in 2013 started to materialize. Like you all – I went through a lot of interviews and exams and then finally, in 2018, I was officially drafted as one of the 27 Filipino scholars sent to study in Australia, specifically at Carnegie Mellon University.I arrived in Adelaide alone on Aug. 7, 2018, bringing with me my high hopes of making it to graduation and returning to my country with a new set of skills and education that I will be sharing with my organization. I made a promise to myself that I would finish the program aiming to bring pride and honour to my family, to my organization and ultimately to my country.

I’ve never been surrounded by so much diversity in my life - not until I came to CMU. It was in the Torrens building and on the streets of Adelaide where we shared meals, stories, laughter, and tears with our friends whom we treasured and considered as our family away from home. Do you remember the first conversations we had where we happily talked about how beautiful our countries are? You will all remember the nights we spent in the pantry where we shared our late-night dinner meals – our take-away roasted chicken from Coles and of course, rice. I vividly recall the winter days where we shared a cup of coffee talking about how much we missed home. You will never forget our group arguments where we revealed how different each culture was in dealing with conflict. I remember the conversations we had with our professors who extended their expertise and teaching hours to make sure we were coping with the academic demands and to remind us that this homesickness will pass by. I also recall the “kamusta ka? Or how are you’s” of the CMU staff who sometimes gave us the most comforting hugs. They made sure we were well taken care of from our IT needs, emotional and psychological support and academic support among others. I will treasure the people whom I met outside the CMU community; the Filipino and Australian families who adopted us and welcomed us into their homes; the scholars from other universities who have the same aspirations of helping our developing country rise from poverty.

Our whirlwind journey with CMU has now come to an end. As I transition back here in my workplace, I look forward to taking part in the reform of the Philippine Government in terms of using big data in the development of evidenced based policy options, using digital transformation and analytics as a tool to provide better budgetary services for our clientele agencies. There is so much work to do as there is so much hope we place into our beloved country, Pilipinas. My special thanks go to my family, my loved ones, my relatives, friends and Dir. Annabelle Atillo who fervently prayed for my safety and success. My heartfelt gratitude to Australia Awards for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime, for believing in me and in my dream, for challenging me to take action for my country’s development. To my fellow Filipinos who lack the resources to study but are filled with dreams and passion to make a difference, continue to work hard and work smart. Seize every opportunity. As Stephen Covey said, begin with an end in mind. Thank you all and to God be all the glory!