A Global Perspective: C.O.O. Morize Arenal Speaks about his Fellowship Stories in Institutes Abroad
The latest of the Universitas Fellows’ Night (UFN) series, held last April 3, 2019 at the V Headquarters, was seasoned with international flavor as Universitas Chief Operating Officer, Morize Arenal, shared an account of his experiences participating in different fellowship programs abroad, particularly the ones organized by the Elm Institute in New Haven, and the Kolegium Antona Neuwirtha (KAN) in Slovakia.
Having finished legal management in UST and begun freshman year in law school, Morize set aside his initial plan of becoming a lawyer in order to pursue studies at the Rotman School of Management in the University of Toronto, where he is currently finishing his MBA. At home in the Philippines for a short break, Morize has been busy running the affairs of the Headquarters, a task which he manages to juggle with his thesis work, until he flies back to Canada at the end of the month.
In a manner at once courteous and candid, Morize spoke about the beginning of what became for him a sequence of adventures. “Back in 2015, when I was still at UST Faculty of Civil Law, I spoke to a friend about things that I could do so I could spend the summer fruitfully. This friend recommended that I go and visit Spain. And I thought ‘What? Spain? Like it’s one jeepney ride away? Yeah, sure.’”
The hesitation at the idea of spending summer abroad notwithstanding, Morize pursued the application to the summer course that his “friend” (referring to the would-be Universitas founding President & CEO, Atty. Oliver Tuazon) suggested to him. Fortunately, even with the institute’s tight screening mechanism, Morize got accepted. “It was my first time to encounter the name of that institute. Little did I know how prestigious it was. That institute happened to be the IESE Business School.”
His experience at IESE had sparked his interest in joining international fellowship programs. Hence, come summertime of 2016, when the same friend convinced him to attend a course conducted by the Elm Institute (an institute based in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.), Morize immediately said yes. He confessed that this decision was partly influenced by his dream of visiting the concrete jungle, New York City, which is in close proximity to New Haven. He then related how Atty. Tuazon had actively assisted him in his application, helping him by reviewing his requirements. “Fortunately, again,” he said, “I got accepted.”
Morize explained that the Elm Institute’s area of interest is primarily on questions about the ethical dimensions of economic life, approached in a way that does justice to the insights of different fields of inquiry. Of the six seminars organized by the Elm Institute that summer, Morize participated in two, which were entitled “Virtue, Happiness and the Human Good” and “The Mystery of Money” respectively. Having had minimal background in philosophy and the liberal arts, Morize openly admitted that he had difficulty keeping up with the pace at which his professors and peers tackled the assigned readings, which turned on issues that were new to him and which he could not fully relate to.
Still and all, Morize enjoyed learning from the lecturers and his co-participants. His encounters with the other fellows (who were mostly from the U.S. and Europe) and observing their ease at entering into dialogues about the works of Plato and Aristotle, among other topics, made him realize that the standard of intellectual and cultural formation in the Philippines needs to be elevated, and at the same time, inspired him to be more knowledgeable in these areas by reading more.
The intellectual strenuity of the lectures and discussions, however, were tempered by the long and numerous breaks which one could spend by doing other things, such as sports and other leisurely activities. For Morize, those moments were best spent getting to know his fellow participants and making friends with them. “I always looked forward to the breaks, the several excursions, visits to art galleries and parks, the socials nights,” he shared, “It’s a great experience because you get to know so many people, with different characters, different backgrounds, coming from all over the U.S. and Europe. And the friends you meet there, if you get to communicate yourself well to them, they can become your best friends, with whom you can stay connected long after the seminar is finished. It was quite an experience.”
One other thing that added to the thrill of joining the Elm Institute’s fellowship program was, for the whole duration thereof, the participants lived and studied inside the Yale University campus. “I got to feel like I was one of the students of Yale. I slept in their dormitories, I shared the same food with them, I carried the same ID, the same door pass.” Using the wide screen at the headquarter’s living room area, Morize then shared with everyone at the UFN the photos he had taken during the fellowship program, as well as photos of the side trips to other places in the U.S. which he made after the course.
About a year after his trip to New Haven, Morize once again applied for fellowship in another program, the Free Society Seminar, this time conducted by Kolegium Antona Neuwirtha (KAN), an educational institute based in Ivanka Pri Dunaji, Slovakia. Morize went through a similar application process, which consisted of submitting the required written outputs and personal documents, as well as the legwork involved in securing a visa with the foreign embassy.
This experience, however, was quite different from how Morize would describe his trip to New Haven. When the plane landed in Bratislava, he was fascinated at how the surrounding environment looked very much like the Philippines, which gave him the feeling that he was at home. From the capital city, he took a Grab ride to Ivanka Pri Dunaji, the town where the program was to be held. After an hour and a half, he arrived at a fairly old chateau at which the fellows were to be housed for nine days. With the dense foliage of apple trees surrounding the chateau, and given that it was almost evening when he arrived, Morize recalled how at that moment, he felt like he was in an old romantic film.
The Free Society Seminar, which seeks to form American and European study groups for dialogue on various political, economic and moral-cultural questions, was originally intended for American and European scholars. In the year 2014, however, the KAN accepted its first Filipino and Asian fellow, in the person of no other than Atty. Oliver Tuazon, the same person who persuaded Morize to apply three years later. Atty. Tuazon, who was present during the UFN talk, commented that he did not initially know that the program was limited to Americans and Europeans only. At any rate, his application was accepted, setting a precedent for the succeeding Filipinos who likewise participated in the program, namely Morize in 2017, and Marco Pantaleon and Bino Socrates in 2018, the former participating as a fellow, while the latter working at KAN as an intern.
Morize mentioned that the discussions at the Free Society Seminar were no less intellectually demanding than the ones at the Elm Institute. The seminar was on the political, economic, moral and cultural dimensions of a free society in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II, Alexis de Tocqueville, among others. “And so, as expected,” Morize remarked, “the seminar was also heavy philosophically.” Although the discussions were in English, he found them to be more difficult to absorb than the seminars in New Haven, partly due to the fact that the Free Society Seminar had a longer duration.
Like his experience at the Elm Institute, Morize’s stay in Slovakia was also one where he got to visit several places, immerse in a culture different from his own, and establish relationships with his professors and fellow participants. Part of their regular schedule was a periodic out-of-town trip to Bratislava where they would explore and hang out in different places. Morize also fondly recalled their trip to Banská Štiavnica. It is a charming historic town in central Slovakia (included in the UNESCO World Heritage List), where the second part of the seminar was held, and where he and his friends had to opportunity to hike a Calvary. And, like his fellowship story in the U.S., Morize’s journey to Slovakia was followed by side trips to nearby European countries.
Morize ended his talk by reminding everyone interested to join in these international fellowship program, of three things: first, to come prepared. The preparation consists not only in ensuring that one has sufficient external means to survive their stay in a strange place, but also internal preparation–which means doing one’s own research, reading the materials that the institute would send prior to the seminar, and being ready for new experiences and encounters with different people.
Second, to remember one’s main purpose for attending the seminar, which is to learn. One must take advantage of the lectures, the discussions and the exchanges that they would have with their professors and fellow participants, no matter how challenging they may be. Such opportunities, which rarely present themselves when one is in the Philippines, broaden one’s horizons and give one’s vision in life a global perspective.
Finally, to enjoy. Throughout his talk, Morize had not fallen short of anecdotes about one excursion or another. From his narration of his fellowship stories in New Haven and Slovakia, it is quite obvious that Morize saw in these programs not just another item to be added to a growing list of seminars attended, but above all else, an opportunity to share memorable experiences and forge lasting friendships with other people.
Now set to finish his MBA in Canada, after which he plans to come back to the Philippines, the Universitas COO gives testament to the value of leaving behind one’s comfort zone and bravely entering the unknown, in order to learn, grow, and become more effective in serving the country and other people.
With his participation in these fellowship programs, Morize has blazed a path which many other fellows and friends of Universitas can follow, thereby adding a new dimension to Universitas’ vision of future leadership in the Philippines: it is no longer simply principled leaders that Universitas is forming, but principled leaders with a global perspective.