The Australian Filipina is proud to share another inspiring story of a kababayan who is part of FiND (Filipino Nursing Diaspora Network), the emerging successful organisation for the empowerment of Filipino nurses around the globe. 

Dr Cris Algoso was introduced firstly to me for an interview in Radio Tagumpay (RT) by FiND Executive Director, Jerome Babate.  A newly minted PhD, thirty-five year old Dr Algoso like the other achievers from FiND, has a long list of achievements; however what also impressed the RT team was her fluency in the Philippine national language, Pilipino despite having migrated to Australia at the age of five years.  She also started schooling at the age of three years and now is a successful lecturer at the University of Western Sydney. 

She and her husband currently live in Campbelltown (South West Sydney suburb). "It’s an interesting place to live in, never a dull moment and I love it!"

We are glad to share Dr Algoso’s responses to questions to get an insight into her persona, her struggles and triumphs in her life’s journey.

What is the Cris Algoso story in brief?

I was born in Manila, Philippines, and spent the first five years of life in Imus, Cavite. I have fond memories of living among my extended family with everyday being filled with excitement. I was always quite interested in school and learning so my parents enrolled me in nursery school at aged three. On reflection, I have been studying almost my whole life and now work at as a lecturer. I think it was meant to be.

We migrated to Australia when I was five years of age and moved to Campsie and then Liverpool in the Western and Southwestern suburbs of Sydney. My brother was born a couple of years later. I remember that I was enrolled into kindergarten at the local public school a few weeks after arriving. On the first day, I did not expect to be left in the classroom to start school immediately. Luckily, my kindergarten teacher was lovely. But then I spent the next few weeks crying after my mum every time she dropped me off at school. I don’t think I knew it then, but it was probably culture shock. I remember being taken into the Deputy Principal’s office where I was told to stop crying. I tried, and especially when my dad took me to school. I wanted to be brave. Eventually, I wasn’t the new foreign kid anymore and another student took my place as ‘the crier’. I tried to be his friend because I knew how hard it was to start in a foreign school. I don’t remember him much after kindergarten though.

I studied at a selective high school before going straight into the undergraduate nursing program. I got my first job as an undergraduate Assistant in Nursing when I was 19 years old, an experience that has been foundational in my nursing career.  I attended the University of Western Sydney (now Western Sydney University) to complete my Bachelor of Nursing with Honours (Class I) and my PhD. I went to the Royal College of Nursing (now Australian College of Nursing) to complete my Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing (Cardiology).  Somewhere in between, I managed to squeeze in a semester of Medical Science. I am still planning to do further study in higher education..

During the first COVID19 lockdown in NSW, I married my best friend in a small backyard wedding. It would have been nice to see my family from overseas, but I am glad we went ahead anyway. My husband Tom is Caucasian Australian, and the experience of combining two cultures is quite interesting. He has learnt how to cook Filipino food! He is currently back at university completing a Bachelor of Creative Industry to pursue a writing-focus career and his interest in philosophy (some very interesting conversations in our household!).

Some of my hobbies include piano, drawing and painting, sewing/knitting/cross-stitch, running and exercising, and reading. My husband likes to read, play video games, and swimming.

What brought you to Australia and what was the process of you migrating to Australia?

My parents came to Australia for a better life and to provide us with more opportunities. I think this is why most people migrate, but the process of migration is never easy.

There are a few key moments I remember about the process of migrating to Australia, all from the perspective of a 5-year-old, of course. I remember all the long lines I was forced to endure in the Philippine heat so that we could get our various documents. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and taken to the car in my pyjamas, my mum dressing me in the car, so we could make our appointments at the Embassy.

And I remember the day we left Philippines. Our relatives finally realising that we were actually leaving, me being happy that my cousin could no longer tease me. The photos of our family at the airport are bittersweet. Some of my relatives I never saw again. And some, I will never see again.

I remember being excited to get on a plane, rationalising that planes were faster and could bypass Manila traffic. I did not expect the sensation my little body felt when the plane took off. It was no longer fun. Luckily, they had vomit bags in the seat pouches.

When we landed in Sydney, Australia, and got taken to our accommodation in San Souci, I asked my dad if we could go home. I thought it was a daytrip. Here I am 29 years later, and I haven’t been home since 1992.

What would you consider to be the best parts and achievements of coming to Australia?                                                                       

I think the best parts of moving to Australia is the education system and the opportunities that are available to both males and females. You have the freedom to really explore what you want to pursue and what makes you happy to live a fulfilling life. The social support system here is also something that I really appreciate. Having social support like rent assistance and a well-structured health system with Medicare really helped with the transition into a new country, and in maintaining quality of life.

I think my best achievement so far after migrating to Australia would be learning how to reconcile my two identities as a Filipina Australian, which sounds silly to say after completing a PhD. Migrating to another country and adapting to a new culture is extremely difficult for the whole family. For me, growing up in Australia was challenging because I needed to navigate and adapt to Australian culture (yes, they do have a culture!) but also retaining my Filipina heritage, including my language.

On the flip side, what difficulties and challenges did you face and overcome?

The most difficult and challenging thing I had to face and overcome would be adapting to a new culture and creating a dual identity as a Filipina Australian. When I hit adolescences, a period normally marked by a struggle to establish one’s identity, I had to add a cultural struggle to the mix as well.

At home, I was Filipina but everywhere else I had to ‘act Australian’ to fit in. The balance was extremely difficult to find. Sometimes I was proud to be Filipina, sometimes I hated it because I felt so different especially at school and at work. Sometimes, being Filipina made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. It was only recently that I was able to appreciate both cultures and I am now able to find power in both identities and I can’t be prouder to be Filipina Australian. The process of combining two identities can be traumatic and can affect the whole family but a necessary process to navigate together. 

If you are able to change something you experienced or you did in the past, what would they be? What else do you wish to achieve in life/your profession?

I don’t think I would change any of my past experiences as those experiences created who I am today. Even the experiences I thought I wouldn’t get through, those made me more resilient and focused. I could say that I wish I worked harder at school and appreciated the learning process more, but I think that is why I work hard now.

In terms of what else I wish to achieve in life, I think my next journey is to start my own family. I am looking forward to sharing the luck and privilege I have received so far. In relation to my profession, I hope to implement changes to aged care and nursing education. I also hope to enjoy the process of discovering what I can contribute to my profession as I progress through my career.

What positions you have held in Australia and brief description of what they entail?                                                                                           

I have been a nurse my whole working life in Australia. I was 19 years old when I gained my first job as an undergraduate Assistant in Nursing. I was then fortunate enough to receive a New Graduate position at Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney.  I worked in coronary care for about 4 years at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. I then moved to Liverpool Hospital Intensive Care Unit where I worked for about 2 years before moving to Western Sydney University as a lecturer at the end of 2015.

During my time as a lecturer, I have come to learn that education is not just about studying hard and getting good grades. Caring about the wellbeing of your students and supporting their personal growth contributes to the overall experience of learning. Social disadvantage has a profound effect on academic performance, so this is something I am trying to keep in mind as a lecturer, especially because education helps to overcome social disadvantages.

What is the main topic of your Doctor of Philosophy studies; how long it took to finish; the extent of its coverage; what you aimed to achieve by the paper?                                                                               

My PhD thesis was on the value of undergraduate assistant in nursing employment in the aged care setting, looking at how we can support novice nurses in developing transferrable skills and increase workforce readiness. The thesis tried to focus on how valuable aged care nursing is in our profession and in how we educate our future nurses. I hope that my work can contribute to addressing some of the issues in aged care, combating ageist attitudes, and improving the quality of care for an ageing population. I also really want to highlight how the skills learnt in aged care are extremely valuable in becoming compassionate and competent nurses.

My PhD took me close to seven years to finish. I was on track to finish early but things in life happen because life doesn’t stop just because you are doing a PhD! During my candidature, I was required to publish articles from my research. I am currently trying to complete the final two papers from my thesis and hope to submit them to a journal publication soon. For readers who may be interested in reading my papers, they can be found on Google search and are listed below. I am also happy to send a copy to anyone who would like a full version of the papers.

  • Algoso, M., Ramjan, L., East, L., & Peters, K. (2019). An exploration of undergraduate nursing assistant employment in aged care and its value to undergraduate nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 82, 32-36.
  • Algoso, M., Ramjan, L., East, L., & Peters, K. (2018). Undergraduate nursing assistant employment in aged care has benefits for new graduates. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 74(8), 1932-1954.
  • Algoso, M., Peters, K., Ramjan, L., & East, L. (2016). Adaptation and validation of a survey instrument measuring perceived preparedness of nursing graduates. Nurse Researcher, 23(6), 37 - 41.
  • Algoso, M., Peters, K., Ramjan, L., & East, L. (2016), Exploring undergraduate nursing students’ perceptions of working in aged care settings: a review of the literature. Nurse Education Today, 36, 275 – 280. DOI: 10.1016/j.nedt.2015.08.001.

If anyone would like to connect with me, my Twitter handle is @crisibee.

What advice would you give kababayans who maybe having difficulties in settling in their new home country or in their studies? Also, who might have the desire to be in similar positions as you but maybe hesitating.                          

Give yourself time. I say this to all my students as well because life is about a series of transitions that are difficult, including becoming a nurse. Moving to another country is extremely difficult and you are adjusting to a different culture, environment (we wore jumpers and jackets during our first summer in Australia), social network, education system, financial status, and many more. Forgive yourself if you feel like you are fumbling but don’t stop. Don’t hesitate.

The other thing I would say is to embrace the different cultures because being open to different interactions is the best teacher. You don’t just learn about other people, but you also get to know yourself more in the context of living in another country. I think that acknowledging and valuing our differences (cultural or otherwise) is extremely empowering.

I would give the same advice to those who may be struggling with studying in Australia. I would also say that studying is not about only about long study days, lack of sleep and getting good grades. The process of studying is an opportunity to interact with others and build ideas, and the personal growth you go through is invaluable. Engaging with the learning process and those who are sharing the journey with you is as important as doing the readings and tutorial work. Remember that you don’t have to know everything as a student (that is why you are a student) so give yourself time to adjust.

My advice to those who may want to be in my position, don’t be afraid, keep going and get to know a wide variety of people. Familiarity is comforting but you need to step out of the box and stretch your boundaries. Be tenacious. Tenacity is more important than simply being smart. Look for the opportunities and don’t hesitate to take them.

Lastly, how do you define success?

You define your own success. Set your own goals and do not measure yourself against someone else’s goals and achievements. Your goals do not have be big goals like becoming a doctor or a jet setting wealthy businessperson. Your goal could be being brave enough to enrol in the course you want to do. Finally clicking ‘submit’ on the application form means you are successful in achieving that goal.

Lots of small goals lead to achieving bigger goals that build success. If you are working toward small achievements, you are moving forward and becoming successful. Also, success is a team effort. It is not only about receiving support, but providing support to others as well.

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*Radio Tagumpay airs on Mondays, 2-4pm on Triple H 100.1FM.  Stream via:
Homepage - Triple H 100.1 FM (triplehfm.com.au)

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