Last year, American student loan debt for the first time in history exceeded $1 trillion dollars, becoming the number one form of financial liability in the USA. Young people who were promised the same standard of living as their parents now find themselves jobless in an economy that doesn’t want to pay a living wage. Many are choosing to move back with parents and are delaying marriage and owning property. Others are abandoning their country altogether. The American Immigrant: Philippines is part one of a graphic memoir trilogy that follows myself, Erik Thurman, as I work as a young migrant teacher traveling the world in search for solutions to this growing unaffordability and inaccessibility of public education.
With work scarce in the US, I travel to Southeast Asia to be reunited with my Filipina fiancée of three years, while being pressured by our in-laws towards a quick marriage. In order to stay within the Philippines and have my visa supported, I take on an unpaid internship working at a rural high school.
Somewhat disgruntled by my former education and bitter that I'm not working in a field that I studied for, I find the work as a teacher to be overbearing, to say the least. As I settle into my new Philippine life, I begin to uncover many parallels between Filipino and American public schools and experience where both systems are failing. And amid growing trouble with my relationship at home and my work at school, I find the struggles of my students to be not unlike mine, and rediscover a love for education that I thought was all but lost.