Student Embraces Passion for Aviation

Jez Sabaduquia ’19

Jez Sabaduquia’s love for airplanes has propelled him to 51 countries—and counting.

Syracuse student Jez Sabaduquia and a friend in the cockpit of an airplane.
During an internship with Southwest Airlines last summer, Jez Sabaduquia and his roommate check out the cockpit of a Boeing 737-800.

Jezrel “Jez” Sabaduquia ’19 has ridden a camel in Dubai, stood in a blizzard in a Moroccan desert and been stranded in Bali thanks to a volcanic eruption. He says you can’t beat Brazilian barbecue and Tokyo has the best sushi he’s ever tasted. He loves to return to his native Philippines every couple years for the beaches, food, and visiting family. He can identify airplanes flying overhead and shares his birthday with the commercial introduction of the Boeing 777—a favorite before he even knew that fact. And it goes without saying that his must-visit museum is the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. “It’s comforting to be so deeply passionate about something,” he says. “It keeps life interesting.”

Welcome to Sabaduquia’s up-in-the-air world: He has traveled to 40 U.S. states and 51 countries—checking off Armenia and Georgia last winter to surpass his goal of visiting 50 countries before graduating; in 2018 alone, he logged 135 flights. At some point, he lost track of his total mileage after cruising past 144,000 miles. “My life has always been defined by constant change,” says Sabaduquia, an information management and technology major in the School of Information Studies. “Besides my parents, the only thing that has remained consistent is my love for airplanes.”

Seeing the World From Above

That passion for airplanes has journeyed with him since his childhood in the Philippines. His uncle, who worked at a local airport, gave him an up-close introduction to planes. Watching take-offs and landings captivated Sabaduquia. Then there was his defining moment—a local flight to another island. “That changed my life,” he says. “Looking outside the window and seeing the world so differently—all the blue sky and the blue ocean and clouds—the 5-year-old in me was so fascinated.” At age 12, with suitcase in hand, he boarded a Boeing 777 with his parents and moved to the United States. They settled in Queens, New York, and he attended Aviation Career and Technical High School. “My experience there was focused on aircraft maintenance and engineering,” he says. “But as much as I admired and enjoyed the experience, it made me realize I wanted to focus on the corporate side of aviation instead.”

Gaining Industry Knowledge

Last summer, he experienced work in the airline industry firsthand, serving as a Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment intern with Southwest Airlines in Dallas. He learned a great deal about the industry and logged 90 flights in 12 weeks—encompassing both work and pleasure. One benefit: Interns could cruise the skies to Southwest destinations for free on standby. One weekend, he joined several interns on a coast-to-coast challenge to see how many flights they could take. The answer: 14, hitting everywhere from Atlanta and Indianapolis to Boston and Burbank, California. “Working at Southwest made me realize there’s no other place I’d rather be than on an airplane,” he says. “It was all the puzzle pieces coming together.”

Mapping His Educational Journey Through Syracuse University

During his time at Syracuse, Sabaduquia has matched his love for flying with his interests in technology and communications, gaining valuable experience in marketing and digital platforms. He’s served as a digital communications intern for the University’s Division of Marketing and Communications and held several other internships, including one with Ogilvy & Mather in New York City. Active in the campus community, he is a Remembrance Scholar and has served as the Clinton Global Initiative campus representative.

Embracing the Study Abroad Experience

Through Syracuse Abroad, Sabaduquia spent the Spring 2018 semester in Copenhagen, Denmark—a place that sparked his imagination as a child when he spotted a picture of the colorful houses in the Nyhavn district of Copenhagen in a geography book. That image has stuck with him ever since and he calls Copenhagen “the city that made me fall in love with the world.” He’d previously visited Copenhagen with relatives who live in Sweden, but his study abroad experience surpassed expectations. He lived with a host family, soaked in the Danish culture and enjoyed the educational system with its emphasis on immersion in subject matter and group work. For a core course in information studies, he traveled to Ireland to tour high-tech companies and cultural sites, and for a course on the Holocaust and genocide, the class toured a concentration camp in northern Germany. With friends, he also visited Auschwitz. “It was immersive education that made an impact,” he says.

Learning Life Lessons Through Travel

Global gallivanting does come with its challenges. While Sabaduquia is highly organized and plans trips—usually snagging discounted flights—he relishes being spontaneous once he hits the ground in new territory. When he and a friend ventured to Bali in late November 2017, little did they know that Mount Agung would erupt and spew out an ash cloud that shut down air traffic for days. They spent more than 100 hours in limbo before finally risking a 12-hour taxi ride to Surabaya, the closest city with a functioning airport. “Traveling teaches you so much—about culture, food, language. It teaches you about yourself and your relationship with others,” he says. “It’s the best kind of learning—just you and the world.”

A Bright Future

With his sights set on the sky and working in the aviation industry, Sabaduquia wants to return to many countries and lift his lifetime visits to 100 countries. Whether it’s the natural beauty of Iceland, the history of Rome (his first solo trip) or the magnificence of the Taj Mahal, Sabaduquia is forever thankful and never loses that magical connection. “Travel has also taught me gratitude—gratitude for where I came from, for places I’ve been, for my home here in the U.S. and most importantly for my parents. As a first-generation Filipino immigrant in the United States, I feel extremely grateful that I’ve experienced opportunities I didn’t even dream about when I was younger,” he says. “And every time I board a plane and look out the window, it’s the same feeling as when I was 5 years old.”

Jay Cox

This story was published on .


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