It’s 2 A.M. and I am super bored (like I have always been for the past nine months LOL). I got some papers from UP this afternoon and saw the sunflower plants (because there’s no flower yet and I am not sure if I should call it a stalk or a stem. Forgive my Bio ignorance) already growing. I have seen those for five years already but my emode was turned on this afternoon because I really am going to graduate soon.. I mean I have all the papers saying I have completed the course but I never really had a proper graduation yet. 22 days before that day, I feel like sharing about the amazing life lessons I’ve learned.
One of the most intimidating things about this school is its size. The fact that people are using jeepneys for public transportation inside the campus makes it even look bigger.
I remember one of the facilitators I worked with before my first year stopped another facilitator from telling me how to go to the Health Service. He was like, “Wag mong turuan, dapat maligaw siya para matuto.” Although I laughed at his comment, I was actually annoyed. Why were they depriving me of that little detail?! Anyway, when I reached the Health Service by myself, I really got lost. I was holding on my chest X-Ray film (without an envelope!) while circling around the church. I honestly thought I could reach Philcoa without riding a jeep so I just kept on walking. On my third round, I kind of felt really lost and scared. I texted an older high school friend who’s studying in UP. He asked me what I can see and I said, “Parang International Center, tapos parang may bundok at gubat-gubat” And he was like, ‘ano’ng bundok?!’ I didn’t reply because I don’t know what I was seeing and just asked a random stranger. The good person told me I had to ride a jeep to get to Philcoa. Thank God for good souls! As for the ‘mountain’ I saw, it was purely imagination.. I was never the outdoorsy type. Getting lost really made me panic.
Getting lost not only in terms of direction but also in learning was also something I learned here. Most of us were among the good students in high school and whether we admit it or not, we had some kind of pride. It was not that easy to admit that you’re ‘lost’ in class. But it is the first barrier that I had to burst: pride. The first years were really difficult for me because I had a hard time accepting the fact that I was not the ‘smart one’ anymore. I was lagging behind so much because I could not ask my professors and classmates about the stuff that were going on. I guess when I realized this, things got a lot better. I mean the subjects didn’t get easier but I didn’t feel that conflicted any longer. I might have said I hated what I was doing for n-times but looking back, I don’t think I would have finished it if I didn’t enjoy it even for just one bit.
WAIT OR DO THE EXTRA MILE.
UP has been known for being the University of Pila. Even if things are a lot better now that there are online enlistment and such, lining up (while maintaining looooooooong patience) is still among the students’ best training. LOL. There is this comic strip from Lyndon Gregorio’s BEERKADA about lining up in UP and how you have to queue for just about everything. The character in the story was shown lining up for subjects, assessment and on the last strip, he saw a male friend lining up and he asked what it’s for and just replied that he doesn’t know anymore– he’s apparently lined up for the female rest room. I really am not exaggerating when I say that it takes you hours and even days just to get a single subject. I even had to go to school at 6AM just to get a P.E. slot (Cheerleading, woohoo!) and when I got there, 10 students were already lined up even if the official enlistment would be starting at 9 A.M.!
Regardless of STFAP bracket, every student has to wait. Whether it’s for a subject, food, rest room, membership in organizations, library materials, concessionaire for UP fair, documents, CRS grades– there is no shortcut. You have to wait or you do the extra mile like be a Registration Assistant and receive all the stress in the world in exchange for getting all your subjects or stock up your Tambayan with PET and other recyclables to get that ‘Dream UP Fair Concessionaire’. Nothing is too easy.
NEVER JUDGE WHAT YOU SEE, WHAT YOU FEEL, WHAT YOU HEAR
When I was 13, I went to the US for the first time, my aunt got a bit disappointed in me when I commented ‘they look weird’ to a bunch of ladies wearing Disney costumes in a fastfood chain. I was told that people are free to do whatever they feel like doing there. In my head I was also like, ‘But I am also free to say whatever I was thinking of.’
During my first few months, I could not help myself from staring at students who go to class in pajamas, hardcore cosplay, rainbow-colored hairstyle and high heels (on men!). I really can’t look down or pretend that I did not see them. The bizarre outfits were not the only things that shocked me. It’s the people’s open-mindedness. In my first year, there was one bisexual senior who talked about his sex life and how he lost his virginity like he was talking about breakfast. I wasn’t even asking so I was really taken aback. Not to mention the sex toys show-and-tell and the how-to-put-a-condom-on-a-banana activities for SocSci 3.
Being raised in a really conservative family, it was kind of a huge adjustment to me. But then time went by and these things became a lot easier in my eyes. At the end of the day, they are just ordinary students who take exams, cram formal reports, eat pancit canton with everyone. They really are just like everyone else who just happened to be more celebrating about their individuality. Most people I’ve met in UP have weird sides that I kind of lost track of what the word ‘weird’ means. It’s like I got in that place thinking I was a unique person and now I realize how ‘normal’ I am.
LEARN TO SURVIVE.. OR DIE
One of the older UP jokes is about the comparison of the teaching methods in different universities and learning how to swim. In UST, students are assisted by their professors before they learn how to swim and when they have learned enough, their teachers still guide them from the sides. In ADMU, students are assisted until they have learned how to swim then they are left by themselves. But in UP, the professors push you to the swimming pool and tell you to learn it on your own or you drown and die. This is kind of a true-to-life story, though. One of my board exam lecturers shared about her first swimming class in UP and she was told to swim even if she had no idea how to do it. She got scared and declined and was told she’d fail so she jumped anyway and learned. Oh, the power of those magical words, ‘.. or you’d fail.’
There is nothing wrong with assisted education, though. I personally would prefer that. But UP’s methods push you to your limits. They make you believe that the only thing stopping you from learning is not the difficulty but fear. It is actually amazing how this works. You’d be surprised with your own limits. Although this does not mean that all professors in UP would just let you drown and die. Most of the ones I’ve had were the type that push you to the pool and make you learn by yourself but if you really start to drown, they jump in and save you anyway. After you calmed down, they would push you again but they would never, ever teach you exactly how it is done step-by-step. They just show you that it is possible but you have to figure out how it is so.
HAVE A TASTE OF FAILURE
This is probably the best thing I have learned in UP. Failure. That was my biggest phobia (now it’s electric sparks, lol) before college. I just cannot imagine myself being below average (even being average made me frustrated). Although I had an image of being ‘the good girl’, I actually had a big ego. But the welcome I got in UP? It burst my ego in just two weeks. It broke me when I thought I was in perfect shape. In the second semester of my first year, I was struggling with myself. I kept asking ‘why do I need to experience all this?’. I felt like I did not study hard to get into that school and get that treatment. I kind of felt empty. Like I went to my classes but I wasn’t actually there. I was doing requirements but did not understand what they were for. I had 18 units that semester, I failed 15 of them. I failed a lot more subjects in the next semesters that I lost track of how much units I did not pass. Clue is my transcript is thicker than usual.
I have lived a comfortable, sheltered life. I never really had big problems to deal with so you can imagine how this affected me. Failing is never a good feeling. Repeating the subject feels even worse. It’s like a five months’ worth of deja vu events. Not to mention the awkward feeling between you and the teacher who gave you a failing mark and the moment your classmates start calling you ‘Ate’. And when you get home, no matter how kind your parents are, you can’t help but feel embarrassed. And it feels even weirder when your friends are worried about whether they’ll meet the cut for CS (College Scholar)/US (University Scholar) while you’re worried if you’ll meet enough credited units to stay in your college or while they are computing how much they need to be exempted from the final exams while you’re aiming for a 3.00 (or even 4.00!). It also sucks so bad when you read ‘vacation mode statuses’ in Facebook when you’re cramming up for removal examinations!
I can talk about this and laugh now because it’s all in the past and I have gotten through all of it. But back then, I really thought of just giving it all up and shift somewhere or transfer schools. Since it’s all over, I sometimes think of the what-could-have-beens if I never failed in any of my subjects. Well, I think it would have been great and it would be a huge achievement but to be honest, I don’t think I would be as happy as I am right now about graduation if that was the case. If I didn’t get through all these failures then I would still be that little girl who has a super inflated ego– which is really scary. Someday, we are all bound to have a few mistakes and would definitely experience failures. If my ego bubble was not burst here, God knows what could have happened if it would be burst later on. UP breaking me is a blessing. This is something I am sure I would be forever thankful for.
My UP experience has been everything but ordinary and I truly enjoyed it despite all the rants I posted on FB, Twitter and on people who would care (or at least pretend to care) to listen. If I would be asked if I would want to experience it again, my answer would be– OF COURSE— NOT! I mean what the hell? Never again! But if I would be asked if I ever regretted it, I would definitely say