Long March

I am not a diligent student. It took me more than five years to finish college because I was “derailed” for a couple of years. Why didn’t I graduate on time? I prioritized work over school.

Back then, I didn’t need to work to finish school (salamat sa nanay at tatay ko). When I found out how wonderful it was to be financially independent at an early age, the appeal of finishing college diminished. After all, students study to land a good job, which I did when I was doing my thesis. I got an airline job as a cabin crew. I thought thesis was easy since it was “just on a consultation” basis. I didn’t have to attend a regular class. I just need to meet up with my adviser, do some revisions, defend, then kalas — done. I was wrong.

I did not finish my thesis. I did not graduate. It was a long hiatus, six years to be exact. I almost totally forgot about it until I went back to the Philippines and thought of shifting careers from flying to a corporate job. I couldn’t compete with fresh graduates because they have a decent college degree. I only have a ‘limited’ work experience, it was even a menial job (I love flying, no pun intended). I learned it the hard way.

With no work at home, I finally mustered enough courage to ask my mother to support me (my plan of going back to school). Good thing that UP’s tuition fee was (and it’s still is…) very affordable. Without any distractions nor financial obligations to think of, I finally finished my thesis. Thank you nanay for your support.

Fast forward one million years later, I am back in school…about to finish my second degree. This time, a course for “matatanda.” Segway: when I was still in undergrad, we call graduate students “overstaying students” or “matatanda.” Now I belong to the “overstaying student” category. But this is a different ballgame. Graduate school has a different appeal than undergrad. For one, adult learners are more relaxed, calm, and collected until the exams. We do get rattled also.

Grade matters more in graduate school because of the GWA or grade cut off requirement to maintain your good academic standing. We need to have a respectable average to be retained in the program. As expected, there are fewer students in graduate school which, in my opinion, is worse because the class discussion will only be participated in by 5–10 students. Expect to be called from “time to time.”

Now that I am about to finish my MA, I hope there’s no repeat of my undergrad. As it is, I am already delayed because I changed track from thesis to comprehensive exam. Again, this is a long march for me until graduation. But this time, I am savoring every semester of it. I am enjoying the synergy among my fellow adult learners because there is maturity and the term ‘education’ has a different meaning for all of us.

During my undergrad, education meant a degree or diploma. Now, education means life’s lessons.

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