It’s still fresh in my mind when I first graced the halls of UP. I was once a clueless freshie back then who asks himself “what the heck am I doing here?” I don’t know where to go or who to ask. Thankfully, my sister is on her second year during that time so I have a tour guide of some sort especially when I have to look for room TBA and professor TBA. She used to tell me stories about her experiences in UP during her freshman years so I was kinda immersed to the UP culture. Even so, I was still culture shocked as I entered room 330 of Palma Hall for my Soc Sci 1 class (my first class in college), because I’m not used to having classmates wearing different kinds of clothes. Add the fact that most of them were older than me. Though nervous, I still managed to raise my hand and participate in class, while sitting down. It just dawned on me that I’m already a college student after my first class when I have to go to another room to my next class and meet new classmates. Going to the comfort room is also a struggle especially if you’re on the other side of the building. Photocopy machines are all around each building. The chance of getting lost while finding a room or finding a building is so big that it can end to the cancellation of your slot especially during your first day of class. Getting a class during enrollment can be deadly (for a lack of a better term). Though I’m still not used to the college culture back then, I told myself that college life would be fun.

At first, I find it a little bit hard adapting to my new environment because 1) I won’t be with my high school friends anymore, and 2) I will be living away from my family. Home sickness bothered me a lot that there was a time when I cried inside my room simply because I’m alone (that time, ’emo’ is not yet a household term so I can’t brand myself as one). Thankfully, I found new friends during my first days in UP and they help me adjust to my situation. Some of them became my friends for a lifetime. I easily found myself at home in UP because of my new friends. But primarily, I’m in UP to study.

In UP, I learned to use the library more eagerly than when I was in high school. I realized that not all things are on the internet. Most professors would require us to read books or photocopy some readings because local bookstores don’t have copies of them anymore. In short, they’re obsolete. So studying became a little bit harder for me plus the fact that one subject requires me not just to read one book but two or three or four… Sometimes, I have to burn my own pocket just to photocopy a whole book. Also, I learned for a fact that listening takes you further than merely taking down notes because it can improve your memory.

Probably one of the best things in being a college student (in UP at least) is having much freedom in choosing your schedule and professors. You can even choose to have a day-off each week. Academic freedom is greatly exercised in UP. But as a line from a movie goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If there’s academic freedom, there’s also academic terrorism.

College life won’t be complete without the taste of the bittersweet torture of taking exams and completing requirements. I can still remember during my freshie days when my Creative Writing professor, after finding out that the whole class failed to read the required reading, shouted to the whole class, “My _____, you’re in UP! You’re supposed to be the BEST!”Bittersweet? Yes indeed. You have to cram at times even if you don’t want to just to beat that deadline. Your precious time with friends needs to be sacrificed just to get that passing mark and get it over with. I even experienced taking 4 exams in a day in different buildings with no breaks in between. So it’s either you finish an exam early or be late for the next. Studying at the library until 12 midnight and spending sleepless nights in 24-hour fastfood chains became my way of life. I experienced being laughed at and hear my professors utter foul words while presenting a project in front of my peers. There are times when I need to appeal to my professor regarding my grade because I only need 0.0001% to get a passing mark and to never repeat that heaven-knows-from-where major subject. There came a time when sneaking out of class, because you have to attend to a matter-of-life-and-death situation, was way too impossible especially if there are only six of you plus your terror professor. A time also came when I needed to aim not for the “3” but for the “INC” because you wouldn’t want to repeat that subject under the same freaking professor. Think I had enough? What if I tell you that my thesis was rejected after working on it for one whole year. So, I have to repeat again to work on a new thesis but this time, with a group. In all these things, I praise God because they all came to pass teaching me about life in one way or another.

But college is not only for mere studying. It can also be an avenue for you to enjoy life partying with friends. I came to know a lot of people in all walks of life. UP is unique because of the great diversity of students studying there. I had a great time with classmates who not only listen to you but also respect what you believe in. They also taught me a lot about how to deal with different kinds of academic pressure. There were also times that I needed to compete with my classmates but in the end, you are still in the same prestigious university. I also learned how to deal with different kinds of people simply because, you have no choice but to take the lead. I joined various organizations in UP. I developed a sense of family whenever I’m with them. Some of them became my brothers and sisters who helped me in my journey as a Son of God. I’m thankful to God that He gave me friends during college who get me back in track whenever I lose hope. I failed a lot of times (academically and spiritually) but I’m glad that God used people, my friends, as avenues of His grace and mercy. If there was one thing that I would truly miss after college, it’s the time well spent with friends playing, praying, partying, food tripping, studying, or just bumming around together.

UP also shaped my dreams as a theatre performer. Before I graduate, I had the chance to audition for a musical to be produced by the official performing group of the university, Dulaang UP. The universe conspired and I found myself brushing elbows with prominent people from theatre, TV, and film. I found joy rehearsing every night being mentored by artists who have their own names in the theatre industry. It gave me great joy performing on the same stage with them. Quoting from a blog of mine two years ago, “this is the best job on earth and I won’t trade it for anything else.” (But then again, reality bites.) I enjoyed performing in front of an audience receiving rounds of applause and standing ovations. Then the next day, you have to do it again. Performing gave me much satisfaction and fulfillment especially when the audience leaves the theatre with smiles on their faces and having last song syndromes. I would be forever grateful to my Alma Mater for giving me that shot (and I hope to have more). All glory to the Lord Most High, my Creator and my Audience of One. For it not with Him, I won’t be able to sing my heart out.

Contrary to what most people believed in, studying in UP brought me closer to God. University life is not as easy as it may seem but I’m glad that I remained in God from my freshie days up until now that I’m a young professional. With God’s unending grace, I was able to keep my faith even in the most pressing times. I thank God for not leaving my side and for revealing much of Him through my unique experiences in the university. God’s promise still remains that if we stayed with Him, He will be with us always. And so He did with me. Though I’ve stumbled a lot of times because of failures in my studies, relationships, and org commitments, God chose to mold me and to make me the person He wants me to be. He’s not finished with me yet.

As another chapter in my life unfolds, I still can’t help it but go down memory lane and see how God changed every aspect of my life. God has been molding me as His son from the moment I received my admission letter until this very moment. The past 7 years seem to pass just for a moment. Images from my freshie days up until I got my university clearance are still vivid in my memory. I could not have done them all without God’s gentle grip.

School days are over! This really calls for a grand celebration! But it can’t seem to sink into my system. I don’t know what the next 7 years might bring because the past 7 years didn’t come as I expect it to be. Coincidentally, number 7 has some significance in my life. It is my favorite number. During grade school, I got in the top 10 for the first time landing on the 7th place. The last digit of my student number is 7. The Israelites marched around Jericho’s walls 7 times before crumbling to pieces. I still can’t believe that I conquered UP’s prestigious halls and corridors which, in one way or another, became the birthplace of student activism and the training ground of this nation’s past, present, and future leaders. A tougher world out there is waiting. The world is going to be my stage. Failures are inevitable but my successes will be sweeter this time. I praise God for being my Creator, my Protector, my Refuge, my Peacemeaker, my Bestfriend, my “Jonathan,” and most of all, my Greatest Lover. I want to thank, no, praise Him for being alive with me and in me. I can clearly see now how enormous the battlefield is. But for now, I gotta take off that backpack and put that “sablay” on because the graduation march is already playing inside my head. 🙂