Studying miles away from my family

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University of the Philippines Los Banos university library

When it came to choosing what university I wanted to go to for college, it wasn't much of a difficult decision for me. I wanted to go to the top university in the country.

Before you take the college entrance exam, you pick two campuses of your choice as it has different campuses all over the country. You also pick two degree programs offered on those campuses because some programs aren’t offered in the other. One campus specialized in medicine, one in agriculture, and another in fisheries. They were all part of the university system, and I wanted to graduate from there.

Where I come from, we don’t have a standardized entrance exam so you had to take one for each university you want to apply to. I applied to the “big four” universities and I got accepted to three of them, including my dream university. However, it wasn’t on the campus that was nearest to my home. It was so far away and in a completely different region of the country. It was difficult, but I knew what I wanted — I still chose to go there.

Only three of us in my high school batch got accepted to that university and we all went to different campuses. Many of my peers were asking me if I’d really go to a university that far away from home and from anyone I ever knew. I also got accepted to other universities that most people from my high school were planning to go to, and some were probably expecting me to choose to go there. Even my parents didn’t like the idea and they weren’t being exactly subtle about it, although (thankfully) they still allowed me to choose freely for myself.

The thing is, I didn’t exactly enjoy my high school experience. I heard lots of people say that high school is the best four years of your life, and they couldn’t be more wrong. I did not enjoy it and I pretty much wished to get out of there as quickly as I can. For me, going to the top university in the country while also managing to escape the not-so-happy experiences of high school was a win-win situation. The only downfall was that I won’t get to be with my family. I’ve never lived away from home before.

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UPLB Student Union Building

My chosen degree program was a Bachelor’s in Communication Arts. We were free to choose our majors: Theatre Arts, Writing, or Speech Communication. I went to that university fully set on majoring in Writing. As an introvert, I knew I’d have to make friends, and that scared me. But, it also meant that I didn’t know anyone there, so it’s alright. I was glad to give myself a fresh start. There’s no one there that knows the embarrassing things I did in elementary, no one who heard all those gossips and rumors in high school, no one who knows the kind of person that I am. I can be whatever type of “me” that I wanted. I could even change my nickname altogether be a completely different persona.

Knowing that there is absolutely no one there that knew who I am has boosted my confidence greatly, and made me excited to try new things. No one would scoff at me for going after new experiences, because for all they knew, I could have been that type of person all my life. It was this mindset that got me to go completely out of my comfort zone and try something I’ve never tried before — theatre.

I am not someone who likes the attention on me. I like doing my work quietly and celebrating my successes in private. I do like watching plays and musicals, but there was no reason for me to actually try it out for myself. There were several factors that pushed me to audition for the play: 1) It’s a yearly play that’s only open for freshmen students, so I can’t try it again if I realize I suddenly wanted to, 2) I’m only a freshman once and I might as well try it. I am, after all, looking for new experiences, and; 3) No one knows who I am, so no one will ridicule me for trying it.

I was very nervous about the audition. I don’t have any prior acting experience, nor do I have any talents like singing or dancing. I actually missed the whole week of auditions with me being on the fence about it for so long. Luckily for me, they extended the auditions for one day. I took it as a sign and went ahead and auditioned. There was only one other girl there aside from me who was also auditioning. I didn’t know I’d be meeting one of my closest friends in college until now.

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UPLB

Much to my surprise, I actually got accepted to the play! I learned the basics of theatre and got to actually experience being in a play. I also learned about the plights of the masses (the topic of the play) and I made a lot of new friends. Who knew making friends would be that easy?! It was as if I was suddenly opened to a whole new world that I knew nothing about before. It was amazing! In high school, I didn’t really participate in extra-curricular activities (aside from the school newspaper and the student council) so this was all new to me. I was going through my first semester in college, treading through the newness of everything, and there was this play that made me so glad to try something new. I was so glad that despite all my fears, I gathered the courage to audition.

Sometimes we look back in life and pinpoint where our lives could have gone very differently. For me, it was that audition. After that play, I changed my mind and chose to major in Theatre Arts. I joined lots of different productions after that, trying on different roles in the production staff as well as acting for a couple of times again. I got to experience being a Publicity Committee Head, Sound Operator, Stage Manager, and even Director. I designed publicity materials, took down the director’s blocking, internalized characters, and read through a lot of scripts so many times. Before I graduated, I managed to be part of 19 plays inside the university as well as 2 big productions of professional theatre companies.

As someone who is very self-conscious, it was the fact that I didn’t know anyone at the university that really pushed me to go out of my comfort zone. Had I not been part of that play in my first semester in college, I might have chosen another major and my life would have turned out differently. Now, I am a theatre practitioner (and freelance writer on the side), and I couldn’t be more happy to be working on something that I am very passionate about. I’ve never been happier to have taken that jump.

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