Tomorrow, I finally reach one of those milestones in life- I will graduate from the University of Auckland! Now for some, graduation may not be a big deal at all, but for me, it means the world. Let me share with you my background and what my graduation means to me.
I started university back in the Philippines, in good, old Ateneo de Manila University. Although I’ve only completed one full year, I instantly fell in love with my blockmates, professors, and the Ateneo campus! It was a bitter experience to have to leave all that when you’ve only just begun. Even until then, the fact that I won’t graduate with all my long-time friends really depressed me.
We arrived in New Zealand on 2008. My parents had to find a job so we can get our permanent residency and continue living in Auckland. It was stressful, especially for my mom who was the primary applicant. For a while, we thought that we would be sent back home. The fact that we’ve practically sold and gave away all our belongings (house, car, etc.) meant that if we were to go back, we’d be screwed big time. This was scary for all of us. I felt like I was trapped in a strange place, slowly withering away.
Thankfully, I have a really supportive family. My parents encouraged me to seek volunteer roles, which led me to become a child catechist for a while in our new parish. I loved that job immensely, the kids were awesome. Later on, again, thanks to my parents, I was able to get my first job as a receptionist/Consular Officer at the Philippine Consulate. I’ve learned a lot there, and it has given me really good work experience. At the same time, our support network grew, I met new friends (who eventually became my barkada) and I was going out and seeing the world in a positive light again. I started writing for the youth section of a Filipino community newspaper too about my reflections and experiences. Somehow, it made me reconnect with myself again. I started growing new roots, accepting my new home, and being open to all sorts of opportunities.
2009 rolled in and we still didn’t have our residency. My mom was getting worried because although my brothers were able to continue their education as primary and secondary school students (because the government provided the funds for those educational levels), I (a university student) was still left out.
Keep in mind that both my mom and my dad, though they’ve been really influential journalists back home, had to swallow their prides and start from scratch. At one point, my dad even had to work for McDonald’s as a maintenance guy early in the mornings, then work in a call centre at night. My mom wasn’t getting paid much in her new job as a writer for a local newspaper either.
But even if we were experiencing a bit of a financial hardship, my parents decided to pay for my first semester in university. And can I just stress that this was not an easy decision to make. Because our residency wasn’t approved yet, they had to pay for the international student fees (which was much more expensive)…with their own savings.
So let me just take a quick moment to thank you, Mama and Papa for all the sacrifices that you’ve done for me and my brothers just to ensure that we get a good chance at securing a very bright future. I didn’t believe you guys at first, and I resented our decision to migrate because I was afraid of losing my friends, but I found out that the best of friends will stay in my life no matter what, and add to that, I now have new, great friends to boot!
We eventually got our residency late in 2009, thank God! Meanwhile, I was enjoying life in the University of Auckland! It was a whole new culture to get used to, but I loved it. From sitting in a class with only 40 students, suddenly I was in a giant lecture hall the size of an auditorium!
It was also then that I decided to completely pursue Psychology (which I already started in Ateneo) instead of going for Medicine. Psychology in the University of Auckland was the best. I loved how all the professors discussed their own research in lectures. I loved the tutorials, I found the assignments stimulating and challenging. I love how I was able to meet really great friends who also had a passion for Psychology and the Sciences (in fact, Marnelli who hosts BrainBreaking with me was someone I just met in a welcoming event for female science students. We’ve been good friends since first year!).
Those three years of undergrad was a whirlwind. I developed preferences for study areas, had my favourite cafe, occasionally bought clothes and accessories from the Thursday flea markets in the Quad, met with friends for afternoon churros and coffee, and voted for student council reps. I was a class rep myself a couple of times over the years. I became active with the Filipino Students Association (FSA), and was able to do volunteer work for the Early Learning Lab (ELLA) which specializes in developmental psychology.
Indeed, a lot of self-discovery and self-defining moments happened during my undergrad life… including the beginning of another significant chapter of my story… I met the current love of my life in university, and am still happily in that relationship!
It was a great 3 years of undergrad…now I believe it’s time I give my due thanks to the following:
- First, I am just generally thankful to have found a course that I truly love, and am willing to work hard for. Psych for the win! Haha.
- I am thankful to all my professors and tutors who cultivated my passion for Psychology. Also, for the people I’ve met in my classes, whether we were lab mates, or seat-mates, you’ve made my undergrad much more fun!
- I am thankful to my friends back home, who’ve been with me every step of the way, offering their time, support and encouragements. You guys have comforted me when I was at my lowest, and celebrated with me when life was looking up. I will always remember what one of my friends had said when we first moved here: that she knew I had a big heart, big enough to keep the old relationships, and make lots of new ones too.
- To friends I’ve made here in Auckland, thank you so much for just being there for me! For the beach trips, the parties, the tequila shots, the food trips, coffee dates, bake dates, shopping, girl talks, etc. etc. etc… Without you guys, I might never have accepted my new home the way I do now!
- To Louis, who, when we first met, made fun of me because I didn’t know then the directions to my own house. Thanks for driving me home during that FSA beach trip… and to all other events/places that we eventually went to as a couple. Thanks for being my sounding- board, for listening patiently whenever I was excited about what I’ve learned in class, for forcing me to open my mind and to always consider the other side of an argument, and most of all, for believing in me, and always pushing me to do more.
- Finally, to Mama and Papa, and my three brothers, thank you for being the awesome family that you are! I don’t know how many times I’ve piped up during dinner times saying that “There’s a research about that…”… it must have been a million times already, but thanks for always listening (or at the very least, letting me talk! Haha!).
- Thank you Mom, for proof-reading so many papers and research projects of mine.
- Thanks Pops, for making sure I get enough sleep and food to eat, especially during exam time.
So tomorrow, as I go up the stage to receive my diploma, I will walk with all my heart, head held high, remembering everything that has brought me here- all the people, the relationships, and the experiences that culminated towards this milestone. At the same time, I will walk with a determination and the mind-set of moving forward, towards my next goal now, which is to get registered as a practicing Psychologist!
Thank You, God. It is finally my turn tomorrow.