education in the Philippines

[New School] Regrets and redemption: Notes of a pandemic-time, graduating college senior

Juno Reyes

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[New School] Regrets and redemption: Notes of a pandemic-time, graduating college senior

Alejandro Edoria/Rappler

'As someone who is now just waiting to graduate, I honestly can’t help but envy the current set of freshmen. Wide-eyed, they get to experience the complexity of college life in its entirety.'

I have always been a fast walker — sparing no patience for people who block school corridors by taking their sweet time. Whenever I’d run into big groups of people obstructing my path, I’d quietly groan and mumble a quick, “Excuse me,” as I prepared to overtake them. I’d even walk ahead of my friends when they couldn’t match my pace while en route to our next class. 

I went to school, attended my classes, and went home right away to avoid running into traffic. I knew I had three more years ahead of me on campus, so I had never really exerted effort into staying in school a little past my dismissal time to hang around. I was complacent. 

This is what my first semester in college was like in 2019. 

Misplaced priorities

Even when the COVID-19 pandemic cut my freshman year short, I didn’t really think I’d miss out on anything. “A two-week break!” I happily thought to myself when I read the school memo announcing the suspension of classes. “More time for me to rest and complete my pending tasks, then.” 

Besides, two weeks wasn’t much of a loss considering that I still had three years to make the most out of my college experience. I took advantage of this short bout of freedom, until two weeks unknowingly turned into months, then years. Before I knew it, I was a college sophomore completing a chunk of my degree online. 

To distract myself from the uncertainty of being able to fulfill my dream college experience, I ended up dedicating all my time to my academics. I studied, studied, and studied – ignoring my upperclassmen’s advice to join student organizations. 

Reclaiming lost time

While I had stellar grades, though, there was still a numbness I struggled to rid myself of. So, in my junior year in 2021, I joined my first-ever student organization as a sports writer for the student publication. It was a major 180-degree turn from the freshman me who had been apathetic toward campus athletics. Little did I know, it would be the exact stepping stone I needed to catch up on making my college life worthwhile. 

I started seriously immersing myself in the world of college sports, and in turn, general campus culture as well. I made it a point to actually attend org events, even though they were all held online. With all the fun I had then, the regret finally started to kick in. 

Why had it taken me so long to put myself out there? 

Suffice it to say, what many others got to experience in freshman and sophomore year, I was only beginning to experience as a junior. I had failed to make college the best four years of my life. 

And so I took full advantage of the resumption of face-to-face classes in my senior year. I felt like a video game character embarking on an extremely time-sensitive quest to somehow cram into two semesters everything I had missed out on for the past three years. 

Despite my past intolerance for traffic jams along the narrow hallways in school, I started walking slowly on campus to bask in the scenery I had taken for granted. I even went from always taking the shortest paths to now walking the longest routes I could. 

Org events also became my go-to avenue to unwind, even if I usually ended up having to go home late. Pre-pandemic, I would always leave campus early to avoid rush hour. Now, I’d willingly sit through hours of traffic if it means getting to be in school for longer. 

The way forward

As someone who is now just waiting to graduate, I honestly can’t help but envy the current set of freshmen. Wide-eyed, they get to experience the complexity of college life in its entirety. Although I wish I could have a do-over, all that’s left to do now is to give advice to underclassmen. 

Even if you’re used to walking briskly, go out of character every once in a while. Walk slowly to take in the breathtaking views that the campus has to offer. 

Show up more often. Take your friends up on their offers to watch UAAP games — even for sports you know nothing about. Accept those hangout invites you’ve gotten so used to turning down for the sake of your academics. 

Of course, don’t be afraid to try new things. Join that org whose application process has always intimidated you. Buy food from a different cafeteria stall for a change. Volunteer to be the class beadle. Line up for those men’s basketball game tickets in the wee hours of the morning.

You’ll only realize when you’ve reached the finish line that these seemingly trivial in-betweens are what you’ll remember most when you say goodbye to student life for good. 

Etch these notes in your mind so that when you wrap your college life up in a few years’ time, you’ll do so with absolutely no regrets. –

Juno Reyes is a graduating Communication major from the Ateneo de Manila University. 

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