The big leap from academics in the Philippines to the United States
All my life I’ve been told to excel in school. This was a common learning environment in the Philippines. It was sooo competitive. There were “top 10” students in the class, they would announce it quarterly throughout the whole academic year. Never have I ever gotten close to the first, nor the fifth, at least until I got to high school.
Of course, this all only accounted for the academics, no extracurricular activities. People realized those existed only when I was finally about to hit college. And culturally, you weren’t surprisingly astounding unless … you guessed it, you excelled academically. With this, I never felt like I was anything special, let alone smart.
Curricula in my country were rigorous, though. When I studied computer engineering for a year at De La Salle University, I was taking 18 units for a 14-week semester. The maximum load of units was 21. Though, Filipino students are known to not have a part-time job during the time of study.
Setting myself up to … succeed?
Today, I am an International Peer Mentor for TMCC’s International Student Services while taking 15 units this semester. At first I thought about taking less, as I wasn’t really supposed to take CHEM121 — I was just trying to be the overachiever I never was. Or maybe I am?! That grew old quickly. It’s much different thinking and planning the amount of classes you want to take compared to when you are actually currently taking them. It gets overwhelming in a snap!
There are no typhoons in the high desert
It helps to manage your time wisely, especially when you intend to have a job while studying. It gets more complicated than that when you account for the weather. A week ago, a huge snow storm struck Northern Nevada, so bad that the school didn’t open until Wednesday wherein students — like me, who live in Carson City with a buried car — couldn’t drive up to campus until Thursday. Tests and exams were postponed.
One of these tests was for my chemistry class, where the teacher just told us to use the testing center at TMCC, causing a huge shift in my schedule and to even skip my theater class! It was an experience, as back home the biggest reason for no-school days were because of typhoons, which never happens in the high desert (apparently).
Feeling grateful for how I learned
The transition of academics from my country to the United States was a huge jump. As harsh as it was back in the Philippines, I’m thankful for the preparation I had back home — maybe it’s just not suited for 10-year-olds. Though there could have been a healthier version of competitiveness instilled in students — not breeding people who get super competitive when a class Kahoot! game is up, ahem.
|Alaine Obra from the Philippines is studying for an associate’s degree in computer science at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.
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