07 April 2017

Choosing a Majors Program and Making the Dean's List


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At the start of school year 1978-1979, I was by definition a junior but was still basically irregular with a back subject or two as well as advanced ones that I could take because these had no prerequisite subjects. As a junior, I was already obligated to choose a majors program.

I had discussed this at home with my Mom and Dad. My mother, in particular, thought a career in Foreign Affairs would not be such a bad idea at all. I thought so, too. Although I had ruled myself out of a career as an airline pilot, perhaps I could instead build another career in Foreign Service and one day end up being appointed ambassador to this country or that?

The most appealing thing about this notion was that preparation for a career in Foreign Service was within the scope of Liberal Arts. I figured that if I went along with my Mom’s suggestion, she would be less concerned about the Business side of Lia-Com – which I had dropped the previous year – and not ask too many questions about it.

But there was no Foreign Affairs program at DLSU. Those who, like me, pondered possible careers in Foreign Service chose from either of two programs: History-Political Science or East Asian Studies. I opted for the second because I felt that it would be better preparation for Foreign Service. History-Political Science sounded a lot like it would be better for those who were looking to go into law after college.

The moment I started taking up my major subjects, I was in my element. Most of these subjects required plenty of reading and writing. Even the required electives were of a similar nature since these were being offered in support of our major subjects. Because I no longer had to take subjects that I really cared little for, I was actually disappointed if I got a grade of 2.5. Most of my grades were from 3.0 to 4.0 and I was in the Dean’s Honors List from the first semester of my junior year until I graduated. Just two years earlier, it never even occurred to me that it was possible for me to make it to the Dean’s List at all. I was really beginning to feel good about my decision to drop the Commerce part of my course even if I continued to feel guilty that I had yet to inform my parents.

The funny thing about Liberal Arts programs was that there were many in the university who thought that these were run-of-the-mill ones for those who could not get into the technical courses. In fact, we had classmates who transferred from engineering programs because they were close to being kicked out and felt that they had better chances at survival by shifting to an Arts program instead.

Ultimately, their decision to shift became in a metaphorical sense akin to their digging their own graves. They were used to pondering abstract mathematical problems and transferred thinking that life at Liberal Arts just had to be easier. Big mistake! They came unprepared and unequipped for the volumes upon volumes of books to read and the number of term papers to write. I don’t recall that any of these students who shifted from engineering to our East Asian Studies classes survived.

Speaking of term papers, just what was it about them that they were never fun to write unless they were due the next day? Professors considerately let everyone know right on the first day of classes what term papers would be due for submission at the end of each semester. These were contained in the syllabi that they distributed to all students.

But I was a master at cramming! Somehow, it just never felt right trying to write term papers unless they were already due for submission the next day. The writing juices just invariably refused to flow unless there was the pressure of the impending deadline. After staying up late trying to complete a term paper, I would resolve to start early the following semester. But each time, despite my resolution, I would still end up cramming just before the papers were due.

There was, in fact, this semester when I did no less than ten papers overnight, all due for submission the following day. Not all were term papers. Some were movie or situational analyses but still had to be written. Times like this, I felt grateful that La Salle in Lipa had taught me how to type like a clerk. I was never any good at spending an entire night without sleep so the next day, I stumbled into school as though my head was not attached to my shoulders. Most of the papers were probably crap by my own standards, but I managed to submit all without overshooting the deadlines.

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