I Finally Made It

I had been a working student. And to tell you the truth, it’s not as easy as you think.

At 9 o'clock in the evening, I answer phone calls from American customers of a big telecom company. After being shouted at for something you did not do, getting discriminated because of your nationality, and endlessly fighting the impulse to fall asleep, I escape hell at 6 o’clock in the morning.

I wish I could sleep after my 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. night shift, but I can’t.

Because I have to go to school to attend my classes.

If you’re an average person like me, you’ll have a hard time understanding concepts in Advanced Mathematics and equations in Signal Processing even if you had full ten hours of sleep, let alone no sleep at all.

The suffering goes on until 5 o’clock in the afternoon when my last class ends.

I wish I could sleep after my 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. classes in school, but I can’t.

You can’t just sleep if you have to gather sound level data in front of South Luzon Expressway for your thesis paper.

You can’t just sleep if you can’t teleport—it takes time before you get home, especially with the unparalleled traffic in Metro Manila.

You can’t just sleep if you live in a neighborhood where kids get rowdy exactly when you’re trying to sleep!

I wish I could sleep for more than two to three hours a day, but I can’t.

Because this is the kind of life a working student has, the kind of life I must live if I were to reach my dreams.

My life as a working student started with the terrible news that turned my life around. One day I woke up and my parents told me that I won't be able to continue my studies anymore.

My heart sank, my knees trembled.

The chance to be an engineer—gone. To watch my dreams fall apart is truly devastating.

I could not accept it. I don’t have to experience such misery in my life, I angrily told myself. But when it became clear that I really have to stop my studies, everything went dim.

I thought of ruining my life completely. I thought of doing drugs. I thought of getting into fights. I thought of. . . killing myself.

I was on the dark side—stuck.

Until my mom woke me up when she said, “If you think of taking your life because of hardships in life then you are a loser.”

I’m not a loser. I’m not a quitter. I’m not giving up that easy either.

So after months of emotional struggle, I realized that I simply have another problem to solve. Immediately after that realization, I picked up where I left off and was again back on track.

“If you think of taking your life because of hardships in life then you are a loser.”

— Mom

With a clearer perspective, I was able to come up with a two-part action plan. One, apply for a scholarship. Two, look for a job and save money for my tuition fee and allowance.

There’s no assurance that my scholarship application will get approved. Besides, my parents can’t provide me allowance and money for the things that I will be needing in college if I ever get back. One thing was clear: I still needed a job. So after submitting my scholarship application I went ahead and looked for one.

I was accepted in a BPO company as a customer service representative. Slowly, things started to get better. I wasn’t wishing for a quick solution or a miracle to happen, but it’s amazing how when you commit yourself into solving your problems, solutions just knock on your door.

One morning, I received a text message from Sir Yong, the program head of Computer Engineering in my school. He said that he needed to talk to me. I have no idea what it was going to be about because I was out of school during that time. I got curious so I went to school to meet him.

I can’t believe what he told me.

I was granted a full scholarship by the President of our school. It didn’t sink in immediately. I was waiting for somebody to pinch me and tell me I was dreaming. But nobody did. It was real.

Note from P.Y. Tan, President of Asia Pacific College | "Please consider Gil Vince Reyes as one of those under the support of the Office of the President. Please send billings to me. Thanks."

It was a dream come true. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Sir Yong and my English professors, Ms. Nina and Ms. Eliz. For them, I will forever be thankful.

And in no time I was back again at school.

3 years later and here I am, almost at the finish line. I’m happy to tell you that two months from now, I’ll be graduating from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. If I allowed myself to give up when I was struggling back then, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

My experience as a working student really pushed me to the limits, physically and emotionally. But I don’t regret any of it. My experiences made me tougher, stronger, and one-hundred percent better than the person I was.

You see, if you really want something, you don't stop chasing it no matter what. YOU DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO REACH YOUR DREAMS. Someday you’ll thank yourself for not stopping and for not giving up.

Last stretch, last two months. You have no idea how excited I am to share with the world my graduation photo with the caption, "I finally made it."

[UPDATE as of Nov. 21, 2016: I just graduated! Yey.]

This story was originally published at Thought Cloud, a space to express. Thought Cloud

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