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Looking Back: My Journey Through College

Yesterday, after having graduated more than three years ago, I was finally able to claim my college diploma. For some bizarre reason, in the Philippines, most diplomas aren’t given on the graduation day itself. Mine took a couple of months before it was ready for claiming, and by that time, my work schedule didn’t allow me time to go to our university registrar.

As I was driving in campus, I couldn’t help but remember those days of walking from building to building while half-asleep (due to the typical plate-related all-nighter), slumming on the red concrete floor of Palma Hall while simultaneously eating my packed lunch and cramming for a quiz, and falling asleep in yet another lecture class (which brings me back to the parentheses above). It was a trip down memory lane, only all the years between then and now were highlighted by the change in my point of view, as well as the actual changes in campus.

The change in my POV, I attribute to my being the driver, not just the passenger. That’s both literal —  it was just my second time driving there, as I usually commuted or hitched with my dad before — and figurative. Figurative in the sense that, back then, I was all caught up in the demands of the course. So intent on the goal was I that I just rolled with the punches, never considering that maybe, I could’ve taken a detour somewhere. Now, here I am, with a totally empty slate. I’ve determined that the path I was on is not one that will bring me to the finale that I’ve been dreaming of. I’m no longer restricted to point by point curriculums, and I see so many possibilities that I’ve yet to explore. It’s my turn to take the wheel, to go far and/or to crash hard.

But before I go into future plans, I think it’s only fitting to look back and celebrate those moments, whether pivotal or mundane, that made my college experience what it was. As they say, sometimes, it’s not about the destination, but the journey itself. In celebration of my journey through college, I tinkered with Keynote and made some simple collages just for fun (for some reason, my Adobe Photoshop disappeared from my laptop). I apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of the photos.

So here it goes, my top five college learnings/experiences!

I am not an artist by birth. Since Interior Design in UP didn’t require a drawing test in addition to the standard entrance exam, I came into the course with untried hands, so to speak. I cried tears of frustration countless times, especially after an esquisse that I wasn’t able to finish in the allotted time, and in the early light of day, when it was nearly time to get ready for class and I was nowhere near finished with my plates.

Somehow, I muddled by, with hours of erasing and redoing, and invaluable help from my professors and peers. While I can’t boast of being the best artist in our class, I managed to do okay. I much preferred drafting over freehand, as I enjoyed the precision and the logic of it. Sometimes, I think I should’ve taken Architecture instead of ID. If only it didn’t have Physics as a requirement, and didn’t take five years to complete. Anyway, later on, there was AutoCAD and SketchUp, which made the design process more fun (in my opinion).

This was among the most enjoyable assignments we had, particularly since we could work with our friends. It was an excuse to work together overnight for several days in a row (often in my house), to eat tons of junk food and drink enough coffee/soda to drown in, and to catch up on TV series and chick flicks. It was during one particular overnight session that I first discovered Yakisoba instant noodles.

Model making is a painstaking process, starting with the conceptualization and drawings, moving on to the material sourcing and then to the actual fabrication. We started off with small models that we were tasked to do individually, like the office cubicle, and later did models of restaurants, retail stores and hotel suites in groups. The good thing when working with groups was that everyone could contribute their own ideas and work on their strengths to make the entire design all the more effective.

Okay, the title may be a bit of a stretch because it wasn’t like we actually built houses or poured concrete. We did have several projects such as designing and building a conceptual “Chika Chair”, and executing the renovation of a teenage girl’s bedroom. Those were great opportunities for us to immerse ourselves in the actual work that Interior Design entails, and also to understand the process behind it. All the while, we had to consider the major constraint of budgeting, since we basically paid for everything out of our (and our parents’) wallets.

One of the most important lessons I learned in UP was that learning isn’t just restricted to the classroom. There were things that I learned only when I stepped outside those four walls and into the world. More than once, our professor brought us to different spots on campus so we could translate what we saw, heard and felt into drawings. Of course, we also had out of town field trips, the most memorable of which was the Ilocos trip I joined with my Art Studies class. There was something about walking along Vigan’s Calle Crisologo and gazing up at the carillon of the Baroque Paoay Church that brought me back in time and gave me a better understanding and appreciation of history.

Then there are things that I learned only by doing them — like drawing and making crafts. Once I knew the fundamental principles to it, I could put my own spin and create something new. One other valuable lesson that UP taught me was that, no matter how expensive or elaborate a design is, if the concept isn’t solid and relevant, it’s not going to sell. Substance over flash.

And lastly, my college experience wouldn’t be memorable without my pals. Be it cramming for a test, working on a plate, designing a chair prototype, going to a museum, or sleeping in class, to borrow from the Philippines’ tourism campaign, it’s more fun with friends.

Need I say more?

After countless plates, harrowing esquisses, lots of model making/chair prototyping/seminar attending, 200 hours of on-the-job training and my agonizing 100+ thesis paper and defense, I marched with my block mates donning our university sablay (sash) in the summer of 2009.  To close this chapter of my life, here’s a photo of me with my cousin/blockmate/officemate/friend on the day of our graduation, along with the photo of my diploma. FINALLY!

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