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How to get through the toughest–and most wonderful–time of your young life


By Mary Angela s. Barlongay
Images by Noel Pabalate

College advice from a student who got an almost perfect grade Niell shares his experiences as a stundent

With the number of prestigious schools in the city, thousands of students from different provinces move to Manila, Makati, and Quezon City to experience the best education.  But it’s not easy living in another town all alone at a young age. Homesickness and lack of support system from the family are just some of the struggles these students have dealt with. But for Neill StevenCachuela, being away from home only made him independent and became an opportunity to explore life even more. Neill came from General Santos City to Manila to take up Medical Technology at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). “Before, during my first and second year in college, I was living alone in my dorm. My parents let me live alone but they eventually they decided to let me stay somewhere where I’d have a roommate. Kahit hindi ko kakilala (even if I don’t know them). Since I already have roommates, being homesick wasn’t that big of a toll for me because there would be people inviting me to go eat and hang out. Plus, they were also the ones who toured me in UST since they were from a higher batch,” said Neill. Coming from a family of engineers, he was the first from his family to take up a medical course.

“Even before, I already wanted to pursue medicine. I wanted to study something related to the field of medicine. I also thought of taking engineering but thought to myself ‘I’ll try something new,’ since both of my parents are already engineers. My parents also pushed me to take up the course,” said the 19-year-old student.

At first glance, Niell seemed like an ordinary student. He lived a typical student life. He would hang out with friends, attend parties, would go to church every Sunday, and did his school works and practicum. But what sets him apart from other students was his exceptional grade. He garnered a general weighted average (GWA) of 1.059, making him the summa cum laude of his batch.

Here are some life lessons and advice from a student who got an almost perfect grade.

Plotting everything

When I was starting my first year in UST, I was nervous so I plotted everything I needed to do. I wrote down on my Post It everything I needed to do, the things I needed to do first. I would rank the subjects from the hardest so that I could allot more time on it. I would place the notes on the wall or on my table to remind me of the things I should do. I also plan my schedule. If I have six hours spare time, I would allot two hours for rest, three hours for studying, and if there’s more time, I would clean the dorm or prepare some stuff. Parang ayoko masayang yung time kasi ang hirap ng mag-isa tapos masasayang yung time ko (I do not want to waste my time since its already hard living alone).

 Learning when to rest

Whenever I have free time, if there’s no quiz or exam, or I don’t have to submit anything, I would just relax and rest, or hang out with my dorm mates. I want to balance everything, my time for study and time for having fun. I set my priorities. I feel like too much studying isn’t good. I do not want to be burnt out. For me, what I really need is sleep because I feel like after a good sleep, I am able to organize my thoughts and remember the things I studied.

Med Tech Achiever Niel is a graduating student from UST. He is now prepreparing for the board exams

Med Tech Achiever Niel is a graduating student from UST. He is now prepreparing for the board exams

Breaking stereotypes 

Ayokong ma-stereotype na kapag matalino hindi masyadong magaling sa real life (I do not want to be stereotyped as someone who’s smart but isn’t capable in real life). It was a challenge for me to show them that I can also do well in real life.

On turning dreams into reality and being happy

You can achieve your dreams with your effort and hard work. It doesn’t matter where you came from. Never lose hope in your dreams. Just do your best in everything you do and let God do the rest. Follow God’s plan.

It’s important that you’re happy in what you do because even if you’re struggling in life, as long you’re happy, you can conquer anything. You do not need to be in a hurry to fix your problems.

Never give up

I never thought of giving up and just return to the province because I do not want to disappoint my parents. I said to myself, ‘I should be strong when I go to Manila.’ I should continue despite any obstacle. If life gets harder, I would just call my parents and they would give me the simplest advice but those advice were the most effective ones.

Make friends

Choose your friends and know your friends because sila yung magiging takbuhan mo (they will be the ones who you can run to). Whatever problem you may have, your friends are the ones who can still make you smile at the end of the day. May karamay ka. You have someone who can help you both in life and in school.

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