It was February 14, 1988, when my siblings and I left our mother in the Philippines to live with our father in California. I was almost 18 years old when we moved to California. And as the oldest daughter, it’s practically a given in Filipino culture that I am my parent’s right-hand. My parents didn’t have to tell me that I have to look after my siblings when we move to the United States. I was already a sophomore in college when we migrated to the U.S. My father told me to enrol in our nearby public school to learn the American school system and establish residency before I register for college. Coming in at the end of the junior year as an international student was a huge culture shock for me; the kids are ruthless and unforgiving. They made fun of my accent and culture. Despite my not-so-pleasant experience I stayed in school and received my high school diploma in 1989 from Gunderson High School in San Jose.
Both of my parents hope it is for all their children to have a college degree. They often tell us, “education is the most valuable thing one can ever have- no one can take it away from you.” When I was in the Philippines, I took up nursing because it is what my parents want for me. They pay for my education, and therefore they get to pick the career they want for me. So when I enrolled in De Anza in fall of 1989, I signed up for classes in Psychology because this time, I’m paying for my education. I didn’t do so well. The reason is a combination of many things; language barrier, lack of moral support, immaturity and like the most early adult I want to live my own life; I don’t want to look after my siblings and take care of my family. I want to earn money, buy the things that I want, hang out with friends and enjoy my life. I dropped out of school, worked full-time and moved out of my father’s house. My parents didn’t take my action very well. They think I’m disrespectful, disobedient child and a disgrace.
Fast forward twenty years later, it was spring of 2013 when I attended the Notre Dame de Namur University’s open house- by then I have three lovable children; a fifteen-year-old, an eight-year-old and a four-year-old with my incredibly affectionate husband. By April of 2013, I received a letter of acceptance from the Director of Admissions at NDNU. I have been working full time for quite some time with the City of San Jose so I know I have the means to pay for my education. And by fall of 2013 I was enrolled in two classes; Stress in the Workplace and Communication Skills. The program was tailored to working professionals, so the class size was smaller, and the students were more matured and focused on learning- it felt good being back to school again.
I also want to use this platform to express my gratitude to the people who helped me with all my endeavours. My father passed away nine years ago, but I still want to acknowledge him. Thank you, dad, for bringing us to this country and giving us the opportunity to better our lives. You made a tough decision to leave your family in the Philippines to seek a better future for your children. To my mother, who made me the way I am. Thank you to my husband who does not complain about my lack of time and attention towards him and our children. I know he is hiding resentment because I have been attending school for almost six years now. He was probably hoping that I will drop out of school after few classes like I used to do when I was in my twenties, but I have not because this time I’m determined.
It seems like history repeating itself in that my eldest daughter is my right-hand. Since she was fifteen years old, she is taking care of her siblings while I’m going to school or needed alone time to study. At one point in my academic experience, she and I are classmates in math. She didn’t have to take Intermediate Algebra for Statistics, but she went ahead and took the class with me to show her support. I am so grateful and honor to be in the same section as her and will forever treasure the memory. To my son, thank you for giving me a shoulder rub, a kiss on the cheek and whispering to me “I love you, mom” whenever you see me under pressure. And to my youngest child, who always asked me, “why do you have to go back to college mom?” I know you don’t understand why I’m doing this. Hopefully, you realize the importance of education when you grow up. Thank you to my siblings for their support and understanding. Often I have to decline their invitations because I have to stay home to study. They also offer to take my children on the weekend when I needed time to review for an exam or work on a school project. I want to express my appreciation to my mother-in-law who believes in me. She thinks that I walk on water (laugh). She always has positive things to say about my family and me.
To my supervisor who is very supportive of me; he allows me to work a flexible schedule when I needed time for school or my family. To have a supervisor like him who lets me work independently and values work-life balance is priceless. My appreciation to my career mentor, for her time even though she just got promoted to a more demanding job she is still willing to help me review my career SMART goal and the draft of my resume. She even offers to stay in contact with me after the mentoring program is over. Lastly, to the Program Director of NDNU Bachelor of Science in Human Services. Her tireless commitment to making sure that all the students enrolled in the program succeeds. She makes it a point to meet with students one on one every semester. She helps draft our academic path and make sure we get the classes we needed. She replies to email promptly, and she even provides her cellphone # so we can reach her easily. To all of you, thank you for believing in me.