A scholar is a fighter through and through. Their whole experience—from competing with hundreds of scholarship applicants, to dealing with the pressures of grade requirements, to finally earning that diploma—is filled with hardship and triumph.
Every scholar has a story to tell. Every scholar has a hero’s journey.
The hero’s journey is the outline of every story in the world—as Joseph Campbell says in his book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” after finding a common pattern in many hundreds of fairy tales, folk tales and legends. You have surely seen it in your favorite books and movies.
To roughly sum it up, every story looks like this: 1) The status quo and call to adventure – Life is okay, but it could be better. Think Belle singing, “There must be more than this provincial life;” 2) Crossing the threshold – The hero leaves his/her comfort zone; 3) Challenges; 4) Crisis; and 5) The return of the hero – Harry Potter defeats Voldemort. The world is a better place.
We, ourselves, go through the hero’s journey several times in our lives—as three young women of Edukasyon.ph did as scholars in college.
From KPOP Fangirl to Nationalistic Filipino
The world of K-Pop opened up to Hancee as ballet closed its doors on her.
She recalls, “I remember my ballet teacher. Sabi niya sa mom ko, ‘I’m sorry it’s not for your child.’ So parang bata ka, ‘Ay,’ sabi ko, ‘Walang pag-asa.’ Tapos noong naano naman ako sa K-pop, sabi ko, ‘Ay, ang easy ng steps nila.’ So nasusundan-sundan ko sa Youtube lang. Tapos hanggang sa naging complicated na. Sobrang na-build up din iyong confidence ko doon. I’m more fierce. LOL.”
She went on to adapt everything else about Korean culture including the fashion. She beams, “High-waisted na skirt, tapos rubber shoes. Parang may phase ako na ang hilig ko sa printed leggings.”
Call to adventure:
As with any K-Pop superfan, her ultimate dream was to go to Korea. And a scholarship was her key to get there.
She says, “So I had an idea na before, ‘Ah okay. If I get into UP, mas madaling mag-aral in Korea kasi may partner schools na sila. The scholarship is tuition, iyong dorm, tapos iyong food. Super kailangan kasi sobrang mahal ng mga bagay sa Korea.”
And when she made it as a scholar student in her dream country, she had the time of her life: “Fangirl paradise talaga siya kasi isang bus lang, nandoon ka na sa concert grounds. Hindi pa sikat ang K-pop dito. Pero kapag nandoon, you’re not the weird one kasi everyone is doing it kasi everyone is feeling na, “Ay, okay. I belong.”
Most importantly, the scholarship allowed her to truly enjoy studying without the worries. She shares, “Mas focused ka sa pag-aaral mo. So it’s more relaxed na din kasi hindi mo po-problemahin na, ‘Hala, kasya pa ba ‘yong allowance ko until next week.’ Kaya rin siguro ako mas naging sociable at that point like I got to meet friends na foreigners. It’s like mas nalalagay sa better use iyong energy mo.”
The return of the hero:
Ironically, yet in a good way, studying abroad intensified Hancee’s love for her own country, the Philippines.
Being in a foreign country—in the absence of the things that are uniquely Filipino—awakened her sense of nationalism. And it shed light on how her country could be better.
Fast forward a few years later, Hancee now helps move the country forward by empowering students through Edukasyon.ph. Hancee says, “I want to help in the vision, making sure that children after me, mas informed na sila and alam na nila kung ano iyong kukunin nila, gusto talaga nila at magaling talaga sila. It’s a long way to go for sure. Pero, baby steps.”
“Average” Student, Extraordinary Opportunity
Chrisia’s father earned a decent living for their family. But it wasn’t enough to pay for college—let alone a good one.
And that’s why up until the last minute, Chrisia had to find another way to go to college. She recalls, “Iyong pressure na ‘yong mga batchmates mo papasok na ng school, ikaw wala ka pang school. Iyak ka na, ganoon.” It was a do-or-die situation. If she couldn’t find a scholarship, she’d have to get a job instead.
Luckily, the company where her father worked offered a scholarship. This was a ray of hope. But it also was for hundreds of other students. According to Chrisia, “Madaming matatalinong kasabay eh, like coming from Science high schools. Parang ako average student lang naman ako sa school (laughs). Well, nasa pilot class ng high school pero wala ako sa top. Average student pero na-reach ko yung grades na kailangan para makapasok pa rin doon.”
Yet she beat the odds. “So pagdating ng May, meron na akong school sa APC (Asia Pacific College). A month before classes pa,” says Chrisia.
It was onwards and upwards after that. Chrisia went on to be on the dean’s list from freshman year up to graduation—where she stood smiling amongst her batchmates, wearing their white hoods amid a sea of maroon. “Pioneer batch iyong Psych (Chrisia’s course) sa APC. Iyong batch namin ‘yong unang grumaduate noong commencement exercises namin. Kami lang yung naka-white hood. Nagulat ‘yong mga ibang course kasi first time mangyari ‘yon na may naka-white na hood.”
The return of the hero:
Chrisia now works for Edukasyon.ph, hopeful that students won’t have to go through as much uncertainty as she did.
She considers herself lucky; If her father did not know about the scholarship offered by his company, she would have missed out on the opportunity.
Students now live in better times. According to her, “Since may Edukasyon na, we can really just, in one click, in one search, in one website, we can look for a lot of scholarships that you can apply to. Mayroon kang variety or choices to choose kung anong scholarship iyong pwede mong applyan.”
Scholarship Opportunity, Scholarship Anxiety
Call to adventure:
Den didn’t find a scholarship. A scholarship found her—at the prestigious De La Salle University, no less.
She ranked high at the entrance exams. And the scholarship was an unexpected reward. “It’s like a pleasant surprise really. I didn’t know na may ganoon. I found out when they released the results and then I found it from my classmate in high school.”
Den previously studied at a public Science high school, aware that money did not come easy.
In fact, money caused her anxiety. “I fixate on small things. In college, a lot of it is fixated on failure, on small things that I wasn’t able to do. I catastrophize.
I worry that it would result to failure of this quiz. And then the failing of the quiz would result to a failed course. And then that failure would result to a failed term. And then I would lose my scholarship.”
But Den got through the struggles with the help of counseling, a strong support system, and her inner grit. She shares, “I think it (the scholarship) helped me be stronger in terms of withstanding pressure. Of course everybody wants you to succeed pero sometimes it translates into pressure. That’s when you learn how to be nice to yourself, be kind to yourself.”
The return of the hero:
Den believes there are many deserving students who simply don’t know where to find opportunities. “I’m lucky that I got that scholarship. I didn’t know about it. So, there are probably students there who are just as worthy of scholarships. Hindi lang nila alam. And you can’t rely on luck ‘di ba.
That’s something that we’re doing. We’re eliminating the luck aspect. It’s empowering them essentially because when you have all the information, the decision making it’s all on you na eh. So it’s not that they’re doing it for their family, it’s not that they’re doing it because their peers are doing it. It’s because this is what they want and this is what they see themselves doing.”
These three stories tell us three things: 1) A scholarship can be a student’s weapon in slaying the dragon that is the high cost of education—with rewards such as being able to study in one’s dream country, 2) Anyone is capable of getting a scholarship, with enough determination and awareness on where to look. And 3) While a scholarship helps you reach your dreams, it will also test your limits.
But in the end, you walk away from it stronger, diploma in hand. The return of the hero.