A Return to Student Life

Tomorrow begins the second week of graduate school. I could have written in last week, but I was too busy packing and anticipating the events of the coming day. I’d probably just sound like any school kid before the first day — curious, excited, terrified, elated. At that time, I didn’t feel like writing yet.

But now some of it has sunk in. I now have a clearer idea of what’s in store. I’ve already been sleeping very soundly in the dorm. I’m no longer a ship waiting for landfall: the terrain is fully in sight; so here is what I see.

First the basics. I am taking up a Master in Development Management (MDM) at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). What does that degree do for me exactly? Well, first and foremost, AIM began as a business school and soon its MBA program became known as one of the best — if not the best — in the Asian region. The MDM program grew out of the institution’s desire to contribute to development in the country. Simply put, they wanted to do what they can to help solve poverty. And poverty comes in many forms: wherever and whenever you see deprivation, you’ll see poverty — in the hungry, the sick, the uneducated, the unprotected, the marginalized, the underrepresented, you can go on and on.

That’s where I come in. I am part of the 24th MDM batch. My classmates come from all over the Asian region. In my class is a social worker from Bhutan, a microfinance manager from Nepal, an NGO worker from Bangladesh, educators from Cambodia, and more. My Filipino cohorts hail from the military, the police; I have classmates who are doctors (one barangay doctor, one private, one government), business professionals, the clergy, and the social work sector. I am the only teacher, the only from the academe. But those that stand out in my mind are those who pursued MDM because they’ve hit a plateau in their careers or have grown bored with their lives and are now in search for something more. It’s amazing how with the desire to better themselves they took a risk on themselves, and even more amazing is how AIM took a risk on them. “There is a place for everyone here,” our teachers say.

In the next 11 months, all of us will go through the same rigorous training in various tools in business, management, and development in order to become leaders at the fore of our sectors and organizations. The vision of MDM, as Dean Mike Luz puts it, is to have us in the top management positions of our organizations in five years. It’s a bold statement, but it summarizes their aspirations for us, their students. It is a promising, empowering goal.

I’ve been a teacher for my entire professional life; it is the only job I’ve known. Getting to stand side by side with classmates with incredibly diverse backgrounds and experiences is both humbling and empowering. There were moments when I felt small compared to what my classmates had already done and achieved, but then whenever I get to share my own experiences, knowledge, and thoughts, I see that they, too, find something new, strange, and unfamiliar in what I say. It is definitely a challenge to be the only one in my class representing the teachers and educators in our country — and that’s even before I remember that I still carry the good name of the Philippine Science High School.

We are currently in the pre-MDM stage which will go on until January 25. It is composed of a series of classes on the basics of Statistics, Economics, Accounting — subjects which our core curriculum will build upon. Everything is still currently ungraded, but there is already some mild pressure to work hard. Just last week, I already slept just before midnight reading up on Accounting and preparing for recitation the next day. Come January 28, the real work begins. Our program has three main modules composed of twelve weeks each. The culmination of the program is our Management Research Report (MRR), a thesis-type requirement wherein we write about the problems faced by a real organization, and recommend a management solution to address that problem. As of the moment, I foresee that this MRR will take me back to Pisay.

So how is it like being a student again? It’s exciting, really. I feel that I’m a better student now than I ever was before — I study better, prepare for class better, and appreciate the various methods employed by my different teachers. I guess this is a topic I’ll be writing about more in the future as I get with the program.

For now, all I can say is that I’m living my life’s most exciting year yet. I am incredibly blessed to be where I am that I simply cannot play it small. We’ll never run out of space to be better, and here I have the chance to be the best me I can be. What matters is not that we made, but that we make it! We become the change we seek.

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