I began my journey with UPOU in May 2018. It was after I returned to Thailand from the Philippines for my mother’s burial. When my mother passed away, I was lost. I needed a direction and a distraction. At that time, I thought pursuing post-graduate studies might be a way to keep myself busy. While browsing the web for online courses, I came across the University of the Philippines Open University.
After sending the requirements in May, I waited for two months for the confirmation. I wasn’t sure if I’d pass the screening. I also asked myself whether I’d be able to hurdle the life of a “working student up to the standards of UP.” I anxiously awaited the results to come out. Being admitted to UPOU’s graduate program will definitely be the fulfillment of a dream.
On July 28, 2018 at 7:45 P.M., whilst in India for a short holiday, I received the admission notice from the office of UPOU Admissions. I got accepted to the Diploma in Language and Literacy Education (DLLE) program. DLLE is under UPOU’s Faculty of Education (FED). Although it was good news, it also signaled the challenging days and months ahead. My journey with UPOU officially commenced.
The Challenging Course Works
The Language and Literacy Program of UPOU is ladderized. A student who wants to enrol in the Masters Degree program must finish the Diploma program first. After which, he/she must pass the Qualifying Exam to be officially admitted to the Master of Arts in Language and Literacy Education (MALLE). Each academic year is divided into two terms. There are seven courses in the DLLE program. A student is only allowed to take two courses per term. This means that it will take two years to finish the whole diploma course. These are two years of absolute hard work and struggle juggling both being a teacher and a student.
There is a reason why UPOU only allow two courses in a term. The course works are tough and they demand time, concentration and discipline. One has to read the learning materials provided by the course instructors to be able to actively participate in the weekly discussion forums (DF). A single topic may require three to five references which may comprise three to five chapters or more, hence we need to manage our time carefully. If not, our readings will pile up towards the end of the semester and the stress will surely pile up too.
In addition to weekly forums, there were special projects given by the instructors to enhance learning and put those re-acquired knowledge into action. On the very first term, we were asked right away to do a Case Study on Language Acquisition. This, along with the reading activities, forums, essays and examinations made the first semester an authentic baptism of fire. Nonetheless, I won’t say they were difficult. Yes, they were tough but they were manageable. All you need is discipline, time-management, tenacity and hard-work.
The Positive Side of the UPOU Journey
True enough, I was preoccupied with all the course works that I didn’t have time to entertain my grief. I buried myself with the loads of weekly modules. My weekends were spent in coffee shops where I usually stay till the wee hours to read and do my assignments. Surprisingly, I learned to love everything about DLLE. The subjects were all related to my work being an EFL Teacher. I learned new insights and re-learned what I studied when I was doing my baccalaureate degree in PNU. The lessons were practical and I applied most of them in my own EFL classroom. Moreover, I also learned to critic my own teaching strategies and adapted new approaches for improvement.
Not only that, I met people and gained friends in the process. My classmates are scattered in the different parts of the globe. Many of them are teachers based in the Middle East, USA and Asia such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan and the Philippines. These virtual friends became my support system. We hangout through social media platforms where we share our frustrations and our accomplishments. Each of our stories was unique but there were some similar points where we intersected. I never realised virtual classroom can be fun and interesting too. To top it all, I had the privilege to be under the tutelage of top caliber UPOU professors and read their books, papers and published articles.
The First UPOU Virtual Graduation
The UPOU Class of 2020 made a history. On December 5 at 9 o’clock in the morning (Ph time), UPOU held its 24th Graduation Exercises and the first ever Virtual Commencement Exercises. At first it was set on November 22 but was moved to a later date because of typhoon Ulysses that profusely hit Luzon. Due to the existing Covid-19 pandemic, the usual graduation exercises held at the UPOU headquarters in Los Banos is temporarily put on hold for security reasons.
The virtual graduation isn’t your usual graduation where you get to get up early, put your make-up on, dress-up and gather the whole family to witness you as you march to receive that elusive diploma on stage. Since it was pre-recorded, the graduates just watched the live stream via Facebook or You Tube. My most favourite part of that virtual graduation was the “Sablay” shift. That was the moment that confirmed my journey with UPOU has finally come to fruition. I was emotional because I realised I made it despite all the odds at work and in my personal life.
After watching the live stream, we also had a virtual party where we met some of our professors face to face for the first time. I discovered that they weren’t the typical nerdy instructors who wears thick glasses. Via zoom, we interacted as a group and shared common and exciting experiences throughout our journey with UPOU. One thing is for sure, we were all relieved to have that chapter of our lives end. For some of us, we are still looking forward to continue the journey towards the title – MALLE (Master of Arts in Language and Literacy Education).
Here’s to another journey
Hopefully, another “Sablay” moment will happen in two years time. Hopefully, it will no longer be a virtual ceremony so I can finally have a photo at UPOU’s most famous landmark – the oblation.
Mabuhay ang mga Iskolar ng Bayan! Padayon UPOU Class of 2020!