A marathon, not a sprint: How three UPLB students turned delays into redirections

Written by Billie Cabildo and Darelle Anne Ebron

Everyone’s life journey may seem a little different—what may be the goal for one may just be the starting point for another. 

Some get their first job right out of graduating college, while others may decide to take a few years off before finding work. However, there are also those who, for differing reasons, may have joined the workforce a bit earlier than most. 

In the midst of finishing their education, some individuals from Los Baños, Laguna made the daunting decision to enter the workforce and work amongst professionals in their respective fields. 

Auna Carasi: hardworking freelancer and aspiring development worker

Auna Carasi as a development worker in an international NGO.

Auna Carasi, a Los Baños native, entered college as a BS Development Communication (DevCom) student in 2015. 

With a keen interest in the field of communication, she found herself thoroughly enjoying her science and educational communication courses as compared to her journalism courses. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Auna’s classes shifted to online learning. This was when she decided to take up freelance online jobs as a way to help her family financially. In the middle of the semester, she was offered an opportunity to work for an international non-government organization (NGO). Seeing this as a way to help her family more, she chose to put her studies on hold to work in the field. 

Not only did her job help with finances, but it also helped her realize what she wanted to pursue after graduation: community service.

Gusto mo yung ginagawa mo, nababayaran ka pa with what you do. Doon ko rin na-realize kung ano yung gusto kong path na i-take after I graduate, na after graduation, gusto ay yung sa community service–mag fieldwork,” she said.

Auna had an extensive background in community fieldwork, having been a DevCom student. While she was occupied with her job at the NGO, she was unable to process her leave of absence (LOA), resulting in an absence without  leave (AWOL) status. As a result of this, her courses that incurred incomplete grades lapsed. 

When asked about any regrets, Auna shared that leaving her LOA unprocessed was one she always thought about. Had she processed her LOA during her time at the NGO, she wouldn’t have had to repeat a lot of her classes when she returned.

Nonetheless, when the pandemic restrictions eased and in-person classes resumed in the college, Auna was able to resume her studies. She decided on this since her job still required a college diploma as part of their qualifications. 

“Importante pa rin na makagraduate kasi bukod sa mahihirapan ka mag-compete with other people who would apply for the work that you’re applying to, like ikaw din sa sarili mo, you would feel bad na, ‘ano ba yan di pa ako graduate,’” Auna said.

Jade Rosit: dedicated activist and aspiring lawyer

Using her voice to help people: Jade Rosit as a speaker during the launch of the “Justice Bilis, hindi Justice Tiis” campaign of the company she worked for.

Jan Dominique “Jade” Rosit, another student in Los Baños, had a somewhat similar journey with Auna. 

Jade entered college as a BA Sociology student in 2010, stopped studying for one semester in 2013 due to financial reasons, came back, but stopped again for five years. This led to her encountering enrollment issues due to the maximum residency rule in the university and was disapproved thrice after processing. 

After encountering difficulties with her status, she decided to work for her finances and take a break from college for her mental health. As she worked as a project officer in a company, Jade was in charge of conducting fieldwork in different provinces across the country.

Being a dedicated activist, Jade was excellent at her job and learned the importance of discipline and self-control throughout her journey. While being focused on her work, she was immersed in different communities and exposed to different issues encountered by her fellow Filipinos . This further ignited the activist in her as she strived to be of help to these individuals she would encounter in her job.

After five years of working in the field, Jade realized that she wanted to move upward in her career, and decided  to go back and receive her college diploma. She re-enrolled in the same course and is now finishing the  last few subjects, as well as her thesis.

Jade wishes she fought for herself more back then, just like how she lobbied for the rights of other people through her line of work.

Kaya kong tumagal ng ilang araw sa iba’t-ibang probinsya para lang makipag-laban for other people’s rights, so bakit di ko magawa yun para sa sarili ko?” she said.

Equipped with valuable knowledge that she gained from her time in the workforce, Jade said she is now more confident in herself and does not struggle as much as she did before. 

“[It] sounds petty, but our generation was molded to be submissive yet authoritative at the same time.”

She also said that self-love and self-confidence are two of the most important values she discovered, and now that she is finishing up her degree, she feels like she no longer has to “fake it till she makes it.”

Jason Reyes: creative media producer and aspiring teacher

Jason Reyes (far right, in white & gray) as an audio man in one of his freelancer stints for an event in Makati.

Jason Bernard Reyes, a current BA Sociology student, had a long journey in the workforce for 23 years before resuming his studies.

Jason’s story begins a bit earlier than Auna’s and Jade’s. He entered college for the first time in 1995, newly graduated from high school. Back then, he was a BA Communication Arts student. In his second semester, he found himself struggling to catch up in his studies and went AWOL. 

His struggles were not only rooted in his difficulty keeping up in classes but also in trying to cope with his mental stability and problems. 

“There’s really nothing else to do but to fight… laban lang nang laban, wag ka susuko. Just do what you have to do to make it. Labanan mo yung mga personal issues mo… Kaya yan, basta you have the proper mindset to do it,” Jason said.

Since then, he worked many different jobs, making use of his knowledge and passion for video production to find freelance work. Aside from video production, Jason also tried corporate communications, but realized he was not built for corporate politics, being used to his experiences as a freelancer.

The fierce competition and oversaturation of the media production market became a turning point for Jason to go back to college and finish his degree. Because of this, he realized that his line of work was not enough to sustain his finances. 

After a night of drinking and catching up with his friends from high school, he was convinced by them to resume his studies for better opportunities. Since his time off from college was quite long, Jason had to restart his degree due to the significant changes in the curriculum.

At first, he took up the same course he took back in 1995—BA Communication Arts. However, it was not long before Jason realized that he found a deeper interest in the social sciences, and took up BA Sociology instead. 

Despite his initial worry about not being able to connect with his classmates due to the generational gap, Jason immersed himself in the college community and even joined an academic organization. It was there that he discovered how much useful  knowledge and insights he had collected over the years. 

Jason learned the majority of his skills in customer satisfaction, professionalism, and leadership while working as a call center agent, before resuming his studies.

According to Jason, aside from the time that passed, he never had any regrets during his journey. He’s a happy-go-lucky person who always looks forward to the future. 

Moving forward, Jason has high hopes for himself as he finishes the last year of his degree.

Ipaglaban niyo kasi pinaghirapan niyo yang [pag-aaral],” Jason said.

Moving forward: What’s next?

Now that all three individuals are back in college to finish up their degrees and earn their diplomas, what lies in store for them now? Their answers, while varied, hold ideals that serve a similar purpose—to get better opportunities for themselves and others.

Auna, being a DevCom student, targets to continue her passion for working in the field, working with different NGOs in the country. 

Jade, on the other hand, is looking into attending law school and pursuing labor law. Her passion for serving the people and her background in working both as a paralegal and  project officer pushed her to aim for that goal.

Kung makakatulong pa rin ako sa mas maraming tao but at the same time kaya ko pa rin kumita [ng pera], then I will pursue labor law.”

As for Jason, he’s open to pursuing a Master’s Degree to be able to teach high school or college students, while doing video production work on the side. He also envisions starting his own business with like-minded people like him if given the opportunity.

Although it may seem unconventional to many, the journey that these three individuals took is not an uncommon one.

When asked to give a message to those going through similar paths as them, they shared the same answers. Rather than give motivational speeches, Auna, Jade, and Jason all encouraged individuals who face the same challenges they encountered to make sound decisions at the right pace and at the right time, whenever they feel ready. 

Alam ko yung pinagdadaanan nila, so alam kong hindi ko kailangan ng motivational speaker. Ang kailangan ko ay taong makikinig,” Jade said.

For Auna, she believes that knowing your priorities and understanding how much workload you can handle is an essential aspect of getting through the challenges that you might face.

Isa sa mga deciding factors sa kahit na anong decision na gagawin natin ay ano ba yung kailangan natin, ano yung pinakakailangan natin, ano yung pinaka-kaya natin, tapos alin yung mga pwede mong isantabi pa.

As for Jason, he emphasized the importance of putting mental health concerns first before anything else, “Nahihirapan kayo for so many reasons… Labanan niyo muna yung [mental health issues] niyo bago bumalik.” 

Jade did just that. Not only is she back in college to finish her degree, but she has also sought help through the form of therapy, made possible through the money she earned when she worked before.

“Hindi pa ako graduate nito, pero I’m [already] excelling.”

As they near the end of their time as students, they are now ready to (re)enter the workforce equipped with newfound knowledge, committed determination, and burning passion to give back not only to the communities they serve but most importantly—to themselves.