When I was a kid, I dreamed of studying abroad. I guess it was the influence of cartoons, anime and the movies I watched like “Madeline,” “Hana Yori Dango” (where “Meteor Garden” was based), and the Harry Potter franchise.
An opportunity came knocking at my door — a chance to finally fulfill this childhood dream. I got a scholarship to study at the Prince of Songkla University (PSU) in Thailand. But I was wracked with doubts. Did I have the capability to finish a math degree? Could I beat homesickness? But eventually, I shrugged off these doubts and grabbed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
My life as a master’s student in math in PSU was a long and winding road. There were a lot of humps and potholes, and I made a number of detours. When Plan A didn’t work, I would go to Plan B. If it still didn’t work out, then I would go to Plan C. Whenever I was about to get lost, my adviser would always lead me to the right direction. He was my compass in this whole trip, and I’m very thankful for him.
I’m glad there were diversions like Sports Day and out-of-town—even out-of-the-country—trips that were a breath of fresh air. It was a time to relax and reduce stress.
I’ll forever be grateful to PSU for teaching me some life lessons. In a group like the PSU mathematics and statistics department, we met different people, different personalities and different cultures, since the department hosted a diverse population of students from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Algebra told us that we, as social beings, want to get close to other people with the same wavelength as ours. We have the need to belong, to get associated with a group. A group gives us a sense of identity. Inevitably, we would also meet the inverse of our personality, but we just have to accept it and blend in.
We always remember what we should or shouldn’t have done, the “what ifs” in life. Hindsight is always 20/20. But what the Stochastic process showed me was that it doesn’t matter what our past is; what matters is our present, because how we live our present can tell us about our future.
Beyond my master’s degree, PSU inculcated in me camaraderie, confidence and courage. I would carry these values with me when I go back to the Philippines, after I graduate as a master’s student this September.
True, I had a lot of struggles and challenges in this journey. I thought of quitting as the only option to move forward. But I also reminded myself that I once dreamed of being where I am now. And I reminded myself to never quit, as poet Clinton Howell once wrote.
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John Patrick F. Solano, 28, is an applied mathematics graduate from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He is set to receive his master’s degree in mathematics from the Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Thailand, this September.
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