Whenever I meet people, there is one question I dread they’ll ask: Where did you go to school?
“Uhm, UP?” they’d try for the last time, after getting only silence and a polite smile from me.
By this third attempt, I have a ready answer: “I don’t want to answer that!” And then I add that where I went to study doesn’t matter much. Next topic, please.
Well, of course, what school you went to is supposed to say a lot about you: How financially capable you and your family are, the field you want to pursue, the values you and your parents have.
But where you go to school does not—should not—define you as a person. I’m sure most people don’t really consider one’s alma mater as the basis for a relationship, for instance.
I guess asking about one’s school is just an ice breaker. After all, discovering that you went to the same university becomes fun when you realize you have common friends (or enemies), or that you hung out in the same cafeteria but never really saw each other.
I’ve been part of such conversation several times, except that instead of being one of the excited parties rattling off the names of college cuties, I’d be in the middle, awkwardly silent, eyeballs rolling, praying that everyone would move on to another topic.
When I was still a student, I didn’t really know how to handle the dreaded question. There were times I’d say “secret,” no matter how baduy and KJ that was, or joke that I was leaving for Harvard soon. There were times I just let them keep on guessing until they gave up. Other times, too, I lied.
I have to admit I wasn’t exactly proud of my school. I wasn’t ashamed of it, either, but my immature and insecure younger self didn’t know how to deal with people from more prestigious schools inquiring about my background. I feared they would look down on me if they found out I wasn’t their schoolmate.
Now that I’m in the workforce I still get the dreaded question. And while I’m finally at peace with myself and my schools, I still prefer not to answer the question. Where I studied isn’t the only thing that defines me. I’d rather talk about other stuff: Jude Law, dessert, unrequited love.
I do know my worth. I know I am not any less of a person just because I didn’t graduate from an elite university. In fact, I think I’m better than a lot of people I know who came from UP, Ateneo or La Salle because, despite not having graduated from there, I think I’m more successful than some people from these schools.
It’s true what they say. It’s not important what school you go to. What’s important is how much you learn there—and how you apply it in the real world. You can go to the most prominent and most expensive university and still end up jobless and self-destructive. You can be so poor that you don’t get to go to school, but still wind up richer and more successful than those with double degrees.
In a society that doesn’t prioritize your résumé if it doesn’t say you graduated from UP, Ateneo or La Salle, I might not be so proud of where I graduated but I’m mighty proud of myself.
Where did you go to school? E-mail the author at [email protected] or visit his blog at ninomarksablan.blogspot.com.