(Continued from page 1 of Back to School)
Here’s how I feel about being the oldest kid in the playground:
There is a line that goes:
Real education happens outside the classroom.
I know that most of what I have learned has come from experience, from mistakes, from people who didn’t even have a formal education, and that gaining a piece of paper doesn’t mean squat out there. But to answer the question of why I chose to go back to school, and why all the way in Barcelona, the answer to both would boil down to one word: Experience.
I would be lucky if even 50% of what I will learn in the relatively new field of Arts & Cultural Management comes in handy later on. Education in any field rarely answers real-life questions such as, What do I want to do with my life?, or How do I cover rent for this year?, or How do I pay off this student loan? (Fortunately, I have enough money to pay for the tuition–which is significantly cheaper than other universities–so I don’t have to go into debt.
It is experience that is the best teacher, as they say. It can be the experience of being paid for using one’s abilities (or not, as is oftentimes the case in my field). In Manila, I had been living independently for about a year. I had been working several freelance jobs (teaching, graphic design, social media management, and a three-month stint in advertising) while at the same time doing art commissions, exhibitions, and illustrations and paintings.
Financially speaking, I wasn’t doing all that great, but I was comfortable, to a certain extent. And for me, complacency and comfort is a sign that I am starting to stagnate. The question I often ask of myself is, where is the next challenge? What is the next step for me as a human being? For the longest time I have wanted to live abroad independently. I have experienced life in the developed world to some extent, but it was either as an exchange student or tourist. I wanted to uproot myself and to see what life is like outside of the ‘Third World.’
Specifically, I wanted Canada, Australia, or Japan. Each country however, has very specific requirements for granting residency visas, and going through the education route seemed much easier, and more logical, as it would give me international credentials, which would be useful when applying for work. It quickly became obvious, however, that school fees and living expenses were way beyond what I could afford and I would have to work extremely hard for a year or two to be able to earn enough money to do this. Student loans are not really an option in the Philippines. But somehow, through a random series of encounters (which I will write about in a future post), I found a school, the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya offering a one-year Masters which was actually within my budget. After going through the application process I found myself in Barcelona, Spain, a country that has very close ties to the Philippines (they colonised us for four centuries), and which has produced some of the most amazing art in the history of civilisation, whose language I barely spoke, and who–as many felt compelled to remind me–was severely-depressed economically.
So I am here to get an education, but not from the university professors. I am here to learn from Barcelona, the city, the people, the language, the culture. And I will be an excellent student.
If you are considering going back to school, I would highly recommend reading Chris Gillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity and Kio Stark’s Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything.