We Should Remove the Stigma Associated with Taking a Gap Year


Malia obama, gap year, ubc

This week, several media outlets have reported that Malia Obama, Barack Obama’s oldest daughter, has opted to go to Harvard University, making her one of the many presidential children to attend the prestigious Ivy League school. When I learned, however, that she will take a gap year and start college in the fall of 2017 instead of this year, I had one thought: YASSSSSS

Seriously, though, yes! As the daughter of the President of the United States of America, Malia is and will always serve as a role model for youth across the world. By choosing to take a gap year, she is sending a powerful message to all incoming and future college students that there is nothing wrong with taking a year off before heading to university.

Despite the numerous potential benefits of taking a gap year such as having the time to work in order to save money, traveling in order to learn about the world and discover different cultures, or having the opportunity to gain valuable career experience through an internship or building a business, there is still stigma around gap years. I know for sure that I considered taking a gap year myself in order to first figure out what career I really wanted to pursue, but I ended up going to university right away due to pressures from family–and, as much as I hate to admit–perhaps from the society as well. And I am not the only one who considered but didn’t end up taking a gap year. I have spoken to a lot of classmates and friends who admitted they wanted to take a year off, but did not do so in fears that they might lose their desire to pursue a university degree after the gap year. I feared this, too. But looking back, I honestly think a gap year would have made me a more driven student, primarily because it would have helped me figure out my true passions, and it would have probably allowed me to choose a major that better suits my skills and interests.

Hopefully, with Malia’s decision to take a year off, the society will be more supportive of students who want to take a gap year.

If you are an incoming freshman and are still really unsure about what you want to do in the future, THAT IS PERFECTLY FINE. University is a place that is supposed to help you know yourself better. But if you can, please take a gap year. Rest. Work. Travel. Start your own business. Use it to do anything that you think will help you become better prepared for your university experience.

Second Year Round-Up (Term 1)


In a lot of ways, my second year at UBC was better than my first one. This was mainly because I was able to force myself to focus more on my academics this past year, which resulted to more effective time management on my side, and of course, less stressful days! It also definitely helped that I enjoyed almost every single course that I took this year.

In this post, I will review each class that I took in the first term of my second year. Let’s get to it!



ECON 221 – Introduction to Strategic Thinking (Instructor: Michael Vaney)

This course is all about Game Theory, the study of developing and using strategies in making decisions. If you’re planning to take this class, be prepared to study a lot of different economic models (Cournot, Bertland, etc.). Getting an A in this class is definitely possible if you: 1) make sure you have complete lecture notes (Vaney doesn’t post his lecture notes online, so your notes will be your main study tool), 2) do your assignments at least 3 days before the due date (they’re quite long; last thing you want to do is copy off someone else’s work and miss your chance at answering problems that may appear again in your midterm or final), and 3) go to your tutorial/discussion class! Before I took this course, the only economic models I had been familiar with were the ones taught in ECON 101 and 102. So lectures during the first few weeks were a bit hard to follow, but thankfully we had a very helpful TA for our discussion group; she was patient in answering all of our questions and was very generous of her time outside her office hours! I wasn’t very happy with my midterm mark. Thankfully, the midterm and the final had almost exactly the same format! So after thoroughly reviewing the midterm questions and going through the practice final exams, I was able to pull off an A!

Best thing I learned from taking this course: Take advantage of econ tutorials/discussions! Even if attendance is not mandatory, attending discussion groups will surely help you understand the class better.


ECON 325 – Introduction to Empirical Economics (Instructor: Hiro Kasahara)

I  guess I’ll start by saying that I didn’t enjoy this course as much as I wanted to. ECON 325 is a required course for the Economics Major program, so I thought it would be a good decision if I took it early and got it out of the way as soon as possible (most econ majors take it in their third year). Boy, was I wrong!! In simple terms, this course shows students how basic statistical techniques could be used in economic research. Although I liked most of the things that we learned, there was one thing that I struggled with: proving formulae manually. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed statistical (null and alternative) hypothesis testing, getting confidence levels, figuring out probability distributions, and many other statistical techniques taught in the course. But there was something about manually proving statistical formulae that I just couldn’t grasp (I get it now though, thanks to ECON 226 and Prof. Adshade! More on that in my next post). I do not mean to disrespect Mr. Kasahara–who is one of the most respected professors by post-grads and his colleagues–but I just don’t think that his teaching style matched the way I learn. I wish class time were spent more on solving practice problems and less on reading off PowerPoint slides. My classmates seemed to have no problem with that though, since the class average was 77, which is quite high for an econ course. Midterm was okay, assignments were easy but tedious, and final exam was difficult.

*Pro-tip: If you’re taking ECON 325 or 326, download Stata on your laptop as early as possible so you can experiment with it in your spare time. Having it on your laptop will also save you lots of time and effort in assignments!

Best thing I learned from taking this course: If you want to do well in a course, ask your questions RIGHT AWAY–ideally in class–when you get confused.


STAT 200 – Elementary Statistics for Applications (Instructor: Eugenia Yu)

If you have been paying attention to what I’ve been writing, you *might* wonder: is taking ECON 325 and STAT 200 at the same time recommended since they’re both statistics courses? My answer: NO. In fact, if you’re planning to be an econ major, you can just use STAT 200 to fulfill the ECON 325 course requirement. Why did I take both? That’s a question I ask myself until today hehehe….. Thankfully, STAT 200 was a great course. It wasn’t an easy class, but Eugenia found a way to clearly explain complicated concepts to students who were not expected to have any background in statistics. She managed class time wisely: spent no to very short time going over self-explanatory concepts, and spent ample amount of time explaining more difficult ones. She promptly answered my questions after class, during office hours, and even through e-mail. The midterms and the final were quite difficult and long; thankfully Eugenia allowed us to have a one-page back-to-back exam cheat sheet! You’ll do well in this class if you regularly do the suggested textbook exercises and the weekly WeBWork assignments.

Best thing I learned from taking this course: Do WeBWork assignments with classmates. Aside from being able to ask one another about things you’re struggling to understand, it’s also an easy way of gaining more friends!


PHIL 150 – Minds and Machines (Instructor: Gerardo Viera)

Hands down the best class I took that term! First of all, I love philosophy. I love the fact that it teaches you how to think and that it forces you to think about important issues that you’ve never thought about before. I love that there are there are good and bad answers, but never right or wrong ones. PHIL 150 poses questions like: Do machines have a mind? Are their minds different from human minds? What allows us to claim that something has or is a mind? Gerardo’s lectures might have gotten a bit repetitive and monotonous in terms of format, but the content never failed to interest me. Because most of the stuff we talked about piqued my interest, I was able to go over the readings effortlessly. If you don’t read the assigned readings before class, there’s a big chance that the topics you’ll talk about in class will bore you to sleep (some of my classmates would fall asleep AT LEAST once a week in front of our instructor. Not even kidding). There was no midterm exam for this course; we had three papers and a final exam. Gerardo is a very generous marker. He cares more about the logic of arguments than about flowery language and wide vocabulary. As long as you show that you understand the readings and make a logically sound and valid argument on your paper, you will get a high mark.

Best thing I learned from taking this course: Start writing your papers early, but never be satisfied with your first draft. Sometimes you want to start writing a paper but are hesitant because you don’t exactly have your argument fully formed yet. That’s okay–just start writing and you will gradually figure out what it is exactly that you want to say in your paper.


Those are all the courses that I took in term one. In my next blog post, I will review all the courses that I took in term two. If you want to check out the other courses that I’ve reviewed so far, click the Course Reviews menu in the sidebar of my blog. If you have any questions about a professor, a class, or anything UBC-related, don’t hesitate to comment below or tweet me @seanceli!

Choosing the “Right” University


(Source: UBC website)


When I was in high school, I was addicted to browsing through lists like the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. I was in love with the idea of studying at a university that has an outstanding international reputation. I was excited at the possibility of attending an institution that was regularly at the top of these famous lists. But then I realized how utterly foolish it was to decide where I was going to spend the next four (maybe even more) years of my life based on these lists.

Hanging out at my friend’s house is one of my most favourite things to do on Friday nights. Our idea of “hang out” usually consists of taking home fast food and watching a movie on Netflix or online. Ideally, it should be simple and relaxing, but it always takes us AT LEAST an hour (of arguing and judging each other’s movie tastes) before we can decide what movie to watch. We always try to google “best movies of 2015” or check Rotten Tomatoes to see if any of the “best movies” lists made by movie critics could help us agree on one movie. More often than not, this results to nothing but more petty arguments. One friend of mine likes sci-fi/superhero movies. Another likes action-packed movies whose actors behave like Liam Neeson in the Taken series. I like realistic movies with genuine, emotional characters (like Jessica Chastain’s character in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, or Logan Lerman’s character in The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Obviously, finding a movie that suits ALL our likes and interests is next to impossible. Eventually, we give up one by one and just let whoever has the remote control choose the movie for the rest of us.

Selecting a movie to watch is a lot like choosing a university; you can base your decision on a lot of popular rankings/lists, but whether you will be happy with your decision ultimately depends on your own needs and interests.

I stopped obsessing with QS World University Rankings and similar lists because I know that they do not measure what I truly want to get out of and need from my time at university. The QS World University Rankings, for instance, uses the following criteria to rank universities across the globe: academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty/student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international student ratio (5%), and international staff ratio (5%). Although these are all solid indicators of how well a university is performing, only two of these are what I believe to be important to my university education: employer reputation (because obviously I want to graduate from a university that many employers respect) and citations per faculty (because it would definitely be helpful to be mentored by experienced and well-published researchers in my academic career). These two indicators add up to only 30% of QS’s criteria. There are a lot more things about a university than those university rankings criteria that I consider important: the beauty of the campus, the location of the campus, student life and culture, and the variety of offered classes.

Before deciding to go for university, I attended tons of seminars/presentations for prospective students, went to different campus tours of various universities, and talked to alumni of the colleges and universities I applied to. These made me realize where I truly wanted to study. I decided to go to UBC because among all the universities that offered me admission, it best fit my needs, personality, and aspirations. Going to UBC meant not spending extra $5000-$10000 for campus residence and air fares (since I live in Vancouver). It also meant being able to spend my lunch/study breaks by the beach on sunny days (which I thoroughly enjoy). As well, it has allowed me to meet awesome people that share the same interests with me (I mean, how many universities in the world right now have an eSports club? UBC eSports Association isn’t just one of the biggest eSports clubs in the world, it’s also one of the most succesful!)

If you are one of the few who have not yet accepted any admission offers because you find this whole post-secondary process a bit daunting, I have one generic (sorry!) advice for you: DO YOU. Nobody knows what you need and what you want to get out of university better than yourself. Try to learn as many things as possible about the universities you’re considering, and from there, see which one best matches your interests and goals.

Go ahead and check those famous world university rankings if you want. Hear what current students and alumni have to say about their schools or other schools’ reputations if you think it will help you make an informed decision. Google the notable alumni and famous graduates of the universities you’re considering if you’re interested in that. Spend hours browsing the social media accounts of various universities if that’s your thing. Just don’t let those things make the final decision for you.

Universities are essential bridges to our dreams. They are not just providers of education, but also of opportunities, friendships, and meaningful experiences. Societal notion and school’s reputation can’t hand pick the right bridge for us, but our personality, needs, and ambitions can.

Career Days!


Are you looking for an experience that can hopefully jumpstart your career? Do you want to give your resume an extra flare so you can land your dream job? Or are you still uncertain about what to do and just want to explore your career options? If you answered yes to all these, then you must check out Career Days 2014!

Career Days, an annual event that allows UBC students across all faculties to explore their career options by networking with different companies and organizations, is happening on September 30th and October 1st!

This year, employers like Amazon, Microsoft, BC Hydro, and Metro Vancouver will set up booths for the said career fair.

Visit the Career Days 2014 website to see the full list of employers and the location of their booths.

Do not miss out on this awesome opportunity to connect with potential employers! UBC offers tons of resources to its students; all we have to do is reach out to them and utilize them!

5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Signing Up For CAP


The Coordinated Arts Program (CAP) is a multidisciplinary program designed to help first-year Arts students have a smooth transition to university. Being a CAP student in my first year, I can honestly say that the program was an enormous help in finding my community at UBC. If you are in the Faculty of Arts and are still undecided about what courses you want to register for, here are five reasons why you should definitely consider signing up for CAP:

1. Cohort Program

CAP is a cohort-based program. That means your CAP stream-mates are also your classmates in all your CAP courses. This makes making and meeting friends a lot easier. It’s always helpful to have a group of people who can answer your questions about class assignments, whom you can rant to about your professors, and who would be willing to form study groups with you.

2. Stream Choices

If you have an area of interest in mind, but are still not sure whether you should pursue an academic career in that area or not, CAP offers different stream choices (Media Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics (PPE), Law & Society, Individual & Society, and Global Citizens) that can help you figure out what you really want.

Being in the PPE stream definitely strengthened my interest to pursue a career in Economics.

3. Coordinated

Professors consult each other so that they can “coordinate” your assignments. They try to avoid giving out quizzes/midterms/final exams on the same day to give CAP students sufficient time to study for each course. Most importantly, professors try to make the content of each course related to one another. For instance, since I was in the PPE stream,  our ASTU research paper required us to use what we had learned from ECON 101 and POLI 100 to write a research paper on a topic given to us by our ASTU professor. Additionally, each term, CAP professors conduct an inspiring joint lecture to demonstrate how to interconnect different courses or interests to study an issue or concept.

4. CAP-only events

Signing up for CAP gives you access to CAP-only events like pizza parties, seminars, Meet Your Professors Day, and CAP conference.

5. Gateway Space

gatewayIf you are going to spend a lot of time on campus to study and do some work, you are going to need a good study spot. Gateway Space is a study space in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre exclusive to ArtsOne and CAP students. Gateway Space was my favourite study spot in my first year because a) there were always seats available b) it’s a quiet study space and c) students can bring food inside, so whenever I was hungry, I would always eat while working to make the most out of my breaks!

CAP played an important role in my first year. I am so glad that I signed up for it as it paved way for many different opportunities that I wouldn’t have accessed without being a CAP student. If you have any questions about CAP, don’t hesitate to ask me! I will try to respond as soon as possible. Have fun registering for courses!

Don’t Let Exam Results Decide Your Fate


…and just like that, it’s finals season again! Yup, the term’s almost over.  If you’re like me, your motivation curve for this term probably looks like this:

Also, if you’re like me, you are probably mad at yourself for not giving much effort on your midterms because now you really have to ace your final exams. Finals season is probably making you feel worried, pressured, or even stressed. You probably need someone (or something) to quickly remind you that there’s no need to feel any of those. Let me (or the following videos) be that quick reminder.

In all honesty, I believe that finals season is actually an ideal time for studying and learning. No need to wake up early to go to lectures, or to sleep late to finish a paper. You have sufficient time to study and learn. So seize this opportunity to consume useful information, fall in love with interesting concepts, and immerse yourself in a world of exciting ideas.

Study for the sake of learning, not for the sake of grades. Besides, you should not let exam results determine your fate.

Sometimes it may get extremely stressful that you just want to say this:

But trust me, with hope and hard work, everything gets better in time.

Best of luck on your final exams! Don’t be silly and go study; your future self will thank you for that.

UBC SLC: The Birthplace of Quotable Quotes


Let me start by confessing that I arrived late at the SLC. I missed the opening ceremonies and John Horn’s presentation. If you attended the conference, you do not have to tell me that I missed out on some really good stuff. Please, I do not want to hear it again. It just makes me hate myself even more for not getting my sh*t together on that day.

Having said that, I honestly felt like I did not miss that much because of the superfluous greatness of the workshops and talks that I was able to attend. Each speaker/workshop facilitator opened my eyes to see this wonderful world that had been waiting for me to explore. In my own Guinness Book of World Records, January 11, 2014 officially holds the record for the most number of epiphanies that I had in one day. I had so many that I eventually ended up writing down every word that the speaker said in order to keep up with all the light-bulb moments I was having. Here are my five most favourite ones:


From Darshan Soni’s “Social Media and National Tragedy: A Change in Our Perception of Events” workshop:

“We all make mistakes. But Social Media can frame those mistakes and display them infinitely.” -Darshan Soni

This is one of the many things that we already know, but do not take the time to think critically about every day. Most of us know that once we post something online, it cannot be deleted anymore. However, there are still a lot of us who do not really think before we tweet (or instagram, or reblog, or post a Facebook status).


From Mark Busse’s talk about the power of authenticity and vulnerability:

“Who you are is unique. What you’ve learned is not.” -Mark Busse

Mark Busse believes that to be able to obtain our dream job, and for employers to hire the right people, the first thing that we should talk about in job interviews is why we do what we do. He says that every person out there is talking about what they do or how they do it.  So once we find the answer to why, and start talking about it, we stop being like everybody else; we become unique.

“Passion is not something you pursue. It is something that you produce. You participate in it.” -Mark Busse

“Most people–teachers, parents, friends, mentors–tell you to pursue your passion. I’m sorry to tell you this, but that is bullshit. Passion is a feeling. You don’t pursue it”, Mark said. I definitely agree with him on this one! Passion is a feeling, that’s a fact. So is it something that we pursue? I don’t think so. I don’t think humans have the ability to pursue emotions. (If there is a scientific study that suggests otherwise, please send me a link to it. I would love to know more about this kind of things!)

Just in case you’re wondering, I also do not believe that we can actually pursue happiness. I believe that happiness is a choice. It is a product of what we do. If we choose to be happy, we do and revel in the things that make us happy. We don’t pursue it.

But I digress. On to the next one!


From Waneek Horn-Miller’s talk during the closing ceremonies:

“Dig deep. Find that one reason that stops you from quitting” -Waneek Horn-Miller

Oftentimes we forget why we do what we do in the first place. We usually want to give up, forgetting how far we’ve come. Listening to Waneek Horn-Miller’s amazing life experiences and words of wisdom definitely made it easier for me to dig deep.

“You are only as powerful as the person next to you.” -Waneek Horn-Miller

Most favourite quote of the day! Waneek said that we are only as powerful as the people around us. If we empower other people, we, too, are empowered. It is SO true! I really admire how Waneek’s talk emphasized the idea that humanity and community can help us reach our infinity.


It was undoubtedly a day of discovering my infinite potential. SLC 2015, I’m patiently waiting for you!

Term 1 Roundup (Part 2)


ASTU 100B – FIRST YEAR CAP SEMINAR (Instructor: Dr. Laila Ferreira); PPE

I loved this course. Not only did I receive my highest mark in term one from this course, but it was also the only course where I enjoyed doing each and every assignment. This course is a part of the Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics (PPE) stream of the Coordinated Arts Program. ASTU’s main focus is academic research and writing. Each ASTU class is assigned a particular topic, and students analyze the academic discourse regarding this topic. Disability was the assigned topic to our class. Hence each of our reading and writing assignment revolved around the topic of disability. I definitely did not expect I would enjoy reading research papers about disability. Because I found the topic to be so interesting, I had an exhilarating time doing my research paper. Although our prof had the tendency to give out very confusing instructions, she was very helpful during her office hours. She did not have any problem with proofreading my drafts, so that definitely strengthened my research writing techniques.

One thing I learned from this course: Assigned readings are not as horrible as most students make them out to be.


POLI 100 – INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS (Instructor: Dr. Christopher Erickson); PPE

Poli 100 is another course in the PPE stream. Dr. Erickson always had interesting and hilarious lectures. He never failed to perfectly connect critical political concepts to celebrities (for instance, he mentioned Miley Cyrus when discussing the concept of globalization). That made waking up early to attend his 9 A.M. class a lot easier. Also, his lecture slides were very easy to follow and were sufficient to do well in the course. I only used the textbook whenever I felt like the lecture slides weren’t enough to understand a concept. The midterm and the final are fairly easy if you study the lecture slides. One thing I didn’t like, though, is that the five-page essay was worth as much as the final exam. I did not like this mainly because the essay that I turned in was crappy. And by crappy, I mean I-wish-I-don’t-ever-remember-that-I-wrote-such-paper-ever-again type of crappiness.

One thing I learned from this course: TRY TO DO YOUR PAPERS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. AVOID STARTING YOUR PAPER THE NIGHT BEFORE IT IS DUE. Hate that I had to learn this the hard way.

ECON 101 – PRINCIPLES OF MICROECONOMICS (Instructor: Dr. Clive Chapple); PPE

Another course in the PPE stream. Even though the exams in this course were the longest and trickiest exams I’ve ever written in my life, it was hands down my most favourite course of the term! Dr. Chapple always had the most effective analogies and examples which made understanding the course more comprehensible. Every course-related work that he assigned to us–from his Clicker questions to our weekly Aplia online assignments–greatly helped in understanding the course better. I also liked that he posted lecture notes on Connect ahead of time. That way, all I had to do was print them out and annotate them in class. The midterm and final exam were very tricky and time-consuming in my opinion, but you can pull off a decent mark if you put a lot of time and effort in mastering the concepts.

One thing I learned from this course: If you are genuinely interested in a certain course, you won’t care about how difficult it is; you’ll always enjoy studying it.


That was how my term one went. Tomorrow, term two begins! I’m ready to see what it has to offer.

Term 1 Roundup (Part 1)


So….. it’s 2014. Which is crazy. So crazy. I mean, I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that I’m not living in the 2000’s anymore! And now we’re about to start the fourth year of 2010’s? WHAT?!

Tomorrow, second term will commence. I would like to prepare for its commencement by looking back at my first term as a university student (because maybe by writing this I will be reminded that term one did not turn out the way I wanted it to, which might eventually inspire me to do better in the second term). Let’s dissect the term according to the five courses that I took:

SPANISH 101 – BEGINNER’S SPANISH I (Instructor: Bruno Nassi)

This course is probably the easiest course I took last term. Since I had already taken Spanish (Beginner’s 11) in high school, I started the course being instantly familiar with 1/3 of its content. Every class, we would always do three to four sets of practice activities from the textbook, which allowed us to be comfortable in pronouncing Spanish words and speaking basic Spanish phrases. I personally didn’t think that the online assignments for this course were very helpful, since most activities were essentially the same with those in the textbook. But overall, I think the marking was fair. Exams are quite easy if you do the workbook exercises.

One thing I learned from this course: When learning a language, it is important to regularly use the new words that you learn every day so you don’t forget them and so that you get a good grip on how they are used. I know it’s common sense to do this, but I know someone who thought he was too cool to do such a routine so he only memorized the vocabulary whenever exams were coming. (If it wasn’t that obvious, that someone is me)



This class covers the same exact same content as Math 104. The final exam and midterm exams are also the same as those of Math 104. The only difference between the two courses is that Math 184 is intended for students who have never taken a Calculus course before. The 1.5-hour workshop every week is designed to improve the students’ Calculus techniques, ideally up to the skill level of those who have already taken Calculus. Personally, I loved going to the weekly workshops because it gave me the chance to practice exam-type problems on my own without being afraid of being stuck on a problem. Here’s the thing: math is not my greatest strength. I mean, I used to like it. But somehow, sometime in high school, math scared me. That’s why when I took this course, I was afraid that I would fail it. The weekly workshops were heaven sent. The TAs were very approachable and helpful. It also helped that we were put into learning groups; whenever I could not answer the problem, my group mates were very kind to go through the problem with me. Although I personally believe that my learning style did not suit our instructor’s lecturing style, I liked the fact that he always took the time after class to answer ALL individual questions even when there were twenty students trying to ask him. He also seemed to hate the idea of failing anyone — he even set up a two-hour midterm review session outside of class hours in order to make sure we were prepared for our midterm!

One thing I learned from the course: I love and hate WeBWork at the same time.


To be continued..

Getting upset over trivial things


Typhoon Haiyan’s aftermath in Tacloban City, Philippines.


Days before typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, I was having a hard time trying to manage all my academic and extra-curricular responsibilities. That week was probably the worst week that I’ve had since starting university. There wasn’t an hour during that week when I wasn’t feeling stressed out or anxious. I truly felt like I had too much on my plate. I blame a lethal combination of insurmountable amount of work, poor time management, and lack of sleep.

On Monday of that same week, I only had an hour of sleep because I had to redo a research proposal eight hours before it was due. On Tuesday, I slept late again because I spent eight painful hours solving WebWork problems (seriously, why must they be so time consuming?) Then, on Wednesday night, I tried studying for my math midterm but my sleep-deprived brain could not focus at all. So I decided I would just sleep early so I could wake up early in the morning to study. Not so surprisingly, I woke up two hours later than I was supposed to. When I realized that the sun was already out and I hadn’t studied anything yet, I knew I had to finally get out of my damn bed.

So I used the (insufficient) time that I had to study as much as I could. Man, writing that Math midterm felt like going to war weaponless. 90% of the time I had no clue what I was doing. What sucks is that I totally thought I would do better on that second midterm than I did on the first one (because really, after writing my first Math midterm, I thought it would take a huge miracle to do worse on the second one. Well…. miracles truly happen, I guess). So after not being able to write several papers as eloquently as I planned to, to study for midterms as much as I intended to, and to spend as much time on my priorities as I wanted to, I went home that night feeling so incapable. It was just one of those nights when I felt like nothing was going my way.

On Friday afternoon (still feeling down and terribly upset), while on the bus going home, I checked Twitter on my mobile phone to make the one-hour commute more bearable. As I was scrolling through my timeline, I saw this tweet:


Later that night, most of my friends in the Philippines were retweeting this picture of Tacloban City–the city that was hit the hardest by typhoon Haiyan–before and during the storm surge:

Unbelievable change seen 31 minutes after.

The next day, pictures and videos of typhoon Haiyan’s wrath were shown on CNN. Since all means of communication were still down in the city, survivors of the typhoon were interviewed and given the chance to relay important messages to people they needed to contact. Most of them enumerated the full names of their missing loved ones and asked the government for help in finding them. Some survivors couldn’t help but cry as they tried to tell their relatives living outside Tacloban City that their loved ones were now dead. I even watched one survivor tell his relatives in Metro Manila that he was very sorry that he was not able to save his children’s lives. Disappointment, pain, and longing were written all over his crying face.

That was when it hit me: there I was feeling like the whole weight of the world was on my shoulders when, in reality, I was upset over ridiculously trivial things. Sure, high grades are important as they will help me earn a degree, which could increase my chances of landing my dream job. But does a single Math midterm define who I am? Would not getting an A in an essay steal my dreams from me? NO. Man, I felt so sorry for being terribly frustrated by such trivial things when in the other side of the world, thousands of people are trying to cope up with the fact  that their loved ones are missing or are now dead.

Now and then, I have to remind myself that other people have it worse. I have to remind myself this not to find joy in the suffering of others, but to stop myself from worrying about inconsequential matters. I am not saying that I should ignore my problems just because they seem so trivial compared to those of others. I know that all problems are different, and each person experiences them differently. Hence, no problem is too big or too insignificant. But telling myself that there are people who are in worse situations than I am reminds me that the positive things in my life still far outweigh the negative ones. I am truly blessed, and I should not let insignificant things stop me from always knowing that.

To the victims and survivors of typhoon Haiyan, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering you are currently going through. Your courage and strength amidst this terrible catastrophe serve as an inspiration to many people. Please know that you are not alone during this tragic time.