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a heart across the ocean


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Timeout

After going through a demanding curriculum while attending graduate school, a timeout, albeit short, is absolutely delightful. That being said, you can call my last two weeks a pleasure. A simple pleasure, that is. There was no grand trip nor big revelry. Rather, I was afforded with a much-needed uninterrupted long sleep in the mornings followed by unhurried afternoons of unostentatious activities. Ahh, tranquility! At first, I thought it was lovely – except for one thing:  after being on a roller coaster with non-stop actions of twists, turns and drops, the idea of inactivity was almost inconceivable for me.

My first few days of my hiatus, I was constantly searching for things to do: cleaning the house, and then cleaning the house some more. Can you believe it? When I was in school I had yearned for the day to come when I could just laze around and not worry about anything at all. I thought it would be wonderful, yet when I was finally face-to-face with inactivity, I seemed not to know how to handle it. Like getting off a roller coaster ride for the first time, I felt disconcerted that all the action suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly, I felt a little bit thrown off balance.

My loving husband, of course, came to the rescue. Despite his busy schedule, he was kind enough to give in to some of my whims and fancy. No budget buster, but fun nevertheless. I realized that even as simple as quick dip in the pool, a round of Frisbee throws at the park, or a trip to the movie theater were more than enough to satisfy my hunger for adventure. After a while, I felt a quiet sense of joy and contentment just hanging out with my husband, compensating for those QTP (quality time plus) moments we both missed.

During lackadaisical afternoons, I quietly engaged myself in pleasure reading. I’ve started reading (again) the book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth…” by Col. Chris Hardfield. I got his book in summer 2015 while I was doing my internship at St. Petersburg College; however, I temporarily abandoned it when I started my Graduate Assistantship Program at UCF.  It has been a year since I laid it down. Until I returned to the page I last left off, I have almost forgotten how much I appreciated the insights he shares of his life experiences as an astronaut. I must admit, as a non-science person there were many scientific jargons I hardly understood, but still I have enjoyed it enormously. I found many bits and pieces in his stories that I felt were not only thought provoking but also worth emulating. His wit, tenacity, and humility are indeed inspiring. I was captivated by his adventures, so much so that while my co-GTAs were travelling to exciting destinations in the country and other parts of the world, I, on the other hand, was travelling in space orbiting the earth – in my mind.

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Photo borrowed online

So it goes with my timeout.

Next week I am returning to work: new work place and new job, that is, and beginning a new chapter in my life. I’m excited!

Thanks for reading.


The Most Awaited Graduation!

After a long wait finally everything came to a meaningful and heartwarming finale –  the Commencement Ceremony! I don’t know how to best describe it. When I woke up that morning to get ready for my graduation, I was consumed with so many emotions. There was sadness, excitement, and, of course, the overpowering anxiety gremlin.

The feeling of sadness stemmed from the thought that I will no longer see my GTA friends on a regular basis. For almost a year we have shared a lot of life experiences together, not only as classmates in the graduate program, but also as colleagues at work. This Summer Term we sat next to each other in the faculty room and almost every day after our classes, we would share stories, jokes, and laughter. There was never a dull moment with my co-GTAs. They are so full of life and optimism that sometimes I forget these ladies are actually half my age. What made us get through the challenges in our program was the unified support we rallied for each other. We conquered our obstacles and reached our goals not by competing with each other but rather by lifting each other up.

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The feeling of excitement, on the other hand, obviously came from the thought that I will finally be off the hook from the endless writing and long chapters of reading. Oh boy, that was tough! The day I finished my final exam for my last course requirement, I felt a big load was lifted from my shoulders. For the first time since I started the program, I didn’t have to worry about schoolwork; I didn’t have to worry about anything at all. I’m FREE and it feels wonderful!

The night before my graduation I rehearsed in my head what to expect during the ceremony. Surely there was nothing to worry about, but it was still nerve-wracking (at least for me). I can only compare it to the drilling of a root canal-similar anxiety. But once it is over you wonder what all the fuss was about. I believe it is human nature, of course, that we feel anxious about the unknown. Despite the fact that this was my third time to walk for a graduation (first for my Bachelor’s Degree, second for my first Master’s Degree), obviously I still haven’t gotten used to all the pageantry. The anxiety built when we entered the UCF Arena while the graduation song was playing. There were several thousands of people in the audience. I felt my tummy churning when I saw the crowd, and the first thing that came to my mind was where’s the bathroom. Thankfully, the butterflies in my stomach settled down as the program progressed. I felt both proud and humbled when my name was called and I heard my husband shouting “Omaha” from the crowd. I am still comprehending why he did that except for it had something to do with Peyton Manning, who is his favorite football player. I also felt victorious when I shook  the Dean’s hand and crossed the stage without tripping (that was my husband’s greatest fear). Phew! Likewise, I didn’t wave and pose like a model just like I did during our dress rehearsal in the faculty office (that was my husband’s second fear after seeing my video). He thought it would be a nightmare. Haha! So, overall, it’s a mission accomplished. Yes, I MADE IT!

A lot of people have been part of this journey: my brilliant professors in the MA TESOL Program at the University of Central Florida; my wonderful GTA Lead; UCF’s ELI faculty and staff; my co-GTAs; my family and friends from the Philippines; and, of course, my loving husband who untiringly supported me during the entire program. To all of you, THANK YOU so much for believing in me!

Here’s a video of our Summer 2016 at UCF’s ELI courtesy of Ms. Rose Tran. Enjoy!

 


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A Fast and Furious Ride

Happy 4th of July everyone!

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It has been a couple of months since I posted my last blog. I must say, the months of May and June came fast and furious (a warning that came from my professor regarding what to expect – ouch!). Nonetheless, compared to my Fall and Spring terms, they were still less chaotic. In May I enrolled in my last two graduate courses: 1) Research, and 2) Independent Study on ESOL Grammar. Likewise, I received my two teaching assignments: 1) Listening 1, and 2) Grammar 2.

I finished my Research class in 6 weeks, which means I am now down to only one course. I am pretty satisfied with everything. I won’t say, the ride didn’t go without any hiccups – because it was full of surprises and twist and turns.  At times I felt like a pretzel! Every assignment I had to spend time reading the assigned chapters, analyzing research types, writing proposals, and, of course, preparing for exams. The only good thing this term is we were allowed to work in a group, and that helped a lot. With two other members helping in the tasks, we divided, conquered, and finished the course with an A. My other course, ESOL Grammar, is still on going. It has its own challenges, but, thankfully, I am currently teaching a grammar class, which helps me a lot in staying focused on my assignments.

Now that I am not so tied up with schoolwork, I decided to volunteer to help in our school Movie Club. Aha, isn’t that exciting?  Every Wednesday, Jen (my co-GTA) and I prepare drinks, popcorn and, of course, a movie for our students. We are very happy about the turnout of students who come to watch our movie. Our first week was a full house. I bribed encouraged my students to write a synopsis for extra credit. Those who came the first time and enjoyed it became our regulars. You would think that spending longer hours for the movie would make me feel tired, but for unknown reason, it does not. On the contrary, I feel energized. I totally agree with the saying, and I quote, “We find greatest joy, not in getting, but expressing what we are…The happy man is he who lives the life of love, not for the honors it may bring, but for the life itself.” (borrowed quote online).

My fast and furious ride is finally slowing down. I am just counting the days now. My graduation is coming very soon, and I can’t wait to cross the stage and receive what my husband refers to as my “shiny brand new degree.” It was a wild ride, but I’m glad that I’ve stayed on through the ups and downs.  I don’t know what my future holds, but I don’t worry. I know that God sent me here for a purpose, and that purpose will be revealed to me in His perfect time. Right now all I know is I am happy and content for whatever happens. I feel truly blessed for this wonderful journey.

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Hanging in there. This is where everything is going to happen – in four weeks…

“I believe any success in life is made by going into an area with a blind, furious optimism.” -Sylvester Stallone

 


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Mini Summer Break at Cocoa Beach

After almost eight months of being away from the sight and sound of the ocean, my husband and I finally got the chance to have a mini beach holiday at the Cocoa Beach. Located an hour drive east from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is perfect for a Derby weekend getaway. Since it was our first time to visit the place, I must admit, we were beyond thrilled.

As usual Hilton Hotel (our FAV) provided us the comfort of a home during our three days on the beach. I was quite impressed with its modern art-deco facilities as well as the excellent service provided by its staff. They were so very friendly and accommodating.  The Front Desk even gave us a room upgrade with a better ocean view because it was the Teachers’ Appreciation Week. Can you believe that?

Cocoa Beach is known for many “sun and fun” activities. As a matter of fact, its big waves are a great attraction for surfers and other wind watersports enthusiasts. Since Cocoa Beach is also close to Cape Canaveral and the Space Kennedy Center, it’s always flooded with tourists; there is never a lack of exciting things to do really. However, since the purpose of our visit was simply to relax, my husband and I literally did nothing during our stay but enjoyed its food, its beautiful scenery, and, of course, each other.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you in my next blog!


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A Tour of the World on Foot

Once upon a time there were five lovely ladies who dreamt of traveling the world together. Unfortunately, they were landlocked. They were held by so many responsibilities. They neither had a chance to fly nor sail. Hmmm… poor lovely ladies! Despite their situation though, the notion of having an adventure remained irresistible.

They couldn’t stop thinking about going for an adventure, so they took the risk and asked the Genie to grant their wish. They took Aladdin’s lamp and rubbed it. Lo and behold came a beautiful woman with her welcoming smile holding free tickets to the Disney World- the place where dreams come true.  Oh boy!

So, off the five lovely ladies went for their journey. They toured the world on foot. They walked miles and miles to see the whole world. By the time they reached their final destination, each one of them was bathing in sweat and just ready to take a long nap. But, surely, they were contented and never been happier. – The End

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Live Well or Just Live

The past couple of months were truly challenging. Everything went by like a gust of wind; there was hardly any chance for me to breathe. I was sprinting from one course requirement to another. It was an ordeal, especially the idea of sitting for the Comprehensive Exam, which I considered a high stake test as it determined whether I would graduate or not. For preparation, all test takers for the Comp Exam were given four concepts for each of the eight core courses in our program, which was a total of 28 different concepts to commit to memory. Although the exam only required us to explain 5 concepts, still we needed to study all the materials as questions were randomly picked. The exam was also timed which made it more stressful. Thus, I assumed when the test paper was passed around, every one of us hit the ground and running – as fast as we could. It was nerve-wracking, especially the waiting time for the results. No wonder when I received my e-mail announcing the outcome, I couldn’t help not to get teary-eyed. It was a feeling of relief and gratefulness for being able to get through and pass the exam.

Despite the Comprehensive Exam’s result, however, still the two weeks that followed were a marathon of  research papers writing  and final exams preparation. These two tasks combined I am determined to believe are my Waterloo. As a field dependence (a big-picture) person, my ability lies in looking at the field as a universal whole, rather than analyzing variables without the contamination of neighboring parts (makes sense?). Add to that my being a right-brain person who is more comfortable in inductive (e.g. processing holistic, integrative & emotional information) rather than deductive (e.g. logical, analytical, linear processing) data. In short, looking at minute details is not my cup of tea, which I realized eventually is a “disaster” when dissecting information imbedded in abstract evidence, in particular statistical data in research. I must admit, this Term was surely rough and tough. But again, we don’t stop in pursuing our goals and dreams simply because it is difficult, do we? Justice Sonia Sotomayor says, and I quote, “People who live in difficult circumstances need to know that happy endings are possible” (My Beloved World, 2014). That being said, I want to believe that my sacrifices will bear fruit one day, and that I can honestly say that I just didn’t live my life; I have lived it well. I gave it my best shot!

Now that the Spring Term is finally over (and it looks like I passed all my courses this Term, Thank God!), I am taking a mini break just enjoying the tranquility around me, and the joy of inactivity. Hmmm, what a wonderful life!

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End-of-the-School-Year, Epcot Adventure with my friends


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Finding Balance

February quickly passed like a Florida afternoon summer shower that I barely noticed it. After Valentine’s Day I scanned my calendar, and I realized how many assignments were awaiting me. I panicked a little bit, and my first impulse was to take ahold of my calendar for some serious planning. I filled each box in my calendar with things-to-do, making sure that every assignment will be met before its corresponding deadline. Surely, it was no fun. It was not what I’ve envisioned of taking things in a stride as I originally plan to do this year. But, I have to do what I need to do.

My life right now is all about finding balance. In other words, I cannot let my social life outweighs my academic life. Otherwise, everything I have worked for the past years will poof up in smoke. I can imagine some of you arching your eyebrows and asking, is graduate school that daunting? Well, I guess it depends on the person. I remember my last year in my first graduate program also overwhelmed me because of the thesis writing (you see one Master’s Degree was not enough pain so I am doing it again *sarcasm). I had to bribe myself of a trip to the US (never mind if that means breaking the bank) just to motivate me to finish it. This time, I opted for a non-thesis track; however, I have a Comprehensive Exam to pass and get through, or I will not get my degree. I know some people in my class are taking it lightly. Some of them are juggling two jobs besides family and graduate school, and yet they seem to be doing very well. As a matter of fact, some of them are scheduled for a trip while all these deadlines are pressing and passing. I call them “superheroes” for their brave invincibleness. I wish I had their superpower, but unfortunately I don’t operate like them. I’m more like the ordinary student who has to spend time with books to pass the course. I’m pretty sure if I slack off, I either go haywire and off the rails and repeat my courses becoming a retread.

Therefore, here I am on my Spring Break racing with my assignments due right after I return from our week of our spring hiatus. One thing I have learned in my experiences as a GTA (Graduate Teaching Associate-Instructor) is to always anticipate. I need to get on with my forthcoming assignments because surprises are just inevitable. They’ve started early this term, and have never stopped. For instance, last month my Listening 1 class was observed three times. Oh yeah! Usually, you just get one classroom observation a semester, or if you are lucky, maybe one in a whole school year. Imagine, I had three last month: one from my Skill Coordinator, and two from a colleague at work who is doing a project for her Ph.D. class. Not that I am complaining about the idea, I am just making a point about life’s unpredictability. Nobody knows what is coming; thus, preparing ahead of time is an important lesson to learn, or at least I must say, one thing I’ve learned.

Having that in mind, I race with my forthcoming assignments, which consists of a slide presentation, an interview transcription, a research paper, and a review for my Comprehensive exam. For days I did nothing but tackle one assignment after another, deciphering academic text as I burned my eyes in front of my computer. Sure, I have beaten my deadlines, but just like anybody who goes in to a race or marathon, after racing non-stop, I’ve felt my body deliberately slowing down and feeling the exhaustion. When I’ve started feeling it, my first reaction was wanting to sit down and catch my breath. I can feel my body feeling overwhelmed by information overload. No wonder, I begged my husband yesterday to go out – for a little fun. I know that “fun” may be an absurd word right now because I am in the middle of schoolwork and my teaching job. But, I don’t think “killing myself” (okay, that’s an exaggeration) is what finding balance is all about as well. Because of my obsession to beat the deadlines I self-imposed, I sometimes forget that my brain is not the only part of my body. I also have my heart and soul that I need to feed, or I would never feel the wholeness in me. So, as I am writing this, I am waiting for my husband to get ready for our small adventure. Hopefully when we come back I will be refreshed to continue my race to get through the finish line.

Thanks for reading!

My favorite events in February

VDAY racquetball

Capping VDay with a Racquetball match with my favorite stud muffin

 

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Hearing Dr. Stephen Krashen speak at the Ist Annual UCF World Languages International Studies Colloquium