In 2020, having a mobile phone and an internet connection was a must. It was the only way a student like me could attend class. It was the time of the pandemic. The time of “work from home” and “study from home.”

I cried with joy when I finally entered my second year in college. Two more years and I would realize my dream of finishing school, I told myself.

My first day in class, yes it was an online class, was a blast. But it did not last long. It was the beginning of the “new normal.” Everyone, including myself, had to adjust to the new learning system.

I was about to give up. I felt like it was more difficult to study now, even while at home, than in the previous years, in the previous life before the pandemic.

Some said it would be easy because one has to only stay at home. One can study and do household chores, they said. But it’s different when you’re into it. I realized that it’s harder to study when one’s not in school.

The “new normal” drill would be something like this: One tries to listen intently to the teacher online, but there’s no stopping “The Green Leaves of Summer” or “Never Say Never” on the neighbor’s videoke. It’s like praying in the middle of a rock concert.

I would usually turn the volume of my computer to full, hoping to drown the voice of Justin Bieber and Paul Anka and hear the professor. I would also try to avoid looking around the house to escape the dishes winking, as if saying “Come now, wash me,” from the sink.

Even if I want to move somewhere quiet, where there are no noisy neighbors, and no household chores, I have no choice. I live in one of the most cramped places in the Philippines. I have no choice but to suffer. Poverty is not a choice.

I suffered but it seems others suffered more than me. Others did not have the opportunity like what I have.

I am a scholar of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc., which provides me a monthly allowance for internet connectivity and, of course, “educational assistance.” I am also one of the Foundation’s volunteers.

Aside from that, I currently work as “Instructional Manager,” assisting students under the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Foundation.

I used to be an ALS student myself. Now I am a “manager.” It’s a good training ground for me. My teachers would tease me every time I report in class. "Are you a teacher now?” they would say. Some would praise my “teaching talent.”

I took these comments as inspiration to continue and to strive harder with my studies. These are also among my reasons to press the “Join Class" button every time I set before the computer.

There might be challenges along the way, but I know I will not be giving up. I know that the mountain of opportunities is higher than the mountain of trials.

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