Rekindled a dream through the portal


Photo by Ethan Cardaño/THE FLAME

DAYS LIKE these were the objects of my dreams in high school. I placed the moment of being accepted into the University on a pedestal. It was a significant moment; I was about to start chasing my dreams. Getting that acceptance email or status would have opened the door for me and showed everyone that yes, I am serious about this. 

Finally, the day came. I hastily opened the admissions website, still in the middle of an online class. Instead of a green “passed” status, an orange “waitlisted” greeted me. Okay, that is fine. I will just reschedule the big moment for when I am already enrolled. 

Then the big moment came. Well, kind of. No fanfare or euphoria washed over me. No longer was the big moment my acceptance status. I received an email in the middle of a random day, stating that I passed the second screening. I thought for sure that the pivotal moment now would be seeing “you are officially enrolled for A.Y. 2022-2023” on the student portal. As soon as we could, my dad and I went to the bank to pay the enrollment fee. We went inside and the cold silence of the bank greeted us. Then, we paid and left. Now what? 

I did it. I am a Thomasian, according to the student portal.

Yet, it still felt off. Submitting my forms and documents did not make me feel like a Thomasian. Seeing my face beside the words “UST PASSERS” from my old high school did not make me feel like a Thomasian. Finding and meeting my blockmates in group chats felt more like I was meeting people for a short casual lunch rather than college. The DP blasts of people I barely knew flooded my Facebook timeline. Still, it felt like a joke. #GoUSTe and #USTFreshies but was I part of it?

None of it felt real until I took the step that dragged me back into reality in an instant.

We took our seats in the Quadricentennial Pavilion, shivering from excitement and how cold it was inside. Even then, I was stuck in an I-cannot-believe-this-is-real daze. I could not imagine studying here in my dream program. People whose faces I only knew through Facebook became more than a shoulder-up image online. I finally saw glimpses of the classrooms in the St. Raymund de Peñafort building. The only photos I found online were of the building’s exterior. The search for our block’s group chats became the search for the actual faces in the holding rooms. I used to dream of days like these yet reality still felt like a dream so far away. 

I remember how loud the big drums were, how we sat in front of them, and how it left my soul vibrating from the sound. I remember sitting next to my now-college friend, happily chatting. However, I could not remember most of the ROARientation.  Not because it was not memorable; it was otherwise. 

I did not think too much about how little I retained from that morning; perhaps my mind was too preoccupied with all the spectacle that came with the Freshmen Activities. It stuck in the back of my mind until December when I experienced my first concert. I have heard stories of people forgetting entire concerts or seemingly blacking out, only waking up hours after the event. Looking back, I do not remember much of the ROARientation either. I remember enjoying both events, so much that my brain had prioritized living in the moment over remembering. Like a dream, it disappeared the moment I woke up.

It was quiet again. The drums were abandoned by their musicians. All I could hear was the chatter of students around me. It was time for our Welcome Walk. Well, most of us. We were far from the exit so we had to wait. We watched from the big screen as the rest of the colleges and faculties joyfully walked through the Arch of Centuries. Seeing the portal ahead of us, I began to feel nervous.

The ROARientation felt like a celebration; the walk that succeeded it felt like a ceremony to relight the flames of my dream.

Walking past the stone pillars shifted the blue I was wearing to the shade of Arts and Letters. In a way, it felt like the very bricks of the Arch were stacked on my heart. Not because it was a heavy burden, but because it finally sunk in that I was standing in front of that very door I fantasized about. My feet were planted on the ground on the other side of its stone frame. It was open. It was open for me and everyone who was there. 

And like everyone else, we took our first step as Thomasians. F

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