Who’s afraid of 2014

Early this year, I entertained the idea of applying for a master’s degree abroad. I have various reasons- I want to take a break from work, I want to leave home, I want to change careers and I want to meet new people. I got interested in the subject of development because of my job (I’m a journalist, shh) and right now I know I want to be in development.

(photo by Nicole Piece)
(photo by Nicole Pierce)

Last July, I tried applying to the University of Auckland for a degree in development studies. I didn’t submit all the requirements and stopped halfway through my application because I missed the deadline for a scholarship, which should’ve been accomplished separately and on an earlier date. It was all my fault.

Still, an email arrived last August informing me I got in. Apparently all they need to accept you is a transcript. I went bananas when I saw the the message and told the world I got in. C-o-n-g-r-a-t-u-l-a-t-i-o-n-s. I don’t know, I guess I was being shallow and too full of myself that time. While people who get to Oxford and Cambridge just deal with it like getting a level done in Candy Crush, I was more of the noisy showoff. Woah, Auckland: Cows! Hobbits! Quirky accents! But my euphoria ended when the thought of not having a scholarship bitchslapped me back to the real world. I need a million pesos just to enroll and if you’re me that’s as good as no thanks. I decided to send letters to important people in a desperate attempt to find a gullible benefactor. Only one replied. “We only give medical assistance.” Auckland still emails me from time to time, informing me that I need to confirm in three months. She’s like a stubborn suitor. Up to now, I’m still unable to find a scholarship that would support me, so I decided to officially surrender. I just read through every Auckland email and console myself every time. At least I passed. I think I can say that.

Months after, another opportunity opened; this time a scholarship from the UK. It’s the Chevening Scholarships, where basically they shoulder everything you need while you get your degree in the UK. I knew about Chevening when I was in senior high school. I was browsing a magazine for my college application and I came across it. It looked like a very competitive selection process, which it is, and I was still not qualified to apply for it that time so I just ignored it.

Fast-forward to October this year. With three years of job experience, a decent transcript, pimping myself essays and a shameless degree of audacity, I decided to apply. I have nothing to lose but my pride, so screw it.

The Chevening application, which takes months, requires you to choose three UK universities in order of preference. If you get the scholarship and you get in your university of choice, it’s a done deal. You can apply to Chevening even without having a university offer yet- it gives you enough time because the scholarship’s selection process is a lengthy, rigorous one.

I asked friends and made an awful lot of Googling before choosing THE university. I came up with Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sussex, Bristol and the London School of Economics. Since I only needed three universities I narrowed them down to Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham. Leeds sounded unexciting for me. Sussex has an interesting ring to it but the applications were not yet open and I was already impatient and LSE basically asks you to pay an application fee.

Out of the three, I finished applying to Bristol first. Bristol looked like a pretty nice place. No, it is a spanking city- best in the UK, says the Guardian. Pubs, ports, art places, fancy street markets, hipster places, music places, etc. Bristol Uni is a top school and one of those red brick universities which could mean that it is made of red bricks. Aside from that corny joke, Bristol is also the place where Skins was filmed. That, my friends, is the best argument. Manchester was also okay, but Bristol ranked higher in the field I’m planning to enter. A mentor-friend said Birmingham “is a shit uni!” so I was left with the decision to pursue nothing but Bristol.

I contacted my thesis adviser and my sociology professor/debate club co-alumni and somehow they agreed to write my endorsement letters. My application was finalized October 9, and I had to wait 21 days before knowing the result. During that period, like a protagonist in a me-against-the-world story, I doubted myself. Then hated myself for doubting myself.

I got in. I was glad, of course, but unlike the senseless euphoria I felt when I got my acceptance letter at Auckland, this time I was, in pretentious terms, ‘cautiously optimistic.’ It’s not enough that I got in; I still need THAT scholarship. No scholarship, no Bristol. No scholarship means Bristol will be as good as Auckland. I finished my Chevening application after receiving my offer from Bristol. A very supportive friend who actually got the Chevening Scholarship told me having a university offer is an advantage, so I made sure I had an offer before I clicked the Chevening submit button.

Now I have to wait for a few more weeks to know if the guys at the British Council which handles the Chevening Scholarships consider my application for the long list. To put things into perspective, the Chevening Scholarships receives thousands of applications each year in the Philippines alone. Only a few- about 12 on average, I think- make the cut. That’s like the acceptance rate for dorks trying to hook up with cheerleaders.

Why am I talking about this online? Things like this, about pride and self-esteem issues, should be hidden from the eyes of the judgmental public, right? I don’t know; I’m equal parts scared and hopeful. It’s a weird combination of feelings that drives me nuts and I just had to let it out. Aaaaaaaaah.

A friend told me not to spill details yet about me getting into Bristol and applying to Chevening because it would be awful if I told people I applied for a scholarship, but miserably failed. I initially agreed, but then I thought, if I don’t get the scholarship, I don’t have anything to lose but my pride anyway. I don’t care about my pride so much these days. I talk about my bowel movements on Twitter. Besides, in case I fail it will be a good heartbreaking story. Passed Auckland and Bristol but failed to get scholarships- how beautifully tragic.

At least two fortune tellers who didn’t know me told me I will get it. Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone says 2014 will be my year therefore I will get it. A random Chinese horoscope that appeared on my web search results says doors will be opened for the Horse therefore I will get it. I tried contacting God, but I have yet to receive his reply. I tried asking myself, who the steaming fuck do you think you are? I don’t have a clear answer yet.

Wish me luck. xxx

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