celebs_back_to_school_ai_ai_delas_alas.jpgJune is back-to-school season, as we all know, but it’s easy to forget that it may not be just the kids who are buying those fresh notebooks and pens for the new semester. Grownups (and celebs) are joining the back-to-school rush as well.

Comedy Queen Ai-Ai delas Alas is one of those hitting the books this semester to study Public Administration at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus—with mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety. This ABS-CBN report quotes the actress, who said she was “excited, kinakabahan, and a little stressed. Syempre first time ko. Parang break-in kumbaga sa kotse.”

celebs_back_to_school_lani_mercado.jpgAnd Ai-Ai isn’t the only one sitting behind a schoolroom desk this June. Newly elected congresswomen Lani Mercado and Lucy Torres-Gomez were among the legislators attending UP's Effective Legislation and Governance course, which began on June 22, 2010, as this ABS-CBN article shares. Torres was joined by husband Richard Gomez, for whom she was an eleventh-hour substitute in the race for one of the Ormoc, Leyte, congressional seats.

This classroom session may be an indication that the so-called “most beautiful congresswoman ever elected” is wiling to put her money (and more importantly, her time and effort) where her mouth is. The celeb-turned-politician said last may that “I never turn back on a challenge and I am not afraid to learn and ask questions.” Joining her in her efforts to become better versed in the political arena they’ll be entering are 40 other new legislators.
But it isn’t just celebs and politicians who are up to the challenge of starting school again. Many women, especially when their kids are old enough to start school themselves, turn their own eyes to the hallowed halls of the academe in order to earn themselves a degree. Delas Alas is one of these, and she encourages others to do the same.

“Sana po sa mga nanay na medyo malalaki na yung mga anak, pwede kayo mag-aral kasi nakaka-uplift ng morale nating mga nanay na bumabalik tayo sa eskwela para meron tayong ibang alam na magiging proud sa atin yung mga anak natin (I hope mothers who have older children can go back to school because it uplifts our morale so we know other things and our children will be proud of us),” she told ABS-CBN.

Delas Alas is in it for the challenge. "Gusto ko lang din ma-develop ang sarili ko, umandar ang utak ko (I just want to develop myself, get my brain going),” she told the media in this PEP.ph report, saying that going into politics is something that might happen “someday” but which she isn’t sure about yet. “Alam mo 'yon, para hindi naman ako basta sinasabi nila na arte lang ako ng arte. (You know, it's so people don't say that all I do is act.)"

celebs_back_to_school_ai_ai_delas_alas2.jpgStill, heading back to school has its hurdles. Says delas Alas of her first day, “Nosebleed kaming lahat!” Are you in the same predicament? FN offers these five tips on putting yourself back into the academic frame of mind without encountering any “estudyante blues.”


1. Dress your age.

Just because you’re a student at university doesn’t mean you need to dress like one. You’re not 18 anymore, so don’t think you need to dress like your schoolmates to blend in. Trust us, this may backfire and have you standing out even more.

Instead, dress like the mature, professional adult you are—wear your age proudly. This tells your classmates and, more importantly, your professors that not only are you comfortable with who you are and with being where you are, but also that you mean business and are taking your lessons very seriously.

2. Use your experience to your advantage.

Some people never quite leave the academe—they collect diplomas, and then perhaps settle down to become teachers. Don’t feel bad because you aren’t one of these; use it to your advantage! So you may be a little rusty when it comes to your book knowledge. Make up for it with your knowledge about how things work outside the school campus! You’ve had the opportunity for real-life application of the things you’ve learned in school; now you can bring these street smarts you learned into the classroom.

Also, you may have developed a network in your professional life; if you’re a mother, you must have acquired some mean skills at organization and multitasking. Use these to your advantage whenever you can. They’ll give you a leg up, and the truth is that you’ll come off as someone who knows what she’s talking about when you’ve been there and done that.

3. Be strategic in your scheduling.

At this point in your life, you’re probably a part-time student. After all, Ai-Ai delas Alas is in M3, a new sitcom with Aga Mulach, which proves that she’ll be juggling academic challenges with professional ones. You may be working yourself or caring for your family—either way, you probably don’t have as much time to do “creative browsing” at the lib or read through as many secondary sources as your full-time counterparts. This means you’ll have to be smarter about how you use up your time.

Use every advantage to your advantage. Your professional status may mean that you can afford things like laptops and somewhat more sophisticated technology than many other students can. Use that laptop to take your notes so they’re easy to search through (such as when you need to refer to something mentioned a few classes back) and print copies of. Got a fancy-schmancy phone or other gadget with a lot of features? Take advantage of the scheduling and recording functions.

Outline and schedule relentlessly. You don’t have the luxury of being a crammer. Schedule your classes on days you’re less likely to be busy. That can mean weekends for some, and particular weeknights for others. Know your schedule is jam-packed during the workweek? Schedule classes on Mondays or Tuesdays—this will let you study over the weekend in case you have tests or papers due. A class at the end of the week might not be too great because you have to spend it working your day job.

4. Remember the Internet is your best friend—and worst enemy.

As we’ve already mentioned, you might not have as much time to do the academic legwork your full-time classmates may have. The Internet is a great tool, and you need to learn to use it to your advantage.

You’ll find that many professors in many universities upload their class notes, so you can check these out for classes similar to your own. You can also find papers and analyses about your assigned texts that help you understand and absorb what you need to learn. All you have to do is work on those online searching skills.

[Click here to read about improving your online searching skills]

You’ll also need to remember to stay away from the sites and applications that encourage you to procrastinate. When you’re a student on top of everything else (professional, wife, mother, girlfriend, etc.), you simply won’t have the time to waste.

[Click here to read about online time wasters]

5. Don’t be afraid to consult your professors.

You don’t have to go it alone, so don’t be afraid to ask for a little guidance if you feel lost. Your professors understand that you may not have been in school for some time; they probably even admire you for it. So don’t be afraid to ask for a little direction. That’s not spoon-feeding—it’s what they’re there for.

And don’t think that guidance only comes from above. Consider starting a study group with your peers (maybe even finding a few been-a-while-but-I’m-back-in-school individuals like yourself). Even if it’s just reading each other’s papers and giving each other feedback, this can be a very valuable resource for you.

And don’t forget to make friends with your departmental secretaries! They’re the mavens of every department, and may know the ins and outs of some of the classes even better than your professors. They’ll also know which professors are most approachable, flexible, etc., so they're very useful friends to have.

In the end, realize that all this is a juggling act, and you’re keeping a lot of balls in the air, between your studies, your work, your relationships, and your home (and possibly your kids). This means that you can’t afford to keep your eyes on just one of these or try to move from one to the other while they’re all in motion. Focus on the important point: why are you doing this? Focus on your dreams and ambitions, and you’ll realize that all those balls are just parts of the whole you’re working for.

(All photos courtesy of PEP.ph)

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