This post is inspired by a comment one of my students made in my previous post. It's something I have always been puzzled about when I entered FEU - the students' preocupation with who their classmates are going to be when they choose their section.
I never had a lifelong clasmate while I was studying. Even way back in my elementary days, I can remember only one person who happened to always be one of my classmates from Kindergarten to Grade 6. And that's not even a conscious decision on our part. I never had a common classmate for all my four years in high school.
When I was in college, I was part of a small barkada of five persons during my first four semesters. We happened to have the same "taste" in time preferences I guess, which is why we happened to be classmates for most of our subjects for two years. Although it's just "most", not "all" subjects, since I have already shown early signs of "independence" when I decided to enroll in a different section in Social Science II, Speech and my English elective (Romanticism!!! Why the hell would a BAA student want to enroll in a Romanticism class?).
By my third year, I never cared one bit what section my friends would enroll in. I came to enrollment unmindful of when my friends would come to get their schedules. That never meant that we won't be as rowdy when we see each other in the halls of my college. Our friendship stayed intact and we are still the BAboys, the gagos and tarantados who wear shorts and slippers when attending classes in the "sosyal" College of Business Administration.
Actually, I am very thankful that I was quite independent in my enrollment decisions. If I never struck out on my own, I would never have found time to be involved with the ethnic music group KONTRA-GAPI and life would have been wholly different for me. If I never struck out on my own, I would never have enrolled in a Panitikang Pilipino class which allowed me to meet the great author, Bienvenido Lumbera. If I never struck out on my own, I would never have known Jolography and all of my crazy classmates in CW 180. If I never struck out on my own, I would never have known Mr. Pineda and Mam Echanis, two "terror" teachers who have been instrumental in making me competent in Finance which happened to be my favorite subject to teach today. If I never struck out on my own, I would never have taken my feasibility study a full semester earlier than expected, which would have deprived me of my most fulfilling academic achievement in college.
If I never struck out on my own, I would never have known that Malabon gets flooded even when there's no rain. Or that the zigzag roads in the mountains going to Mariveles are more challenging than the ones in Baguio.
Most importanly, though, if I never struck out on my own, I would only have had a very limited circle of friends. There's not one student in my batch that has never been my classmate. And I'm very thankful for that. I actually got to know my best friend in college only in my fourth year.
Now this is not a criticism against the FEU students, most of whom I think really put their friends' decisions in mind when they choose their schedules. I guess we just happened to have different mindsets, me being born out of a culture where building one's capacity to work on his own is very much encouraged, while they are born out of a culture where tight-knit friendship and group camaraderie is of high value.
Still, I think students would have a richer experience if they get to know more people instead of comfortably being with their barkadas all the time. It's good to learn how to deal and work with different types of people, which would pretty much be the norm after graduation. It would also let them deepen their sense of friendship because it would be tested by their lack of time spent together. It also opens up more opportunities to experience new things, as the mind is not shackled by the limits unconsciously set by being with the barkada. There would also be a lack of "animosity" between different sections who would tend to treat non-classmates as a bunch of "others".
Most importanly, though, the Graduation Yearbook would be much more enjoyable to read if everybody is more than just a familiar face. :)
Randy David once wrote about "imagined communities" in the Philippine setting. While there may be a higher sense of individualism in other countries, Filipinos tend to imagine their communities a bit smaller than people in other countries. Which is why Pinoys tend to look after the welfare of their families, instead of their communities. Why Pinoys tend to be regionalistic, instead of nationalistic. I guess a lot of my students tend to imagine their communities within the bounds of their assigned section in the classroom. How I wish their "imagined communities" would extend to their batch. Or to their course. Or to their institute. Or to their university. Or to the greater community.