At this point in my life, I feel happy and content with the major decisions I have made. For the past months, I have been moved to tears out of sheer gratitude, and the reason for this is my regular rediscovery of how deeply blessed I am to be here in the Ateneo: blessed with a scholarship that otherwise would not have allowed me to enter college, blessed with deep friendships and professional relationships that have humbled me to openness and service, blessed with hand’s reach employment opportunities that can help me secure my family’s financial status, and most of all blessed with a Catholic education that never fails to steer me to the right course and reason for action.
A Curriculum that Opens Minds
I remember the anxiety I felt when I was filling up my college application sheet, shading all these little circles and checking all these little boxes that would determine so many big things in my life. I guess I was anxious of the enormity of the decisions I was making. I talked extensively with my parents and my trusted high school mentors in Ateneo de Naga about what school and course I was going to take in college. They helped me understand, as I now understand, that the Ateneo was the school for me because I looked up to how the university values being active in organizations and how it is
always so persistent about its graduates being persons for others.
Formally entering college, I admit I was intimidated at first -- I was a meeting top caliber students all around the country. I felt insecure and felt I needed to prove myself, given how in my Management Engineering course, most of the students are valedictorians and salutatorians of their respective high schools. But the need to prove myself slowly turned into a burning desire to learn more and serve, as I realized how professors of my management majors, justifying the School of Management's status as a CHED Center of Excellence, taught as passionately as they could.
One of the early concerns I got from my peers in my choosing to study here was that I was going to get relatively fewer units of major subjects than our course's counterparts in other universities. But looking back, in the Ateneo's liberal arts tradition and my experience in my management courses, I feel this set-up has never limited me, rather it has opened me to learn even more. Instead of exclusively crunching numbers, spreadsheets and deciphering mathematical formulas, I also wrote papers and reflected in my philosophy and theology subjects, where we are taught to appreciate work and see where God is in the things that we do. There always is that danger to lose oneself in all the cold hard numbers, but our very strong foundation on the humanities, liberal arts subjects and our faith addresses this danger. Looking back, I actually never felt the number of major subjects lacked at all.
The well-balanced curriculum has really allowed me to explore more facets of myself, and it is now that I am beginning to appreciate that the Ateneo curriculum is designed in such a way that one is trained to be excellent bothin the technical aspects of work through the majors, and in the humanaspects of work through the core subjects.
My choice to pursue a minor in philosophy to build my anchor on the business world is a testament to my belief in this set-up. There are just so many different academic opportunities such as minoring, taking electives or attending seminars and lectures where Ateneans can explore their other passions in management, social sciences, science and engineering and the humanities, and thus be exposed to more opportunities than what we had initially enrolled for.
Friendships that Open the Heart to Serve
Beyond the academics, what I find most wonderful in studying in the Ateneo are the people I meet and work with. In my position as President of the Council of Organizations of the Ateneo (COA), the confederation of all accredited student organizations in the Ateneo, I have met the most selfless, passionate and excellent student leaders who genuinely care for the country. These are the people who did not mind their fatigue when they worked 48 hours straight organizing the Ateneo's relief efforts for Ondoy, people who passionately went through all-nighters organizing medical missions in Payatas, and people who are just able to see God through the highs and lows of their lives. The genuine desire to serve that I witnessed from my friends has definitely been a very humbling and grounding experience for me.
As a member of the Ateneo Student Leaders Assembly and the Ateneo Christian Life Community, I have gotten to know my friends' wonderful leadership life experiences and journeys with the Lord that have consequently allowed me to discover more who I am and what I value in life. Because of all the people I met while teaching public high school students in Alay Ni Ignacio and my experience in heading the Ateneo Task Force 2010, the official election mobilization effort of the Ateneo, I was inspired to open my heart to serve others as well. The Ateneo has enabled me to dream many dreams for my country which I thought were impossible prior to my entering college. And now I am trying my best to allow others to do the same.
Because of student activities and extra-curricular involvement in the Ateneo, there are limitless opportunities for self-discovery, self-mastery and service. Because of this web of inspiration and support, I can definitely say that Ateneo has one of the best, if not the best organization life in the country.
A great organization life and a human aspect to technical work in academics is a balance that employers really look for in the workplace, as I've discovered in my internship in Procter & Gamble.
The Anchor of Hope Beyond College
I've always been afraid of transitioning to corporate life. But as a Marketing Intern at Procter & Gamble assigned to improve its distribution processes, I have come to realize how important it is to look at my job's impact on the people I work with and for, and how to give meaning to the numbers I deliver and present. On one hand I can solely focus on the cold, objective indicators of business success like increasing shares or raising profits, because these are the things asked of me. But on the other hand, I can choose, as I have chosen, to invest more time on what I feel and believe is important in sustaining a business: that is, understanding and appreciating the work of the sellers we employ and making sure they are compensated equitably.
Now I work not just for my loving family in Bicol but for these thousands of families as well whose lives I can touch and improve. It is the Ateneo that inculcated in me this courage to hope, to give deeper meaning to the numbers, and to look at life with magis.
All things considered, the Ateneo has given me way more than what I can ever aspire to write in this piece or even to share in a lifetime. The Ateneo has given me the spirit to hope with eyes that will relentlessly look forward to a bright future for my country, with the reassurance that many other people are looking forward as relentlessly as I do. As I enter my final year, there's no doubt that I am deeply grateful for my Ateneo education, and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.
Kenneth Isaiah I. Abante
BS Management Engineering, Minor in Philosophy
Council of Organizations of the Ateneo President
Ateneo de Naga University High School, Valedictorian