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5 ways to keep on smiling through law school

I HAVE to say it– time has wings. Back in college, I battled with the thought of taking up Law. That’s another four years of my life put on hold, so I thought. Fast forward to present day where graduation is only a few weeks away, now, I wonder where has all the time gone.

Nonetheless, I still remember how I felt during the last few years: a frightened freshman hoping to attain the required QPI for the year; a shocked sophomore due to what felt like an avalanche of academic load that never ended; a jaunty junior who’s just glad to get through the whole mess that was second year and grateful to be given the chance to reach the final year. Basically, school felt like a perpetual uphill march.

Many would attest that life in law school is definitely not an easy task, even if you had the brain of Mike Ross from Suits. You can’t keep on with just your books, coffee and yourself alone. So being the sentimental senior I currently am, I’ve decided to share my not-so-secret tricks to surviving our beloved legal institution with a smile:

5 – Don’t study 24/7.

Your eyes didn’t fail you, that’s right. Do not study all day, everyday. Law school is a marathon, not a race. If you tirelessly spend all your waking hours reading countless provisions and cases, you’ll burn out eventually. While the study of law has become our focus—our profession, even—making it slaving over books will leave you weary and jaded. Maintain your hobbies, keep up with your sport or indulge in your go-to stress relievers. While academics is of utmost importance, there still has to be a balance. Remember that you will be going through the same M.O. in the next couple of years.

So the next time you decide to take a quick break from studying by watching an episode of your favorite series, eating at that newly opened hole-in-the-wall in Makati, or catching the next Marvel movie, stop yourself from feeling guilty.

4 – Celebrate small victories.

Law school is undeniably a challenge. At the end of it all, we aim to get the letters J and D after our names, which is also the precondition to getting the other letters we ultimately want before our names—“Atty.” But that’s the ultimate victory. In the interim, learn to give yourself a pat on the back when you win small battles in the war that is law school. Victories may be a simple thing, such as a surprise free cut when you didn’t study (a.k.a. moral victory) or a good recit with a tough-to-please professor when you’ve prepared the night before; or a big thing, such as attaining the highest mark in the midterm exam or getting on the Dean’s List. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate; either with a bottle of beer or maybe just jumping up and down like a crazy person. Just reward yourself for a job well done.

Not only does celebrating give you the encouragement you need for future battles, it also reminds you that when you do lose some, there’s always the next one to prepare for and look forward to.

3 – Become a part of something bigger.

As much as you believe that you have it all to succeed by your lonesome self, I would argue that your life in school would not be as fulfilling. I have always believed that becoming a part of something bigger than yourself gives a person a sense of purpose or at the very least, greater fulfillment. When I entered law school, I told myself that I would stop with the extra-curricular activities. Well obviously, I was dead wrong. In hindsight, I can’t imagine going through the past four years without The Women of Aleitheia, the Environmental Law Society of Ateneo, Libertas, Ateneo Golf Club, SALSA, The Palladium and even the Student Council 2012-2013. It’s not about the resume, because as we know, the top firms look at your QPI first and foremost. But with these amazing groups, as well as the principles and interests that we collectively share, I have gained so much more than what the academic curriculum had to offer.

So in your remaining stay, please do yourself a favor and join an organization or volunteer for events. They don’t even have to be organizations from Ateneo Law—just be a part of something bigger. There are tons of new experiences, opportunities and relationships to build that are waiting for you.

2 – Keep and nurture your relationships inside and outside of school.

The Beatles said it right, I get by with a little help from my friends. In my case, I got by with a lot of help from my friends and family. With the amount of workload school throws upon us, it’s easy to forget that we are not robots only programmed to study. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, I wouldn’t have survived law school alone. I’ve met some of my very best friends in this institution. Not just because we study the same books, but also because we’ve made it a point to deepen our friendships beyond the four walls of the Ateneo. For my family, barkada, and friends outside school, I’ve learned to make time for them because we all know as law students, we never really have “free time.”

Books can be your friends but they can never give you that warm hug when you’re sad or words of encouragement when you’re in despair.

1 – Pray.

There’s no further explaining how prayer works wonders. Just pray and, as it has been said, let your faith be bigger than your fears.

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