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UST’s Campus Life
The University pulsates with youthful life. UST students number anywhere between 42,000 to 44,000 students, where some 12,000 are freshmen. Seen on campus are different manifestations of academic life from students whose backs are stooped while making sketches of University landmarks for their course requirements, to those whose eyes are glued on the pages of their books and e-books, reading intently for class, and the students who tirelessly rehearse dance steps for their physical edyucation practical exams. Others are either on their way to or from class, walking with friends or just by themselves, traversing the two-way streets named after the University’s illustrious alumni.
Not everything on campus, however, is solely about the Thomasians’ academic development because the University’s goal is to provide them with holistic formation. Students are also immersed in community development activities that take place in campus, such as the annual Pistang Tomas Community Trade Fair usually held at the Quadricentennial Square in December. Food and other indigenous products of the partner communities and organizations are put on sale. This is not only a venue for students to help the partner communities, and interact with their members, but also this becomes an avenue for inculcating the values of social responsibility. Eventually, these students will take conscious efforts to transform society.
“There is more fun in UST!” Fun activities also take place in España. Freshmen curiously visit the student organization booths lined up at the Plaza Mayor, and look into groups that will match their interest, skills and needs through ‘Recruitment 101’ that takes place every first month of the academic year. Before the academic year ends, graduating students flock to the Benavides Plaza to take part in the annual Job Fair where more than a hundred companies join. Graduating students eagerly check out company booths for schedules of company orientation and go over glossy company flyers, brochures being distributed, excited over potential employers.
Aside from fun activities are religious and historical events. In August, freshmen take the traditional “Freshmen Welcome Walk” by passing through the Arch of the Centuries as a symbol of ‘becoming Thomasians’ because the same Arch was the doorway of the University when it was still in Intramuros. This is called the “Rite of Passage.”
This culminates in the traditional concelebrated Mass where the Rector himself presides and takes the opportunity to personally welcome the new set of UST students.
In December, the UST Grandstand and the Open Field become the site of ‘Paskuhan’. It starts with the Panunuluyan–the search of Joseph and Mary for the inn where Jesus was to be born. This is followed by the concelebrated Christmas Mass which usually coincides with the beginning of the Misa de Gallo. A program featuring mainstream live bands ensue, and the celebration ends with the much-anticipated fireworks display.
In May, graduating students gather at the Grandstand for the Baccalaureate Mass. After the Eucharistic celebration are post-Mass activities that include the blessing and imposition of the Thomasian Mission Cross, the recitation of the Thomasian Pledge of Loyalty, and the Ceremony of the Light. This is followed by the fireworks display and the send-off rites where the Rector and the Secretary General lead the candidates for graduation in passing through the Arch of the Centuries. This time, the students symbolically “leave the University” by walking through the Arch facing España Blvd. This is a symbolic act of their “readiness to face the challenges of professional life and fulfill the mission of serving the Church, the nation and the family as future Thomasian professionals.”
The landscaped open spaces known as Benavides Garden which starts from the Benavides Monument and ends at the Arch of the Centuries, the Plaza Mayor fronting the Main Building, the Quadricentennial Square found between the Main Building and the Benavides Library – all are teeming with students exhibiting mixed emotions of happiness and anxiety, but are generally excited about prospects of a new day in class or off-campus, confident that today’s inputs reached after hours of group practice or study will merit a positive outcome.
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