Up, Up and Away: Fulfilling the Dream of a Lifetime Blog Series, The End of an Era

It sounds tragic, even to me as the writer, to name this chapter the way I did. But as Alexander Graham Bell once put it, “When one door closes, another opens.”

The moment I affixed my signature on the crisp paper that read Job Offer, I knew there were a lot of things that I needed to put into perspective. Yes, my life is about to change. But before it could, I have to go through two exams – mandatory, before my application with NMC could be formally lodged.

Part of the requirements for UK employment is the dreaded IELTS test. Both my employer and agency recommended that I enroll myself in a review center in preparation for the said exam. I heeded their advice and decided to go for the review. This decision, however, came with another – leaving my job.

I never realized how staying in an institution for nearly 3 years could hold me back. Working for MakatiMed has been a whirlwind experience, with a lot of ups and downs, days when I cursed non-stop, days when I barely had time to pee or eat, and days when I could’ve spent holidays at home with my family instead of reporting for work. Then again, I wanted to be a nurse. Yes, there were bad days but there were also good ones. Days when patients let you know they appreciate you and what you do for them, days when you just have 2 patients and days when you get by a shift without admissions, trans-ins, and complaints. I knew I was going to miss it all but I gambled and took my chances anyway. It was in October of 2016 when I left. Like what I always said to myself back then, whatever it is I’m doing, it’s all for this dream worth chasing – the UK.

It was mid-November when I started my review in JRooz. I was enrolled in the Unlimited program, which afforded me the countless sit-ins, mock exams and one-on-one coaching sessions I had, before taking the exam January of the following year.

I didn’t get it right the first time, and that alone crushed me. I had been sick days before my actual test; I showed up for my speaking exam, feverish, constantly coughing and sneezing. To top it all, I barely had voice, which was a big no-no. πŸ˜“ This carried on until the day of my written exams. I was, in no way, fit to take any test – as I was physically exhausted and mentally unprepared. As soon as I walked out of the ballroom, I knew better not to expect.

13 days later, the results were released. I was right not to expect good scores. I felt awfully sad and frustrated, seeing as I made it on all sub-tests except for Writing, where I only got 6.5. Failure never hit me hard like it did that time; that 0.5 away from my target score meant I would’ve to resit the exam again. Nooooooo. 😭😭😭

There was no telling how heartbroken I was then. I debated whether retaking the exam or having my current one remarked would be the best option to take. I slowly lost my resolve to continue the UK dream, but it was my mom who dragged me back to JRooz, who told me that it was foolish to abandon everything all because of one setback. And she was right. I probably stressed myself way too much because of the exam that I ended up getting sick.

I gathered all the strength I had to set my priorities straight this time. I was more focused – the exam was beatable, given the right attitude and preparation. Yes, preparation and at the same time, taking care of myself. When I started going back to JRooz, I was fortunate enough to be part of the “pilot” class of the Intensive Writing Workshop. Here, I learned how to think faster and write better. I couldn’t be more thankful for the timing. It was exactly what I needed . πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡

It was March 25 when I decided to take the IELTS again. Doing it for the second time, I’d say the overall experience was better. It gave me quite an edge because I already knew what to expect from the test, the examiners, and the whole nine yards. I felt more confident and relaxed. But more than that, I guess it’s because I wasn’t sick that day. Yessss!

As soon as I finished my exams and walked out, I felt positive. I was happy because this time, I knew that I was able to give my 101%. Though I was not discounting the fact that the exam was rather challenging, I knew in my heart that I gave my best shot. Whatever happens, happens. Results came out after almost two weeks. I was blown away with my scores and couldn’t help but cry, laugh, jump and shout. I was able to hurdle my Writing; and got an 8.5 for Listening, 8.0 for Reading and Speaking and 7.5 for Writing. I didn’t expect such good scores. All I wanted was to pass, and God simply gave me so much more. It couldn’t have been all me – I know God, the stars and fate were all on my side. They wanted me to be in UK and that’s why I passed. Great way to look at it, eh? 😊😊😊

One down, more to go. My IELTS journey was not perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I went through failure, but rose up to the challenge and proved something to myself. Remember: The only time you fail is when you stop trying.

Here are my tips for aspiring IELTS test takers:

  1. Embrace the English language. Language is a skill and for you to be proficient at it, you have to practice. Practice! Practice! Practice!
  2. Bombard yourself with everything English. Watch English shows, read English books and speak in English. Listening to podcasts might also be helpful.
  3. Really review for the exam. If you can, you might want to consider taking a course on IELTS or hiring a freelance IELTS mentor. In this way, you are able to seek feedback, especially when it comes to your writing and speaking.
  4. Check out trust-worthy IELTS sites like IELTS Liz IELTS Buddy or IELTS Simon. You can also find them on YouTube for tutorials. Personally, I found Learn English with Emma very useful during my review. She has a playlist of IELTS lessons that gets you covered from Listening to Reading to Writing and finally, Speaking.
  5. Have the right attitude and disposition towards the test. The IELTS is not impossible to pass. All you need is to work hard and I guarantee you, you will reap the fruits of your labor. Likewise, learn to take care of yourself. If you feel too stressed, take a break from studying and find something relaxing to do. Take it from me, you can’t ace the exam if you’re not at all okay to begin with.

To those of you who will take the IELTS, pray a lot. Do your best. GOOD LUCK AND MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU.

Leave ’em comments below. If you have some questions, you can reach me at mnpmijares@gmail.com.

Bye for now,

Neri❀

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Up, Up and Away: Fulfilling the Dream of a Lifetime Blog Series, The Birth of an Idea

dream (noun)

: something that you have wanted very much to do, be, or have for a long time

In my twenty-seven years of existence, I’ve had quite a number of dreams. As a kid, I wanted to become a doctor, a pediatrician to be exact, a teacher, and an actress. Gee, looking back at it now, I can’t help but laugh at myself – I had such high hopes, can you believe it?

Fast forward to the day that is today, a lot has changed. Some childhood dreams got washed away by time and the need to be practical. I ended up as a nurse, basically because I got drawn to the promise of a bright future. Yes, the reality of the nursing profession here in the Philippines continues to stupefy me however way or angle I look at it. Even then, what kept nurses afloat despite the horrendous working hours and the menial pay was the hope that one day, they’d be able to seek a better opportunity abroad and live decently. This same thing has kept me going for nearly three years working as a nurse in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. I relied on three things, and God knows that it took more than that and sheer will to get to where I am today. Every day, I had to repeat these words to myself: Better life. Stable job. Income that is going to be more than enough for bills and basic needs.

You’re probably wondering where I am writing this from. If you must know, I’m still here in the Philippines, but God-willing, I hope to be in the UK soon. Yes, you heard it right. That’s where I’m headed and this blog series will be on all accounts of what has happened from day one, what is happening and what will happen to me when I get there. I am way, way behind in my writing, as I’ve come up with this idea not even 48 hours ago. But hold me down to it, I will try my damnedest to recount everything that took place from the time I decided to embark on this journey.

So now, where do I begin? Hmmmm, let me see. It was 2016. September. I had grown weary from days and nights spent being a nurse. It sure had its perks, which I did get to enjoy most, if not all. πŸ˜‰ The sad truth was, no matter how much working with the rest of the team felt like bonding with family, my exhaustion finally took a toll on me. I realized I wasn’t happy anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a nurse. I wouldn’t have stayed being one if I really didn’t feel passionate about it. It just got to a point where I paused momentarily, looked at myself, and asked “Is this still worth it?” Aside from the fact that I was clearly experiencing the cardinal signs of what you may call a “burn out,” much of my frustration resulted from the inequity that is – how inversely proportional every nurse’s pay grade is to the amount of workload he bears. I was part of the industry for a while and with my own eyes I saw how nurses grappled just to make ends meet. I was one of them.

It was heartbreaking, bearing this in mind every time you had to go into work. But my inner resolve was much stronger than I imagined – when every day felt like a quitting moment, a mental picture would flash right before my eyes and remind me that in 5-10 years, all the hardships would pay off. That kept me going, what urged me to wake up and brace yet another 8 or sometimes 12-hour shift without breaks in between. You have no idea what it feels like to put this all down into writing. Surreal. I feel like I deserve to score an Olympic medal or an Oscar trophy. Haha. 😁

Going back, it was late last year when I ended up fooling around with the idea of working abroad. To be honest, while I have considered the possibility of a life away from friends and family, I haven’t really made a solid decision about it yet. It seemed pretty tempting, especially when a lot of your colleagues are doing the same thing. Bandwagoner, I guess that’s me. πŸ™‚ Out of curiosity, I managed to send out resumΓ©s to one or two recruitment agencies. One thing led to another, and to cut the long story short, I got a job as a nurse in the UK. It all happened so fast, that none of it even registered to me at first glance. Suspension of disbelief. This is how I would phrase that moment. More than ecstatic, I felt a whole lot of emotions overwhelm me. I felt worried and anxious because not only did I have to physically and emotionally condition myself to take in what would be – the biggest change in my life – the immediate need was for me prepare myself mentally. Just when you thought you’re already done with exams, you realize that life is one hell of a test. No way you and I are getting out of this, brotha. 🀣

Anyway, in order for me to jump-start my Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) application, two exams were deemed necessary – one is this English proficiency exam called the IELTS, and the other is a nursing competency exam, which is the CBT.

Join me as I open the next chapter of this blog series with my experience sitting the IELTS. Crazy things happened along the way and I’m looping you in with all the juicy details.

See you around,

Neri❀