The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice. —Brian Herbert

If there is a “blessing” that comes from the Covid-19 pandemic, aside from reminding us of human hope, ingenuity, and that love for one another always prevails, it is the gift of time. With more time on our hands, we are given the chance to rediscover, reassess, and redefine ourselves. 

When we utilize our free time properly, there is a lot to gain. A productive way to use our time off is by enriching our knowledge through self-education. There is so much content on the Internet right now that could help us acquire new skills or improve existing ones, whether through video streaming sites like Netflix and YouTube or through online courses offered by leading institutions worldwide.

Paula Dahlia Mendoza has made it a point to learn a thing or two… or 20, to be exact, from several Ivy League and global university courses online, in her spare time during the enhanced community quarantine.

Paula, more fondly called by her friends and family as Xopau

SEASONED LEARNER Paula Dahlia Mendoza, fondly called by her friends and family as Xopau, is a licensed financial advisor, motivational speaker, and a blogger

“At first, Netflix was my best friend. I almost watched every single K-drama and movie available,” Paula says. After her binge-watching phase, the 28-year-old licensed financial advisor and motivational speaker became interested in plants and started to do gardening. Still not quite satisfied, however, the blogger and manager of the Facebook page Balikbayang Liwaliw tried her hand at some online courses.

Paula is known as “the first Filipina traveler to be featured on the History Channel” after she backpacked through all the provinces in the country in three months. Under quarantine and with no opportunity to travel, she focused her energy on exploring new skills.

“I realized I wanted to do something else again. I needed to make myself more productive during the quarantine season, so I browsed online to look for courses,” Paula explains how she began her pursuit of knowledge. “The main goal is to acquire new strategies and techniques that would be beneficial for me—something that I can use for my next job. It’s like I was getting ready for another war and these courses were my guns.”

“It took me almost a whole month to finish all 20 courses. […] I was really focused and diligent, studying straight from the afternoon ‘til early morning, every day,” Paula tells us. “I always want to finish a course as soon as possible. The longest one took me two days to finish, while everything else could be done within a day, but only if you did it non-stop.”.

Asked about her favorite course, she says “‘Achieving Personal and Professional Success’ from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania! It was designed to help define what success means for an individual, and to develop a plan for achieving it. I remember one of my favorite lessons that were discussed on the course: Does Success Equal Happiness? It’ll help you answer the questions that arise when you consider how best to use your life. It helped me to understand the many levels of success. After this course, I now understand that success is an all-around sense of wellbeing and passion for what it is that you are doing.”

Using her mother's kabayo (ironing board), Paula created her makeshift study area at home just so she can speed through the online courses

DEDICATION TO EDUCATION Using her mother’s kabayo (ironing board), Paula created her makeshift study area at home just so she can speed through the online courses

Paula used the online learning platform Coursera, which has over 1,000 courses available. “You can choose a category or specific topic you want to focus on. As for me, most of my courses were about leadership, marketing, strategic management, and personal development,” she says.

Each of the courses has quizzes, a final examination, case studies, peer assignments, lectures, and a real professor on a video who would discuss and guide a student using certain modules. “It was quite exciting. You feel like you’re in a real class. You just have to pass every examination and submit all the needed requirements for you to complete the course and gain a certificate afterward,” Paula adds.

IN HER 20s Paula is now a certified collector of online courses certificates

IN HER 20s Paula is now a certified collector of online courses certificates

It is possible to audit a class for free on Coursera. They will not be able to get an official certificate, but the user gets access to most of the material for a limited amount of time.

“We’re all tired and exhausted at nagiging paulit-ulit na lang ang lahat sa araw-araw (Everything is becoming repetitive). ‘Kesa mabwisit ka sa mga nangyayari sa paligid, hanap ka na lang ng paraan at mga gawaing nakaka-uplift sa mind and spirit. (Instead of getting irritated by what’s going on, just find something, a way to uplift the mind and spirit),” Paula says, adding that everyone bored amid the health crisis should try to be productive. “Taking online courses would give you something essential that could be used for your personal and professional career.”

What’s next? “I think, for now, I am good. I’ll stop at 20,” she says. “But for sure, I’ll go back and try other online courses during my free time. Magpatuloy lang palagi at matuto sa araw-araw (Continue to learn every day). Don’t ever stop learning.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (