If Edsel Codoy's college journey can be summed up in one word, it's perhaps bittersweet.
Edsel, 22, graduated as the valedictorian—and the only summa cum laude—of University of the Philippines Cebu's Class of 2023. But studying hard meant the computer science major, in his own words, "doing nothing else." Only study, study, and study.
"I have been chasing excellence my entire academic life, but reflecting on my college stay, I was actually missing out in life," Edsel said during his graduation speech, as captured by local channel MyTV Cebu. "I missed out on the unique opportunities for personal growth, exploration, and building meaningful connections."
Edsel noted how he's always been "reclusive and shy," so much so that he socializes as little as possible, only turning to the closest circle of friends he has.
This attitude persisted until college, prompting him to not join university organizations and to decline offertorship nominations. Edsel said he remained an "observer" as a student, only going with the same group of people he would meet in class.
In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, the fresh graduate said he has "a bit" of regret that his college life turned out that way. If he can turn back time, he said he would have done more than just studying, like harnessing his leadership skills in organizations or joining volunteer work. He also would have taken more internships and part-time jobs.
"If I had tried more things and I had been more outgoing," he said, "I would have maximized my entire college experience."
Edsel, however, believes if that were the case, the end result would have been much different. For what it's worth, he said it was his conscious choice to prioritize his studies.
After all, he held scholarships from UP Cebu and the Department of Science and Technology. His fear of failure also made him do things "with a relatively higher chance for success."
"I would have told a different story now," he said.
Still, academic excellence has been a double-edged sword for Edsel. On one hand, his sole focus on studying made him pass the university with flying colors. On the other hand, he thinks he only emerged as book-smart.
One of Edsel's biggest realizations is the importance of capitalizing on one's interpersonal relationships.
"We may not see it now, but they hold great value, and they last longer than the mere grades we get," he said.
Socrates famously said that an unexamined life is not worth living, and Edsel is on a mission to make his life worthwhile moving forward.
He told L!fe he's taking up his second internship in a tech role he knows little about. He's looking forward to changing the emerging tech landscape in light of the rise of artificial intelligence.
He said he's also getting multiple offers at the moment, and is weighing his options—unlike before in which he would automatically decline everything.
The very fact that Edsel delivered the graduation speech also meant him overcoming his public speaking fears.
"I'm starting to unlearn self-doubt and to reframe failure as another learning experience," he said in his speech, noting how he has come to his senses. He is starting to broaden his horizons one action at a time.
He urged his fellow graduates to take calculated risks and embrace a growth mindset.
"Don't be too hard on yourselves. Cultivate self-compassion," he said. "We do this so that at the end of the day, we leave no regrets."
He also called on everybody to "rectify the broken system," never allowing themselves to be consumed by it.
"Let us not lose hope and let us not give up on this country. After all, we are the country's hope and we are the country's future," he said.
Edsel told L!fe that he's out to practice what he just preached. He urged Filipino students to consider their personal growth, as well as take on opportunities that are being presented to them.
"Let's slowly get out of our comfort zones together," he said, "and be the best version of ourselves." (with reports from Yoniel Acebuche)