School was very stressful.: Becoming Minnesotan

Dr. Maryam Beltran Shapland, Emergency Physician at Woodwinds Hospital, Woodbury
  • Name - Maryam Beltran Shapland
  • Age at interview - 34
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 01.25.2011
  • Maryam Beltran at three months old.  Minnesota Historical Society.
    Maryam Beltran and her sister visiting New York City when they lived in Canada.

    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Philippines were colonized by Spain in the 1500s and taken over by the U.S. after the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Americans started free, public American-style education in the Philippines, which became one of the most educated nations in Asia. After Philippine independence in 1946 the country was free to move their educational system in their own direction, including a move towards teaching in Tagalog or other Filipino languages rather than solely in English.

    To learn more about Filipino history and culture, visit our Filipino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Maryam Shapland 1
    3:45 Minutes | 3.61Mb


    Narrator: Maryam Shapland(MS)

    Interviewer: Lita Malicsi (LM)

    MS: I went to a very, I guess, prestigious elementary school in the Philippines. It was very difficult to get in, and we had to take tests to get in, and then they did a lottery after. So they administered tests to all would-be kindergartners. My sister and I both passed, and, then, they did a lottery because there were so many people that wanted to get into the University of the Philippines Integrated School, which is where I went to. I, fortunately, got picked and my then sister, unfortunately, did not. I don’t know if fortunately is the right word, because it was a very rigorous curriculum from day one. I still remember as early as first grade, they would have the top ten kids in my class listed on the blackboard, and your goal is to get that number one spot. Also, they divided all the children into high classes and low classes, and if you were a very academically inclined student…if you were the cream of the crop you would get into the high class and if not, then you would be in the low class. So it was always the goal to get into the highest of the high class. It was really already very, very stressful from the beginning. School was, academically, was very stressful. So coming here, it was a complete relief in terms of there was none of that rigorous competition, but also I felt somewhat lost, because I didn’t have that structure and I didn’t have that push and drive, the external drive, to excel.

    I remember waking up early, so we would be in school, I believe, by seven-thirty or so from elementary school on, and then finishing school around four-thirty. And then the grading was never A, B, C, D, pass fail, satisfactory, unsatisfactory. It was, you did ninety-seven percent in math or eighty-seven percent in English. It was very specific how well you did and, also, in comparison to other people.

    I also remember — this is a story that my family still tell and kind of make fun of me for — I remember, I think I was in grade four or grade three and we were learning the multiplication table. And we had to have the entire multiplication table memorized by a certain time, because we were getting tested by flash cards in front of the class. I wore glasses. I wore these pink, big, round, rose-tinted glasses, because I was very nearsighted. And I broke my glasses in frustration, because I was having so much trouble memorizing it, and I knew I needed to do well, and I knew I needed to learn the whole multiplication table by the next day.

    I also remember getting headaches, I remember getting headaches as a child, because I would study so hard. Looking back now, I think that that helped me, because it really gave me a work ethic and, as I said, the drive to do well, to exceed expectations.

    LM: That’s certainly character building.

    MS: Yes, it was [laughs].

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adverb: In terms of educational achievement.


    Verb: To manage the use of or give out something. (adminsters, administering, administered)


    Noun: A moral strength.

    cream of the crop

    Noun: The best or most desirable among some selection.


    Noun:  Established educational materials and exercises that follow a set pattern over a period of time.


    Verb: To go beyond; to surpass.  (exceeds, exceeding, exceeded)


    Verb:  To do much better than others.  (excels, excelling, excelled)


    Noun:  The act or state of expecting or looking forward to an event as about to happen; that which is expected or looked for; the prospect of the future.


    Noun:  A drawing of lots used to decide something by chance.


    Adjective: Having a very good reputation; honored; esteemed.


    Noun:  1. Aid or assistance offered in time of need.  2.  The removal of stress or discomfort.


    Adjective: Severe; intense; strict.

    work ethic

    Noun: The value that one ought to work hard at one's job or duties.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2116