Graduation was one of those occasions that you realise you’ll never forget, like scoring your first goal, crashing your first car, or enjoying your first notably non-unaccompanied night, only longer.
I was of the mind-set that it would be a bit of an anti-climax, a whole lot of waiting for a second-long handshake, followed by a swift ushering from the stage, and while in essence that was exactly what happened, it also completely wasn’t. Like all great British things, it started with a queue. You queue to register, you queue to collect your graduation garments, you even queue to have your graduation garments donned on your person, as though 3 or 4 years’ worth of degree hasn’t taught you how to put on a gown and mortarboard (which it hasn’t). Throughout this 15 minute queuing ritual you’re surrounded by people in the exact same situation as you: family in tow, cameras flashing, every moment digitally recorded only to be discarded at a later date upon the inevitable realisation that perhaps 5,000 close-up photos of the prodigal son or daughter in a mortarboard is a few too many, even for a glorious day such as this.
The excitement is, however, contagious. In my case it was early on in the day and the woman dressing me in tradition was still beaming at the prospect of another happy graduate in a gown. Her easy smile made the ridiculousness of the situation disappear, and the sudden flashes aimed in my direction from more than one camera only amplified the positive feeling towards these, and I’ll reiterate, ridiculous pieces of clothing.The fact is we don’t live in Tudor England any more, but that’s what makes it all the more memorable, I suppose. You’re then directed towards the seating area where you can eagerly await the moment where you may or may not decide to fall over in front of hundreds of people, something not failed to be mentioned by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University. The big welcome screen is then taken over by the mischievous cameramen who make it their civic duty to pan over the graduands and make even the most confident of on-screen individuals become anxious and awkward before allowing them their privacy and moving on, unless you happen to be the inspired person who took that time to rearrange his hair before giving a big thank you thumbs up. Well done to you, sir.
To the sumptuous sound of a University fanfare march the procession of important people involved in the ceremony, golden mace carriers and all. This only adds to impression that we are, in fact, actually in a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Add in a couple of genuinely uplifting speeches from decorated academics and an endless round of applause and before you know it, you’re up.
I had the honour of being the first of the Natural Sciences Bachelor class students to collect my certificate due to my alphabetically young surname, (the benefits of a B name really do rack up as the years unfold) and within the blink of an eye I was crossing the stage towards a man whose face I’ve somehow already forgotten. With my roaring fans cheering me on, you may choose the level of possible exaggeration, I swept across the platform, grinning like a child anticipating ice-cream at the beach, and shook the hand of an apparently inspirational academic I’ve never met before. With just enough time to glance in the parental direction and widen a smile I didn’t think could expand any further, cameras clicking away, the certificate was placed in my hand and the next person was announced.
This moment, at a maximum of 7 seconds, was surprisingly almost worth the extortionate gown-hiring cost in itself. With the addition of a whole glass of prosecco, meticulously signed off, various little foodlets and the pleasure of being part of such a splendidly good-natured event with lots of friends and family surrounding you, it’s totally worth it.
If you’re lucky enough to go to University and make it through your studies, and non-studies, with your head held high enough to think yourself deserving of a little acknowledgement, then don’t doubt the worth of graduation. Spend the money, buy a photo or three and enjoy yourself. Your tearful parents will love seeing your brief moment in the sun, meeting anyone they’ve not already met and generally having a good time at your newly-old stomping ground. You’ll enjoy them enjoying themselves and even the most sceptical among you will get caught up in the event.
Plus, you’ll have a metaphorical million photos to show the grandparents. It’s a win win.