Thoughts on graduating

My mother complained that I haven’t written about my graduation apart from that slightly sarcastic post I wrote prior to it. So here I am with an update on the experience.

First of all, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. We had to be sat down by 10:30 and the ceremony didn’t start until 11:00. That was a pretty boring half hour. But then once the ceremony itself started it went surprisingly quickly.

Unfortunately the person who was reading everyone’s names out made a bit of a mess of it. A lot of people’s names seemed to be pronounced incorrectly. It wasn’t just the international students, which you might understand. But even some common Anglophone names were completely mauled.

For just one example, the guy who was sitting next to me is called Sussock. Not too difficult I would have thought, but he was introduced as ‘Sisscock’. Amazing. I was a bit worried I was going to be Step-hen but I got off in the end. But for so many people I imagine their memory of the ceremony will be this guy butchering their name. I’m sure it’s not a fun job to have to read so many names out, but it was a bit unfortunate.

The rest of the ceremony wasn’t much better, I’m sorry to say. I watched the webcast of the ceremony that came the day before mine to see what I should expect and that went much better. But in my ceremony the same jokes fell flat because the delivery was so poor. And a lot of the script was skipped as well. I reckon he just wanted to go home early!

The plus side of that was that we all got to go home early as well! 😀 And the queue for the photographer was not bad at all — I was only third in the queue when I joined it. So it was all over much more quickly than I expected.

So I got a nice certificate and a glorified giant red Smarties tube. I was not sure about that you know. In all of the photographs my parents took I am standing there with this ridiculous empty Smarties tube. Then of course for the proper professional photograph I was holding a different fakey prop degree certificate. I can’t really deal with these levels of fakeness. In future I will probably just look at the photos and think, “Smarties tube, fake”.

The photos we took ourselves were not much of a success. My parents can’t seem to cope with the digital camera. Every time my mother uses it she asks the same question — “Which button do I press?” Which button do you think? The one on the top, just like film cameras??

But no, she just reacts like she’s been asked to build a nuclear bomb. Once she’s figured it out she waits about 20 seconds and then — without warning — just presses the button. No “are you ready?” or “right” or any other warning to stop looking gormless. She just presses it. So in all of the photos she took I look either confused, disgusted or gormless.

Escapades with the old camera (which is genuinely as old as I am) were not much more successful, so I hear. My mum managed to drop it in McEwan Hall and the back fell off, exposing the film to all that vicious light. Apparently it was in a dark stairwell, so fingers crossed. Later on we couldn’t work out if it was winding on or not. Serves them right for using a camera that’s about to celebrate its silver anniversary.

Then we got someone to take a photo of me with both of my parents. It was the best shot of the day — apart from one thing. We were standing in front of a building site. We didn’t even realise until I downloaded the pictures onto my computer.

It is funny because when I went through the campus earlier in the week I was surprised at how little it looked like a building site — the new computing building is almost finished, and it’s now largely free of the normal eyesores that are associated with construction sites. Yet we managed to stand in front of the one tiny bit that still has building equipment on it. Incredible.

I also look pretty peeved in a lot of the photos. And I look gaunt and baggy-eyed. It didn’t help that I was seriously tired having had so little sleep and I suffering from caffeine withdrawal at that time of the day, several hours after my one and only coffee of the day.

Me after graduating Anyway, I know you are desperate to see a photo of me in all of that silly attire and holding that ridiculous Smarties tube, so here is the best shot of me (cropped because my parents still haven’t mastered the zoom function on the camera).

In complete seriousness though, all-in-all it was quite a strange day. I felt a bit down about it on my way back. I had a very strange mixture of feelings. Partly that I was probably seeing a few people for the last time and didn’t really get the chance to say a proper ‘goodbye and good luck’ in the rush of the day. Partly regret that I hadn’t made the most of my university days. Partly that I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m moving on to a strange and challenging period of my life. Mostly, simply that — despite the fact I didn’t enjoy my time there much — university is over. Bye-bye JSTOR log-in. Seeya later Athens account.

So in the slim chance that any of those people I didn’t get the chance to see again happen across this post, all the best for the future!


  1. I look pretty bad in my graduation photos. My hair was going through its worst ever style at the time, and my beard’s too long. Hitting out at the fakery, I didn’t wear a mortar board in the photo (as we didn’t wear them to graduate) but in retrospect that was a missed opportunity to hide my haircut.

  2. You look very smart! I also look right cheesed off in my photos, and i refuse to let my parents display my official one because i have a ridiculously fat face in it.
    I was convinced they were going to prounce my name wrong but the silent ‘h’ made it in and all was well!

  3. Congratulations!

    Your graduation sounds pretty much like mine – I can’t help but feel it’s more for the parents than you. We were herded around like sheep, and rushed from ‘grab your gown’ to ‘get your photo’ etc.

    By contrast, my brother’s was much better, but he was part of a smaller faculty.

    But anyway – you’ve done it now… now to look forward to 40 years of wishing you were a student again 🙂

  4. Congratulations! You do look a bit pissed off but very smart. My parents were mortified when I turned up to my first graduation looking like a member of The Levellers.

    You’ll be just fine in the world of work. I hear there’s a couple of vacancies for party leaders….

  5. Congrats.

    Time for a drink, methinks!

    i remember being ridiculously nervous before my graduation, so much so, I didn’t eat most of my lunch. And that’s just not like me.

  6. Congrats 🙂 I really detested my graduation – I looked like a right Charlie. To keep my hideous photo from my eyes it has lain undisturbed under the stairs for going on nine years now. But every time I go home it’s up there on my parents’ wall. Ugh.

  7. Well, this is the first time I see you; as you can imagine we your readers feel curious….

    In Spain it is not that common to do such graduate cellebrations. We see those in many movies and they look something to remember….regardless of the success of the day.

    You do look sad; worried about the future, I guess. But there is one way of delaying the unavoidable….engage in a PhD!! that means 4 years more as a student, but of a very different style. It may be really fun…but it all depends on the place, the theme, the advisor…. but it is fully recommendable (a lot better than graduate studies). After that, a post-doc…doing research is the most fascinating way of life, pretty tough though.

    OK, good luck with whatever you do!

  8. Thanks everyone for the congrats and wishes.

    Juan, I think I’ve had enough of education now! I don’t really fancy the idea of further study — mostly because I don’t want to put off the unavoidable, as you put it. 🙂

  9. Congratulations! You look good in that suit. 😀

    I google-crashed here, just in case you’re wondering who I am.

  10. Congratulations! Graduation’s a strange kind of day, and doesn’t quite do justice to the hard work of four years.

    I gave the official photo-with-toilet-roll-tube thing a miss, and have been berated by my mum and grans ever since. I’m not so bothered, as it didn’t really sum up the uni experience. I prefer the photo of me pulling myself back up from under a table in the union! 😉

    All the best with finding out what comes next.

  11. Congratulations on graduating, Stephen! You deserve it 🙂

    My official graduation photos look OK (it helps that the roll was pretty similar to the actual document on the outside, complete with correct-colour ribbon), which is a minor miracle as graduation day itself was a complete disaster for me. Between the enormous noise (which even earplugs didn’t reduce very much – strange as even F1 engines are made tolerable by them), the hat that constantly fell off and being poked around all morning, I ended up spending most of the day in some sort of sensory overload and not picking up my degree at the ceremony. After a lot of arguing with the university, I eventually got my paperwork about six weeks later.

    I might add that my parents didn’t enjoy all the waiting around for nothing either…

    The upside is that the day ended up costing me only £65, including getting myself and my parents there and back on the train. That said, £65 to have an absolutely miserable day isn’t worth it, and if I get any more degrees I’m definitely asking for them to be sent via the post (though I might hire the gown without the hat and let family get their own photos). Graduation ceremonies as practiced by university simply aren’t very accessible for sensitive people…

  12. Thanks Bellgrove Belle.

    Thanks Alianora. Sounds like your graduation was a right nightmare, but I’m impressed you only spent £65 on it!

  13. Well, I could have spent £31 on a DVD of me not getting my degree, £36 on the pre-graduation ball, about the same for the various post-graduation parties, an extra £60 on extra photographs (which I didn’t need since I haven’t even given away all the ones that came in the basic pack yet), £10 extra to hire the outfit for a week (and about £200 to keep it), £20 on graduation lunch, about £1400 for a celebratory post-graduation cruise around the Carribean on a tall ship… …if I’d really, really wanted to do all the bells and whistles. But I didn’t, so I kept it reasonably cheap.

    The accounting for what I did buy on the day went thus:

    £30 – full outfit hire (1 day)
    £18 – basic pack of graduation photographs
    £10 – lifetime Union membership (so I can go shopping there when I’m in the area – since I bought it on the day, I consider this a graduation expense)
    £07 – 3 advance return train tickets to Sheffield

    My parents paid for a meal at the local fast food store afterwards. I already had suitable formal clothes to go beneath the graduation robes, along with

    The frightening thing is that I got an e-mail a couple of days ago for a reunion – and it’s nearly £40! Added to the strange decision to have a Sheffield Reunion at the House of Lords, it would cost me almost as much to attend the reunion as it did to attend graduation in the first place. And I wouldn’t even get any mementoes of that occasion for the money…