These past few weeks have been an absolute roller-coaster of emotions. Readjusting to student life after a long summer break, beginning of dissertations, first submissions of the year and the long-awaited graduation ceremony in Worcester; all slotted in amongst the sudden realisation I need to know what I want to be doing in just a few months’ time when this all sadly comes to an end.
I am not a morning person in any way, shape or form. Ask any of my friends from my years at school or college. Sleepovers at mine often involved my parents trying to force me out of bed and me launching whatever was within reaching distance towards the door in the hope of an extra five minutes rest! Well… the road trip to Worcester was a little different. In order to get there on time my parents contacted me promptly to let me know they would be collecting me at half past six (it was a three-hour drive) and you’ll be pleased to know no shoes, books or other objects were launched.
As we got within an hour of our destination the weather suddenly looked very bleak, my mother had commandeered my coat and my dad was having me google shops within the city centre where he may be able to purchase an extra layer! On arrival, we quickly saw hoards of graduates donning the coveted mortarboard and gowns that are synonymous with these events. I collected my gown from the City Campus where everyone was so friendly, it was hard to not be affected by the buzz of excitement in the air. I was sure I would look utterly ridiculous however it turns out mortarboards are quite slimming. Then we made our way through the city towards the cathedral. For those that have never been there before and are due to go in the coming years with a way to travel, rest assured there is a conveniently located coffee shop and row of fast-food outlets opposite the final destination.
On arrival at the cathedral, I quickly lost my parents who were gasping for a coffee and breakfast and went in search of my fellow graduates. Unfortunately, I couldn’t identify them amongst the sea of students in similar attire, however I did hunt down one of the lovely TLI tutors, Dawn, who had made the journey to join our celebrations. It was lovely to see her as she had taught me during level 5 online, and we had never actually met face-to-face! Then I journeyed inside the cathedral.
I was a little surprised that you don’t actually wear the cap once you enter the cathedral- had I known I may have spent longer doing my hair that morning. Once inside I realised, I was on the front row- meaning I would be one of the first up on to the stage! I was surrounded by my fellow TLI peers, which was comforting and also really lovely having not seen them for so long. We had a quick catch-up and discussed the module we had just completed, the upcoming conference and how amazing it was to actually be there. The staff from Worcester were fantastic, they approached those of us on the front row and asked us to do a practice run whilst people were still coming in. The idea being if we knew what we were doing everyone else would copy.
Then we sat and the ceremony began. A parade of scholars entered through the centre aisle including some of our tutors who smiled at us as they went by. Then I was beckoned to line up at the side of the stage. What happened over the following few minutes is a bit of a blur. I was called onto stage, smiled for a photograph, collected my certificate and then walked around the cathedral and back to my seat. What was surprising though is there were no nerves, there must have been hundreds of people within that room, and yet I did not feel a shred of anxiety. After the awarding of degrees, fellowships and awards David Green (Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the university) gave a speech. This was maybe the part that felt a bit emotional. He outlined how the sacrifices of those within healthcare and education had not gone unnoticed and described how difficult it must have been to have volunteered/worked in those roles whilst balancing study throughout a pandemic. I think for me, that was the stage where what we had all accomplished really hit home and I know from talking to my parents afterwards that was a real moment of realisation for them too.
At the end of the ceremony, we were invited to follow the tutors out of the cathedral. This was the opportunity to really catch-up with each other after not seeing each other for so long and an opportunity to thank our tutors. It was lovely hearing and seeing how proud we were of each other and how happy the tutors were for us too. I personally felt this was the point when I realised that although this was my accomplishment, we truly had all contributed to each other’s successes. I had lovely conversations with tutors Steve, Owain, Trevor and John, the latter two also taking the opportunity to tell my parents they should be proud which was lovely.
We then walked back to city campus for a reception. Food and sparkling wine were provided and there was live music too. I sat with my fellow graduate Vicky and her family which was extremely overdue. I often speak to her on the phone and hear her husband and daughter in the background, so it was nice to finally meet them all.
Overall, the day was a beautiful celebration, and I would implore everyone take the opportunity to attend their ceremonies when the opportunities arise. The only caveat I would highlight is to plan your journey home a bit better than I did (almost five hours in a car)!
Congratulations to all my fellow graduates, those who attended the ceremonies and those that did not! You have all absolutely worked your socks off this year and I cannot wait to go again next year!!