9 Sep 2018

My Graduation




One month ago I finally adorned myself in cap and cloak and took a stroll up the aisle of my university’s University Hall building in order to pick up my degree certificate. I say 'finally' because - as a result of both the physical and mental health concerns that have followed me around through the breadth of my education - this occasion had been a long time coming. And despite feeling admittedly self-conscious as a 26-year old graduate, I couldn't be happier that I finally made it.



The day before my graduation, my mum, my grandmother and I travelled up to Nottingham from London. Late in the afternoon we checked into our hotel - which we would be spending two nights in - and went into town for a light dinner. Our restaurant of choice for my pre-grad meal was George’s British Kitchen. I had never been there before and was glad I finally had the chance, as the food was great. I had the Chicken Goujons plus The Green as my drink.



The next morning I woke up an hour and a half before our 7.40 am cab was to arrive, in an attempt to make myself look my best for all the inevitable graduation photos. This ended up proving difficult, as the lighting in the hotel clearly wasn’t made for putting on makeup. But despite the slight getting ready fail, I still felt good in my dusty pink dress with cut out sides that I had purchased from ASOS a few weeks prior.



When we arrived at the university there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as I collected all the relevant documents and clothing in order to be all set for the ceremony. My favourite part of the prep was going through what felt like a conveyor belt system, which involved me walking through two corridors and a large room by myself (my mum attempted to come with me for this step of prep, but family weren't allowed in), and then emerging out the other side fully dressed in my graduation gown and cap. (I may have lied slightly at the start of the blog when I said I adorned myself -  graduands were actually swiftly dressed by an array of helpers, who made sure our gowns, hoods and caps were on correctly).


Then - after a bit of relaxing and time-killing in the courtyard - came time for the ceremony. Graduands and family members made their way through the courtyard and across the road to the building where the ceremony was to be held. At the door, I was made to separate from my family once again as I was directed to walk upstairs to the gallery where all the anxious graduates-to-be were waiting, whilst my mum and grandmother made their way to the seating area below us.


Once everyone had settled, I was mildly horrified to learn that I would be amongst the first people to go up to graduate. I had already figured I would be on pretty early, if the ceremony was to be conducted alphabetically. But only when me and a group of others were ushered downstairs and then coordinated by various people who were allocated in different parts of the venue -  hushedly pointing us in the right direction until we were finally in front of the stage - did I realise just how ‘early’ I actually would be.

There were only two people in front of me.



And as the two others were making their way across stage I was already being propelled forward, giving me no chance to compose myself or take note of what the other two were actually doing when onstage, but giving me just enough time to realise how underprepared I actually was. This lack of preparation ended up showed itself when a. As I went up I looked confused as to why my qualifications weren’t read out loud, as they were for the two before me (I realized shortly afterwards that this was only done before groups rather than individuals). And b. I had no idea where the camera was. In fact, I’m not sure I knew there was one. That is, until I noted that after the chancellor shook my hand he paused in frame, turned and smiled into seeming oblivion. This resulted in an official graduation photo where I’m smiling into the vague distance whilst the chancellor smiles directly into the camera.



What came afterwards was a bit of a blur. I can’t even remember who handed me my certificate, but I do remember many congratulations as I went up to my seat again. The last part of the ceremony involved all the new graduates exiting the venue by walking through the crowd downstairs as they applauded. Outside the building there was also a recessional to walk through, as well as a band playing whilst we made our way back to the main building. These elements were a nice surprise. And I say surprise, as I had thought the ceremony was over once I had received my certificate. Ans so I had discarded my hat right away, only to find myself holding it on my head awkwardly whilst walking out and through the recessional, as I couldn’t figure out how to put it back on at such short notice.



After the recessional I reunited with my family. And then came the celebrations. This included prosecco, canapes and live music (and of course lots of picture taking).

And with one last goodbye to the campus (and most notably to the library, which I took my mum on a quick tour of) it was back to the hotel to get ready for our celebratory meal of the day; an early dinner at The Calcutta Club, where I indulged in the Classic Tandoori Chicken.




Then to close the night - despite being full of great Indian food - we made our final return to the hotel to feast on the red velvet graduation cake my mum had thoughtfully surprised me with (which she had bought from West Bridgeford’s Strawberry Cupcakes). And then finally the next morning, after a relaxed brunch at the hotel, we said our goodbyes to Nottingham, before heading back to London by train.


Despite some preconceived anxieties regarding the event, I really enjoyed my graduation. It was great to spend some time basking in the reminder that -  in spite of many pitfalls -  my hard work and perseverance had paid off.

I also loved being able to spend the occasion with my closest family members, whom it also felt great to indulge in somewhat of a mini trip out of London with (this was especially momentous as my grandmother hadn’t left the city for decades).


The ceremony itself also had been very lovely and well organized, and it was great to share the experience with my former course mates as well as university lecturers and staff. Thank you Nottingham Trent University.




Thanks so much to Rhys The Photographer for the amazing photos!



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Thoughts Of A 25-Year-Old

Nottingham Secret Dinner Club



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