This is the time of year when students are sitting their finals.
There is course work to complete, and degrees to be awarded.
I was fortunate enough to spend six wonderful years at university. I had to work very hard for
the right to stay there. But I did receive two degrees as a result.
The first time I went to the beautiful old Senate House in Cambridge to accept my Bachelor
of Arts, I was surrounded by all my peers who had been studying at Trinity with me. They
were receiving their degrees in Mathematics, English, Natural Sciences, Engineering and so
- Soon they would be leaving and taking up jobs and starting the next phase of their lives.
We had partied together, pedalled to lectures together and comforted each other in times of
crisis. It felt wonderful to be lining up with them alphabetically ready to process past the
admiring tourists. We all wore identical new gowns, with the weird mortarboard hats, and
joyfully chattered as we waited.
At one point I glanced back from the familiar undergraduate faces to the less familiar figures
joining at the very back of the queue. These were postgraduates, sporting colourful hoods
that reached to their waists.
I realised that in three years’ time that would be my position in the parade.
It’s not often in life that I have had the privilege to be part of such pageantry. Sadly, on that
first occasion, I had been partying so hard in the week leading up to our graduation day I
now have only vague memories.
I recall that each graduate was only allowed to invite a limited number of spectators,
because the Senate House is rather a small building.
I recall that the entire ceremony was conducted in Latin. So I didn’t understand a word. We
were a huge cohort from Trinity, the largest college at Cambridge, so it was an exceptionally
long, and, I have to admit, very dull experience.
But afterwards my parents and I were able to celebrate with other members of my family
who had waited outside, and the sense of formally recognised achievement created a huge
sense of pride.