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Graduation Day

So often I wanted to give up. It seemed far too hard.

If I had, today would never have happened.

I am glad I persevered.

I am glad my family and friends kept encouraging me and believing in me; even when I didn’t believe in myself. I could never have done this without their love and support.

Most of all, I am so very glad I never accepted the truth of the words spoken to me by that teacher all those years ago when she told me not to consider going to university because I didn’t have the ability.

Yes, I was told I was too dumb to go to university. I still remember how that made me feel. The sad thing is that the words were said and I heard them. Even worse than that I have remembered them. No matter how much I have tried to shake those words they have stayed with me. They hide away deep inside; waiting for that moment in time when they can surface and do their damage. They are there whenever I am unsure or whenever I allow fear to take over. I begin to doubt myself and my abilities as I hear them replayed over and over like a broken record.

“You can’t do this. You don’t have the ability,” says that voice.

Then there are the times when nothing holds me back. When I am determined to listen to the real me. The one who knows I can do anything I set my mind to and goes for it. The one who knows those words spoken all those years ago were rubbish. The one who uses her fear as leverage to achieve her goals and dreams. This is the person who has persisted against all the odds to make the most of every opportunity presented to her throughout her life.

Today was a day of celebration for that part of me that mostly dominates and drives me. The part that looks at obstacles as challenges. The part that believes I am capable. The part that loves learning. The part of me that becomes so determined that I throw everything I have into it so that I achieve whatever it is I set out to do.

Today I celebrated all the hard work and it felt great.

Today was the day that Lynsey and I graduated with our Master of Communications – with Distinction no less!

Two new Master of Communication graduates

When I set out to complete my Masters degree little did I know how it would change my world. Not only did I end up with a qualification, but far more importantly I also gained a husband.

We deserved our Distinction – our relationship is the ultimate proof of our ability to communicate. Lynsey lived in Wanganui and was participating in the course as a distance learner. I lived in Wellington and attended the contact classes on campus. Thanks to technology and our mutual love of learning we connected. Thanks to the Internet our relationship flourished. Is it any wonder why I am now so interested in distance education?

So what happened today?

Wellington turned on another spectacular day for our celebration. The sun was shining. It was warm. Everything was buzzing and bright.

We began with a morning tea held at the university in our honour which was organised by our department.

Then we progressed downtown to congregate outside the Law School buildings with all the other graduands who were going to participate in the street parade.

Getting ready to start walking the streets of Wellington in the Graduands' Parade

This parade weaves its wave through the centre of the city and finishes at Civic Square.

Let the Graduands' Street Parade begin

My father laughed when he saw the bagpipes leading the parade. He told everyone the story of how I was scared of them as a child. On one occasion I ran away in an attempt to get away from their “noise”. My parents were frantically searching for me as I was nowhere to be found. Even to this day bagpipes are not an instrument I am naturally drawn to. I prefer to avoid them whenever I can.

Academic staff joined the graduands in the parade. We all walked together through the main streets of Wellington. Everyone wore full academic dress. We were given helium filled balloons. It was a visual feast of colour. The colours sparkled in the light like jewels. Colours took on new meaning. Everyone wanted to know what the colours stood for. There was a lot of diversity in the academic dress worn by university staff representing the many different universities they had qualified from.

The colours of the graduates’ hoods or stoles – ranging from nasturtium to pompadour and peacock green – denote the degree achieved, and are special to Victoria.

The official academic dress of graduands attending a graduation ceremony for the conferment of a degree is a gown, hood or stole, and cap. The cap has been defined as a black trencher with a tassel for every degree except Doctor’s degrees. Doctorates wear a John Knox cap.

Victoria’s gowns are modelled on those used at Cambridge University. The gown for a Bachelor degree is the same as for the Cambridge Bachelor of Arts, and those for Master and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are the same as for a Cambridge Master of Arts. The gown for other Doctor’s degrees is as for the Cambridge Master of Arts but is made of scarlet silk or cloth.

Victoria University of Wellington
Graduation Ceremonies 17, 18 and 19 May 2006, page 8.

My father cheering us onPeople lined the streets to watch us walk past: family, friends, strangers, workers …

There were those people who were there intentionally, and those who were merely swept along and participated as interested bystanders.

Traffic flow was interrupted as half the road was shut off to vehicles.

There were people looking out of their office windows or standing at various vantage points high above us. People were clapping. They were whistling. They were taking photos. They were handing out flowers. They were calling out names. There was lots of laughter and hugging.

I just kept looking and listening as I walked along.

“Was this really happening?” I kept asking myself.

I was so surprised when I heard my name shouted out. I looked around. People I didn’t expect to see were there cheering us on.

My sister came running after us. She couldn’t see us in the crowd. She thought she had missed us. We stopped. Hugs and kisses followed. She told us she was proud of us and handed us each a flower. I was overwhelmed.

Another friend, who we had studied with, also surprised us with flowers. In that fleeting moment on a Wellington street, I remembered all the hours we had shared discussing readings, assignments etc. – sharing the learning experience. Also vivid in my mind were those desperate phone calls where we each sought and offered support and encouragement.

I felt special as I continued to walk along the street. I was also overwhelmed that anyone cared or was even interested in sharing our joy.

When we reached Civic Square there were people everywhere.

Civic Square, Wellington: The end of the street parade

Our families were there waiting for us. It was great to have them there.

Our family was there to celebrate with us

We had the usual speeches.

Everyone congregated in Civic Square to be addressed by the Deputy Mayor of Wellington.

This was followed by a request for the graduands to let their balloons go free. What a sight it was to see the balloons soaring up into the sky and beyond the incredible Dawson’s sculpture Ferns, suspended 14 metres above Civic Square!

Civic Square, Wellington: The Fern Ball surrounded by balloons

From here we went straight to the formal graduation ceremony.

Victoria University’s graduation ceremony enshrines centuries of tradition, its essential features dating back to the 12th century when the first universities appeared. The words ‘university’ and ‘degree’ are both derived from Latin, the language used by scholars in the Middle Ages. The Latin term universitas meant a guild or union, formed by the ‘masters’ (MAs) who held a licence to teach.

‘Degree’ and ‘graduate’ comes from gradus, meaning step. The first step taken by students was admission to a Bachelor degree; the second and final step made them a Master too and won them admission to the universitas.

Victoria University of Wellington
Graduation Ceremonies 17, 18 and 19 May 2006, page 7.

As we assembled in the marshalling area prior to processing into the auditorium, Lynsey and I discovered that we weren’t going to be able to sit next to one another. To make matters worse we found out he was to be seated at the end of one row and I was to be seated at the beginning of the next row – we were at opposite ends of each row. What a disappointment. Off course the idea of us changing the seating plan was not greeted warmly. Everything was organised like a finely tuned machine and we would create havoc if we didn’t comply; so we did.

The ceremony began with a powhiri.

The powhiri at our graduation ceremony

In no time at all the graduands were all asked to stand. We heard the following words spoken:

By the authority of the Victoria University of Wellington, I Tim Beaglehole, Chancellor, confer and award on the persons whose names are entered on the roll of graduates the degrees, diplomas and certificates there appearing, and they are hereby admitted to these degrees, diplomas and certificates in this University.

Victoria University of Wellington
Graduation Ceremonies 17, 18 and 19 May 2006, page 7.

Marica after having received her degreeIt was all offical. My degree had been conferred. Now all I needed was to have it in my hot little hands.

Before I knew it I was standing on the stage being congratulated by the Chancellor.

Just as quickly I was off the stage with my paperwork in my hands, standing in front of a white screen for what seemed like a drive by photo opportunity, and then it was back to my seat.

My moment of fame was over in what seemed like a split second; it bore no relationship to the amount of time, effort, and commitment required to have reached this point.

As quickly as it had all begun, our public celebration was over.

The day seemed so very short.

Where to from here?

You’ll have to wait and see. I do have plans. Those of you that know me won’t be in the least bit surprised by this piece of news.

Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.

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