Sunday 26 November 2017

Graduation Ceremony - The Sage Gateshead, November 16th 2017

How to organise the tumble of my thoughts around graduation then?

I think this picture says it  best - happy, happy, happy!

Made the ever-familiar metro journey with hubby and child by my side this time, then abandoned them so they could do a bit of shopping in Newcastle, whilst I did the official bits of registering my attendance and getting dressed officially in the academic robes.  Mortarboards (or motor boats as my BFF calls them) are not permitted for the ceremony, they can be hired at extreme prices if you're so inclined for photos though.  (I was not so inclined..).  Had my first couple of 'moments' in this bit of time - firstly at catching sight of other graduates in gowns outside the Sage (our venue for the day), and then standing in the queue for my gown fitting.  I've said it a few times through this journey, but occasionally it all feels a bit surreal, like it happened to someone else.  As distance learning students, often the graduation ceremony is one of our first chances for personal interaction with other students in a physical location.

I chatted to a few of my fellow graduates while waiting for the family to come and join me, what amazed me as it always does is the sheer variety of stories we had about what drew us to the OU.  From the elderly gentlemen who'd retired and were trying something new, to the mothers and wives who, like me, felt the need to change their lives, a little more about that when we get to the ceremony itself though.

Then I got to have a happy hour or so celebrating with the family and BFF as we waited for the ceremony to begin...

Many photos were taken, and many feet were aching... discovered the choice of 'lady heels' was maybe not the best for the venue, but hey ho.  I bought a t-shirt cos it had my name on it (alongside the other 3 hundred and something graduates...)

And finally - we got our first glimpse of the graduation venue in the 'big hall' - I'm somewhere down there on the far right, if indeed I'd entered the room by the time this pic was taken:

It's strange - I'd been in the venue before for a talk, so I always felt like I'd know what to expect and how it would look - but it felt completely alien, in a good way though.  So we got to take our seats and settle in for half an hour with a bit of 'chamber music' from the band, everything from classical to local folk, to jazz, played out on a bit of brass.

I sat next to a lovely lady called Dawn, whose name followed mine on the t-shirt, and whose journey was similar to mine in length (13 years for her), as we all got increasingly more nervous about the walk up the stairs and across the stage.   Particularly after they showed a video of past graduations where some guy did a forward roll to receive his degree....gulp, I barely felt confident of walking across in my 'lady shoes'!

The ceremony was a game of 2 halves, with presentations top and bottom and an honorary degree conferred in the middle to a local teacher who did lots of influential work in teaching science.

Once again, the breadth of graduates surprised and delighted me, from a lady who rolled on and off in electric wheelchair, to a blind lady led on and off stage by her guide dog, to a lady who was in the process of fighting cancer and still proudly taking that walk across the stage, to a guy whose journey had taken 40 years!  Young and old, and middle aged like me, we were all represented up there that day.  The Chancellor who was presenting the awards (with a funky bit of pink in her hair) was finding it hard to keep her emotions in check at times.

And then it was my turn:

Hands hurting from all the clapping, I did manage not to trip up across the stage, even managed a little wave at the crowd (that being all the showboating I was capable of).  The ceremonial tube will be a good place for keeping my degree certificate, which actually arrived in the post a few weeks ago.  The tube also contained an OU alumni pin, as a reminder of the day itself.

And finally all that remained was to process out behind the Chancellor and the assorted bigwigs of the alumni present, and finish the day off with celebratory drinks before heading out for food with the family, including my lovely sister-in-law who turned up after work to celebrate with us all.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

T minus 1... And counting!

Well, it's nearly almost here now!  Graduation day tomorrow - yippee!  The final step on the OU road, and one I've looked forward to for so long, it seems almost unreal that it's happening.

I'll update again in the next couple of days with some pictures and feelings from the day, but I just needed to share in the buzz of pre-graduation excitement.

See you on the other side of the gown!