Random Graduation Thoughts and Observations

October 15, 2011 in On Writing, Study

I've attended three graduations and we've never done this

I’m back, baby!  I am slowly settling in after the big move and will hopefully be able to post regularly again.

Lost in the mayhem of recent weeks is the fact that I finally graduated from my writing degree.  It was my third graduation and I guess my excitement level was not as high as it should have been as I have become a veteran at these types of events now.  Nevertheless, graduating from anything is an achievement in itself, and it was a good opportunity to catch up with some friends I met throughout the course.

However, comparing this particular graduation to the first one around 6 years ago (also at the same university), it was interesting to see how some things have changed drastically while others have remained the same.  Here are some random thoughts and observations.

For starters, this time, I had to freaking pay a fee to attend my own graduation.  Isn’t that outrageous, egregious and preposterous?  Was it to pay for the gown hire or the venue or the guests?  Doesn’t really matter because there are no excuses for this atrociously dick move by the university.  One would have thought after the thousands of dollars in exorbitant fees collected from students they could have allowed those same students to attend a ceremony that is supposed to celebrate their graduation.  Just sayin’.

Secondly, everything is done online now.  You have to register online and even enter the phonetic pronunciation of your surname so there are no embarrassing mishaps on stage — no doubt a common occurrence with the plethora of overseas graduates.  And did you know that many universities now also have graduation ceremonies overseas as well?  That’s insane.

Thirdly, this particular graduation took place off campus at a function centre.  Renovations may have been the primary reason for the relocation but it felt strange to be graduating away from the place you studied.  No complaints from me though — it was a much better place for photos.

Speaking of photos — man — they are another rip-off scheme.  Most packages are hundreds of dollars and only include a few photos and no frame.  I of course went with the cheapo option and chose an online package where they send you the photos online and you choose which ones you want to save and print.  I’m still waiting for that email…

A lot of universities now also have a semi-compulsory student survey they force you to fill out as soon as you step out of the gown fitting room.  There’s a dude standing at the exit and you pretty much have no choice but to do it on the spot, in exchange for a piece of chocolate of your choosing.

As for the ceremony itself, not too bad.  I expected myself to doze off at regular intervals but for the most part I remained attentive.  I always find the occasional speaker quite boring, and this time it was no different.  I started wondering how much the man got paid for the gig, and whether it was something that deserves more research — surely he must recycle the same speech from ceremony to ceremony, from university to university.  It could be quite a lucrative thing to do.

And what is the deal with the students?  Prior to the ceremony they always have this mini-rehearsal there they tell you where to line up and where to stand once you get up on the stage.  You only need to pay half-attention because you just have to follow the person in front of you.  There are visible markings on the floor so it’s not all that difficult, and all you have to do is tip your hat towards the chancellor or whoever when your name is called — and yet for some inexplicable reason some morons always get it wrong and either stand too close or too far away from where they are supposed to or forget the hat tip.  Makes you wonder how they managed to graduate in the first place (well…let’s face it, it’s not that hard…most students I see when I walk past the computer labs are on Facebook or YouTube anyway)…

Lastly, there is one constant that I have noticed throughout all the graduations I have attended: I have a massive head.  One look at me and the fitters head straight to the last rack of hats, and usually it takes a couple of fittings to find the right one.  And often they are still so tight they leave a V-shaped mark on my forehead.  This time I took the liberty of telling the dude upfront that I had a massive head (like he couldn’t tell) so he got me a cushier one.  Still left a tiny mark though.

Day 1: Orientation

February 22, 2010 in On Writing, Study

So here I am, in the university computer labs, having just escaped from a massive auditorium of wide-eyed students.

Today is Orientation Day, and it was brutal.

Sadly, the first thing I had to do today was head back to the office.  Amidst my euphoria on Friday afternoon, I had forgotten to hand back my work pass.  So I thought I’d get in early, avoid everyone, and get out of there before anyone spotted me.

No such luck.  I bumped into at least 5 people that recognised me, inside the building, outside the building, and on the street.  They all thought I had done a George Costanza (ie quit and then come back, pretending it didn’t happen), but appeared to accept my story.

About 30 minutes later, I stepped back inside the university building where I spent 5 years (and completed 2 degrees) of my life.  My alma mater.  Everything looked eerily familiar but strangely different.  Plenty of student helpers on were hand to direct us to the Orientation welcoming session which was just about to commence.

The outside of the auditorim hall was packed to the rafters.  I was taken aback, having forgotten what it was like at these things.  I quickly found my faculty table and grabbed a welcome guide and some other crap.  I found a quiet corner away from all the bumping and grinding, and began flicking through the pages.  I burst out laughing when I spotted the massive photo of a good friend of mine (and his then-girlfriend, now wife) who completed his undergraduate degree with me more than 5 years ago!  Looks like my university doesn’t update its photos very often.

When the time came, we filed into the auditorium like a line of ants.  Uniformed staff directed us to our seats.  The place looked exactly as I had remembered it.  I had done plenty of examinations in that room over the years, and it always made me nervous.  The last time I was there was in 2004, for my graduation, and I remember being especially nervous (‘sweaty palms’ nervous) because I was the first from my degree to step on that stage and I knew I had to make chit chat with a former Justice of the High Court of Australia.  Of course, I mumbled and made a fool out of myself.

When everyone was seated, I saw a familiar face reach the podium.  Hang on!  That guy used to lecture me in something!  He looked almost exactly the same, except fatter (he was a chunker even back in my day) and balder (and trust me, he didn’t have much back then either).  He still had that whiny voice though, which I would recognise anywhere.

Very quickly, I got bored and began surveying the surrounding students.  It was an interesting mix, with what appeared to be plenty of international students.  What caught my eye in particular was the fashion.  Some were all glammed up, in their prettiest outfits.  Others were dressed more casually, in T-shirts and jeans (like myself).  There were a few that went all out, to be individualistic, I suppose.  One chubby fella was wearing skin tight demin shorts and a loose grey T-shirt with massive holes at the armpits.  It wasn’t a great look, even for him.

The head of the university then got to the lectern and began telling us what a great choice we made and showing us photos of famous alumni.  She really talked up the place too, about how students and former students were making a real difference in the world.  I guess it was a reinforcement speech, more than anything else.  After all, we had already accepted our offers.

Then came the weirdest part of the ceremony.  They had this Aboriginal dance ‘group’ perform live on stage.  I was expecting something awesome, but truth be told it was kind of embarrassing.  Now, I love Aboriginal culture, but this was just a bunch of old, overweight Aborigines doing lame stomping and clapping.  They were literally panting by the time they made their way to the stage.  They even got a few students to go up on stage to dance with them.  It was extremely awkward.

Next, a Peruvian dude who went through with us the events of the week.  There were socials, seminars, all that jazz.  I was just dying to get out of there.  The students around me got restless and began chatting.  Loudly, and consistently.  It was rude, but I didn’t want to be the snotty postgrad student shushing the younglings.

By the time we finally got out of there for morning tea, I was sprinting in the opposite direction.  I needed a student card to avail myself to the wonderful discounts that awaited me.  I found the student office (thankfully, before everyone else) and it was done quite quickly and painlessly.

However, the photo was atrocious.  My old photo was taken from 10 years ago, and in it my head looked like a brick (I had a ‘military’ haircut back then, as my wife informed me).  In this one, I was approaching floppy-hair mode, but I had eye-bags (from killing myself on the basketball court yesterday) and I had that ‘can I smile yet?’ look on my face.  It would have been a pretty decent mug shot, but what the hell.  It’s only for a year.