So I can definitely say that when it comes to graduating university, I am thoroughly inexperienced, and finally when the time came, to be honest, I didn’t really put much thought into it until the day before…or let’s be honest, that afternoon!
My mum was thinking and stressing about the whole thing more than I was! I had an idea of what dress to wear, but I really wasn’t sure, to the point Mama Feltoe offered to accompany me to the shops a few hours before the ceremony! I didn’t check what time I needed to be there until the day before and I had to re-arrange my teaching schedule to suit it. Was I going out after, for drinks, or dinner? I didn’t know!
One thing I was certain about was I knew I needed that gown and mortar board for anything to happen, otherwise no ‘piece of paper’ for me. My other singular thought was …’don’t fall off the stage’!
Nevertheless, contrary to everyone’s assumption (particularly my mother’s) that I would not be able to manage this evening and the entire graduation fiasco, I actually did graduate quite successfully. And with my new-found and almost copious amounts of successful experience, I thought I would write a useful ‘how-to’ blog post, so you too can graduate from the University of Western Australia, or any other reputable institute, without ‘falling off the stage’ per say. And to be honest, I owe it to myself to write this guide, because I’ll probably need it the next time I plan to graduate (if it ever happens!).
- Do a degree.
That’s it, sort your life out. Figure out what you want to do, then get accepted into a university. (In that order. If you don’t know what to do, take your time and figure it out with a gap year, or something of the sort, rather than wasting time, money and brain cells on wasted units.) Don’t faff around. Put your all into it. Work ridiculously hard, pass your exams, and make the most of the opportunity that’s given to you.
2. Get online and confirm that graduation ceremony.
I’m a disorganised human being. I am trying to get better, because of my insane work/life commitments, but really the truth of the matter is I’m disorganised. If you’re like me, as soon as you get that email from UWA asking to confirm your graduation, just DO IT!
Confirm your details, pay that money for that gown hire and book the professional photographer, if you’re so inclined.
I’ve missed way too many deadlines in my life and I’d waited eight months to graduate, so I wasn’t about to miss this one.
2. Check what time you need to be there. Make sure work doesn’t clash. (From experience.)
On a more serious point about this though, it is a smart idea to arrive nice and early if you want to get some nice photos before the sun goes down. Which leads to my next point…
3. Pack a camera!
I didn’t have to worry about this in the slightest, because Mama Feltoe is pretty keen to be behind a camera capturing the best moments of any event, so I had that totally covered, without a moment’s thought.
4. What to wear?!
Now I know some of you really wouldn’t worry too much about this point. ‘Just put something nice on and comb your hair’. Fair point if you aren’t too worried about things. But I do think one thing really should be considered when figuring out your outfit…what colour is the hood of the graduation gown? Yeah, like the Harry Potter, Hogwarts, or Gandalf kind of hood.
This is kind of important, because some unlucky souls have a rather horrible colour to wear and it really would be a far cry from smart and sophisticated to wear a yellow hood over a fluoro pink dress, or khaki green and orange, or blue. Just have a little think about it to be sure.
Lucky for me, I had a beautiful royal blue hood, graduating as a BA student and I was pretty keen to keep it simple with my good ol’ white dress, from Forever New. I popped on Grandma’s pearl bracelet and some heels that weren’t too high, because as you know, I didn’t want to fall off the stage, and I was set, ready to go. Coincidentally, the dress perfectly matched the white satin edging of the hood as well, so I couldn’t have made a better fluke choice if I tried!
Stick a bit of make-up on ladies, so you look fresh faced and gents iron your shirt, because in a few years looking back on the photos, you will have appreciated that bit of effort you put in.
5. Arrive and start smiling
This is when the parents pull out the camera and you have to smile until your cheeks hurts, your lips start quivering and your eyes water from the amount of ‘cheeeese’ you need to keep up.
I LOVE cheese (if you don’t already know), but as they say, too much of a good thing…
Mama Feltoe got very professional behind the camera, far more than I expected.
(Act cool, calm and collected!!! ^)
^ We cropped this one and it became the all necessary ‘send a photo to grandma, so she can hang it on the wall’ picture.
While all this photography was a bit tedious at the time, the shots turned out really lovely, to the point I didn’t even use the professional photos I sat for later in the evening. (I’ve screenshot and stolen them here though, so you get an idea). Which leads onto my next point…
6. Get those professional photos taken.
My friend gave me the smart advice to have your photos taken before the ceremony, not after. Best advice I ever got! Afterwards, there’s a reception, with food and wine and BUBBLY, people to chat to and parents that will want to take even more photos. You’ll be wanting to direct your energy towards that (mainly the bubbly), rather than waiting in some photography queue.
While as you already know, I didn’t end up downloading any of the professional photos, I’ve screenshot and stolen them here, so you get an idea of what they look like.
And the watermark really adds to the glamour, don’t you think?
Do I look smart yet? …. Thought not.
7. Attend the actual ceremony
Great idea! Find your seat in the magnificent Winthrop Hall at UWA, get comfy and wait to see if any of your friends are sitting around you and of course maybe take a look up at the beautiful hall you’re sitting in.
Fortunately for me, I sat between two lovely friends I know, so we got to ‘share’ the experience together a bit. I wasn’t just me sitting alone awkwardly in a sea of mortar boards, like when you go to the opera on your own, or the symphony, or for more normal ‘young people’ things to do, the cinema is a good example.
Take all those all important terrible selfies with your friends.
And enjoy the wonderful pomp and ceremony of this special night….
8. Order of ceremony
The ceremony started with a short organ recital.
The great entry procession happened, before speeches were given, to inspire all of us young graduands.
There were several speeches throughout the night, but of course one of the most integral was given by the chancellor of the university, Dr Michael Chaney.
We also had a fantastic speech by the very talented, virtuoso clarinetist, Dr Ashley-Smith. He began his speech with an impressive performance, which brought all us young folk to attention.
Following on from this was what we would all consider the most important part of the entire evening. The presentation of our degrees.
You wait nervously and eagerly for your name to be announced. When it does, you carefully stomp across that stage, smiling big, and shake the hand of the very friendly chancellor.
Then turn and follow the steps down, go up the central aisle, between throngs of people and take your seat.
No falling off the stage!!!
Soon, the ceremony came to a close, with all the students following row by row up the aisle behind the academia.
Outside, the new BA graduates all splintered and started chatting to their friends.
It was all dark outside and UWA always looks rather romantic in the night.
I had a bit of a headache, from not eating dinner, so I set my sights on finding the food and getting a glass in my hand.
9. Time for bubbly!!
UWA was very accommodating and generous in this respect. As soon as we were outside, the bottles were popped and the red, white and sparkling wine were all available, more than enough to go around and not of poor quality either. Only the good stuff, ya know! I think the quality helped the headache go away, I’m sure.
If you say the university was generous with the drinks side of things, they completely outdid themselves with the food then. No hunting and gathering required. The food was set on many beautiful round tables across the garden in front of the duck pond. Lots of great food options and very gluten free friendly.
Talking about friendly…
11. Find yourself a friend called Arianne
Yes, you need a gorgeous friend like this in your life. Bunker down together, glass in hand, and enjoy the wonderful foodie sustenance rewarded to you, after that tough undergraduate degree.
Arianne and I have seen each other at our very best and worst. We’ve celebrated together some of our greatest successes and out worst failings. We’ve noticed each other change and grow and best of all, we understand how crazy the other can be. I think we have a fantastically terrible sense of humour together and our ability to off-load all our stress to the other over a single cup of coffee (or in music practice rooms, take your pick) is what makes us a bit of a dynamic duo, I think.
I’m still rather chuffed I got to graduate with her and neither of us knew it before that night!
12. Eat, drink, try and act normal!
Celebrate not falling off the stage! That’s a life feat!
13. Make your way home. (Actually it’s more like, get your proud parents to take you home).
You’ve been drinking remember?
The evening came to a close. We had my degree beautifully framed in a mahogany frame, I handed back my gown and we made our way home.
…To be truthful, I really didn’t want to hand back my gown. I had become super sentimental with it and my parents waited out patiently, just chatting to me while I procrastinated (I’m good at that, I went to university remember?) .
Finally I was ready to relinquish it. It was a rather funny scenario really.
The night turned out to be a truly wonderful experience. Far, far better than I anticipated and I kept joking with Mama and Papa Feltoe saying, ‘I could graduate far more often’. From what they experienced, they didn’t disagree either.
Now my photo has been printed and sent off to the grandparents, where they will hang it on the wall, with all my other relatives’ graduation successes. I don’t think any of them fell off the stage either, so us Feltoes must be good at this ‘university thing’.
Lastly, I have to give all photo credit to my ever talented mum and I have to thank my dad for his patience while the photography session kept going on and on and on and…