To Cap It All Off

So, hey, I really did mean to post yesterday.

*ducks head* I forgot.

In my defense though, I got up at 6:15 am and dressed, looped my arms into a heavy gown, awkwardly pinned a hood in place and picked up what is called a trencher, despite the utter lack of trenches. You might also know it by mortarboard. Whatever you call it, it served its awesome purpose. (This is going to be wordy, you may want to make yourself comfy)

See, I was graduating university.

Here’s how the day went:

7:25am: My parents and I drive half an hour into town.

Approximately 8am: We park, because we’re shockingly early having met with little traffic. Yay, us.

From 8-8:25am-ish: I go off to await the start of the procession, which promises to shut down traffic for at least 20 minutes, in the CBD. Yeah.

8:50am: I head into the big white marquee and am surrounded by mayhem. I’m meeting a friend to do the procession, and there are people waving faculty flags at us. Many people meld into clumps of people.

9am: I’ve found my friend (call her S) and we take photos. I hold my tongue about the selfies, because it’s a happy day.

9:15am: We’re supposed to have begun the procession, but there’s some delay. I imagine it’s to do with the 2000+ graduates. Or, you know, anything. I’m too happy to fret.

During this time frame we’re introduced to someone at the back of the room. Initially, I only heard his voice over the speakers, seeing no-one. It was a human voice, and I was Mystified. Turning around solved the mystery. He’s a bit of a jokey person. He jovially demands cheers from each faculty; one faculty’s cheer is deemed sad, and a second attempt is better. Arts faculty (my group) is much more lively. We’re told to make sure we are in lines of four Or Else.

Approx 9:20am: We begin straggling into lines of four. S observes that we didn’t study maths. She is correct, as we are currently a line of two. At some point we adopt another two girls into our line. It’s a bit haphazard.

Probably 9:30am: We’re outside the tent now, in our lines, and there are people lined up. Everywhere. We are surrounded by people and surrounded by people on the edges of the path.

There are bagpipes.

Time unclear: We begin walking. We stop and start a few times. There are photos and videos being taken and the guys behind us are joking around. Crossing a street, there is less stopping and starting and more fluid walking. Before me is a sea of pale hoods and black gowns.

One girl has very spindly high heels and I grit my teeth to ward off the mental snap prophecy. One wrong step…

Still walking. Spindly Heels girl seems fine. I feel extra-smug about my own little ankle boots with the low heel. Guys are joking, girls are laughing, people dip out of the line for brief hugs. Photos everywhere.

A Really Major Street: We’re stopping traffic. A stoic-faced policeman is outside one area. I ask the people in my immediate vicinity if anyone tries to make him laugh, like they do at Buckingham Palace.

I wonder how he can stay stoic watching 2000 people pass by him in full graduation gear.

We reach our venue and the people in front (me included) cheer. We promptly begin to scatter, off to see parents and friends and others. I track my parents to a cafe where I gratefully request breakfast, smoky bacon and poached egg with BBQ sauce on toasted ciabatta, and a coffee. There’s a sudden influx of people and I await my coffee for some time.

This brings us to about 10am.

Approx 10am: There is drumming and people filter into The Venue where we are to graduate.

This is Ceremony 1, for Business and Economics graduands.

During the next three hours, my parents and I acquaint ourselves with the building. We take informal photos and pose in a studio with a lovely photographer girl who takes time to adjust us and our props, we find elevators and ponder the camera.

Approx 12:45: My parents go to get good seats, I go to get my number. My number is what tells everyone where I am in the ceremony. It probably gives you an idea of how many people graduated in my ceremony (Ceremony 2) that my mid-alphabet surname places me at 151, and I find the queue. Over the next minutes many people filter in. There’s a lot of scrambling to find places and I find myself directing a couple of people.

Shortly before we go in: Oh God, oh God. Much trembling, fanning myself with the program and mentally rolling my eyes at myself.

Time Unclear: We walk again. We cross a foyer-type place, go up stairs, and wait one million years for the auditorium doors to open. They do, and we go in, side by side.

“It’s like a wedding,” comments one girl nearby and I am a bit startled at the mind-reading. True enough. We file to our seats. I’m a bit concerned at being in the third row – where are they stashing the early-alphabets?

There are, apparently, so many doctorals that they are being placed on stage with The Official Procession.

More people file in and these are The Official Procession, the ones who make the rules. Included in one of these groups is the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. They both look quite grand in their robes.

A Latin song is sung, and we are seated.

I’m just going to pause here, and guess that by this point it was about 2pm.

A woman performs a Maori welcome, and Chancellor stands to address us. He speaks briefly, clearly having mastered the art of keeping speeches brief, and so has our guest speaker. Mentally I highlight progress as a key thing from Chancellor’s speech, and the anecdote of how our Guest Speaker did a menial job for nine months after graduation.

Time for the official conferring. I’m still trying to see the sleight-of-hand that puts degrees in hands. No luck, until we get to the first-rowers.

So, there’s no sleight-of-hand. My row is up now, and we make our way. A woman checks off names, another woman adjusts hoods. I get my hood straightened and confirm that I am indeed Sarah. We are all given the full-name treatment, and I shake hands with Chancellor, he does the capping, and I proceed, placing my trencher on my head. I collect my degree from someone at the bottom of the steps, and sit.

Okay, so the Chancellor holds a trencher. With each graduand, he shakes their hand and places the trencher over their head briefly. This is called capping. I suppose it’s like giving permission to wear it, as we do not wear them until he has done this. My tassel swings in my eyes a bit, and the gown is awkward: they don’t allow much arm movement when we sit, and you have to be careful when you sit that the knot doesn’t choke you. This is extra annoying when you have a pull-down seat. Worse is when you are seated, your arms are restricted a bit, and your gown is tied in front and the knot has moved to by your throat, so you try to discreetly free yourself up.

My degree conferred, we march on with dozens of other B.A.’s.

We see off the one Theology grad, run through half the Conjoint students, and it’s time for a break.

A girl sings something from Strauss, and then it’s back to the Conjointers. That done, we see off the postgrad diplomas, the B.A. with Honours group, the Masters group, and the Master of Something Else group. This is not as straightforward as I make it sound. There are different divisions, and different classes of honours.

We reach the Medical and Health Science group. It’s a combined ceremony, you see. If we thought there were a lot of Arts students, then there’s a hell of a lot of M&HS students.

And then we reach the Doctors of Philosophy. Many are in science, a couple of more Arts-type degrees. There’s a Linguistics-sounding one, and a few history types.

We sing the National Anthem, first in Maori, then English, then it’s all over. We proceed out, and I find my parents quite easily given the volume of people outside.

Almost 4pm: We depart town.

4 thoughts on “To Cap It All Off”

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