Sorry I haven’t blogged more recently but I have been down in Canterbury for my graduation and spending some great family time.
Last week was my graduation ceremony for my PhD. Ceremonies are important in realizing things. So are uniforms. Apart from making you look the part and merge into the part you are playing, they also define your identity. It’s why doctors wear their white coats and nurses their uniforms. Why soldiers outside the battlefield wear uniforms and not suits. When an actor puts his or her costume on, they become the part. Mr Smith suddenly becomes Othello, Mrs Doe becomes Juliet. It’s why brides wear their wedding dress. By putting that special dress on, a dress that is only reserved for this specific occasion, she becomes the bride.
It was similar for the graduation as well. The graduate puts on the black gown, the hood with the colors of their discipline. And the hat. For those receiving a PhD this is a different one from the one the other graduates have. It’s not square, its round. As I was walking down the street a lot of people asked me why my hat was different. I felt a tingling of pride. It’s because it’s a hat for PhD people.
This graduation was made extra special by the fact that I shared this graduation with my sister who has also just finished her PhD. It was the day of the Doctors! (Incidentally, it was on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr.Who, to the day!) We were at the first graduation which started at 10:30 am so we had to have an early start. We woke up early to get ready and were greeted with driving rain. We drove into town and had to collect the admission tickets for our guests and collect our graduation gowns.
The tickets were an hour late. And to get into the venue the guests had to queue so they would enter on a first come first served basis. The only flaw in the plan was that people had to wait outdoors in the pouring rain! For three quarters of an hour!
Canterbury is a small city (it’s only really called a city because it has the cathedral), and Kent University holds its graduation ceremonies at the cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous cathedrals in Britain, (re)built in the 9th century. It is a breathtaking structure, both to look at from the outside and to experience from the inside. It is absolutely amazing to be able to graduate in it. Other universities hold their graduations in their sports halls or find large rooms on campus.
It was amazing to enter the Cathedral and know that all this, the celebrations, the music, the people, are all there for you (and your sister, and, I guess, a few hundred fellow graduates!). It is the recognition of all the effort and hard work that you have done. And having your family there is priceless. Somehow it makes all the hours of life you have exchanged for this degree, all the effort you have put in, real and worthwhile.
Of course, the only time out of the whole week that I’ve been here that it was absolutely pouring with rain was the four hours of the graduation. Just enough so that in all the photos we took for posterity we would look like we swam there. Dr Shipwrecked if you don’t mind 😉