On Friday 25th July 2014 I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a 2:1 in Journalism Studies. For the first time in 17 years I have no more official education ahead of me. It is a pretty surreal feeling.
I could not have asked for a more perfect graduation day.
Beforehand I thought I would be stuck in a ceremony that would drag on for hours, resisting the urge to curl in to a foetal position and cry about university being over. My only positive thoughts about it:
1. I would be seeing my friends
2. Some quality time with my family
3. It meant one more night out in Sheffield
My family and I got to the union with plenty of time. I was soon in my robes and hat, and I experienced a long moment of dizzying disbelief. Graduating had seemed like such a grown-up thing to do, and it took me a couple of minutes to take it all in. This is actually happening, I kept reminding myself. It helped seeing my friends dressed in robes, too. It made it seem normal.
The ceremony itself was grand. My fears of falling over, thank God, did not come to light. I looked out a couple of times on the stage, still trying to take it in. I shook the chancellor’s hand, thanked her, and walked off stage – mild heels and all. My family cheering as I did, with polite applause from the rest of the audience.
In the middle of the ceremony there was Paul Mason, a journalist who was getting an honorary degree, who explained we all had futures, but perhaps they wouldn’t be what we expected. Be prepared to break the rules, he told us. Throughout the ceremony waves of pride seemed to roll in and out, and I smiled – revelling in the rare feeling.
Near the end we turned round to thank our families for supporting us.
“They’re some of the people who have probably supported you the most,” the chancellor said, and I felt my heard nod in agreement. I was on the back row, so when we turned round I was at the front. I saw my family in the back row, at the top of the stairs, waving incredibly enthusiastically. I blew them a kiss, gratitude and love for them flooding through my veins. Soon the ceremony ended, and we walked out to more applause.
For the whole day I craved a notebook so I could make a note of the motions and emotions, but at the same time, I wanted to be in the moment rather than try to capture it.
That being said, for most of the day I was faced with lines of cameras from friends’ parents, all trying to capture us in our finery of robes. Though perhaps we did not look so fine when it came to the various hat throwing pictures.
My favourite was when myself and my coursemates were gathered in the quadrangle in Firth Court. It is one of the buildings at Sheffield which strongly remind you that is a red-brick university. I knew it would make an incredibly pleasant backdrop for the photos.
For a course of over 100 people, I think most of us have been quite close the past three years. Of course, there have been different friendship groups, but during deadline work there was the feeling of stressed, caffeine/sugar filled comradeship in the worn-down, little, newsroom.
There was a sense of closeness and warmth radiating from us all throughout the day. Aided by the fact it was 26 degrees, and we were all in black robes lined with white faux-fur. There we all were: stood in front of Firth Court preparing for photo – to borrow the words of the photographer: the kind that will be above our mantel pieces in years to come – celebrating our achievements from the past three years.
“One, two, three, THROW,” yelled the photographer, and up went our hats. A quick scrabble with most people picking up any random one before we had to do it again. And again. We were laughing, trying to avoid hitting each other in the face (getting hit with the hats, incidentally, is far more painful than you might think – those corners are sharp.) All of it captured by the parent paparazzi.
A couple of hours were spent in the garden: family and friends mingling. Students were presented with prizes, speeches were made, and strawberries with cream were demolished. It was such a welcome, and relaxing break, after the crowd spilling out on to the hot cement of the concourse after the ceremony.
After the department drinks had finished – and after a quick rest at the Student Union coffee shop – my family and I went to Silversmiths, an award-winning, local restaurant in Sheffield.
Side note: if you would be interested in me doing restaurant reviews on my future travels (or other reviews to go alongside general descriptions) please leave a comment to let me know if you would be interested.
All locally-sourced ingredients, a menu which you chew over to decide which refreshingly different food to taste, and an owner who could not be more friendly – it was so so lovely. The food was rich, delicious, but not too heavy. We told the owner how much we had enjoyed ourselves, and as he thanked us, his face and tone looked genuinely touched. He went on to wish me luck with my career and congratulate me for graduating.
Then it was back to the Premier Inn – a friend and I were sharing a room – and invited our friends to come and pre-drink before our last night out in the union. Here my housemates and I had a photo, to try and recreate the first awkward photo we had together. We had also had a photo on the concourse, complete with mini bottles of champagne one of the mum’s had bought with her. As happy as I am to be living at home for the next few months, it will not be the same as living with these three incredible girls. Our goodbyes were emotional.
When arriving in to Bar One at the Student Union, I saw a couple of boys I lived with in first year and it was great to see them, drunkenly slurring their words as if we were in freshers’ week again. The night out itself was fun, but I’ll spare you the details of my embarrassing dancing and the questionable decision to buy myself more than one jägerbomb.
During a hungover afternoon the next day, my friends and I walked to the hill at the back of the train station for some peace and quiet – the very same place my dad and I had spent my last day in Sheffield. There was a sleepy, content silence, as we lay down to look at the city or the blue sky above our heads. The clouds rolled across at a pace which matched my sluggish thoughts, and I surprised myself by thinking optimistically. I knew this would not be the last time we would do something like this. We love each other too much to let that happen. I smiled up at the sunshine, in a state of disbelief at how cheesy – but how sure – my thought process had become. This was the end of a chapter, but whether we feel ready to or not, we’re going to start writing the next one. Together.