Yesterday, I was graduated

I was going to finish writing my blog post on climate change, but have decided that this is more suited to the recent graduation ceremonies that Royal Holloway has put on. 

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It was a fantastic day. A gloriously sunny, warm and breezy day. Everyone was in good spirits and it was well organised. I collected my gown and felt great. Loved wearing the hat! There’s something special about the Geography department. The department funds a full reception with food and drinks (and, may I add, complete with glass champagne flutes as opposed to the plastic ones post-ceremony)! The technical staff and departmental staff in general were so, so amazing putting it all together and everyone was up for fun. David Gilbert excelled himself in his speech! I’m pleased to have at least one more graduation speech from him! Alice clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the day and it just made it more memorable. And, of course Win managed to let our parents see Gilbert’s beautiful speech in another room.

I apologise for digressing. Graduation was brilliant for many reasons, for example, it was so good to see all my friends again and meet or catch up with their parents. It was brilliant to let my Grandad’s wife come to her first ever graduation. And it was great to be one of the first in the family to gain a degree. I enjoyed chatting to the lecturer’s and letting my parents actually hear from a grown up what it is a degree and a MSc is all about, as often they think I big up how much work I do.. It was amazing to wear the gowns and throw our hats in the air (although, my hat was covered in straw like grass post-throw..). It was just a joyus occasion and one that I have worked so hard to get to – both in a practical sense and in the sense of overcoming so much personally.

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I knew that the graduation took place in the chapel, and I have to confess, I don’t like churches; they just freak me out a bit – especially organ music.. And while the organ music (a cross between a wedding and funeral song) was way too much for me, the chapel at Royal Holloway is beautiful. It’s less of a religious temple (although, obviously that is exactly what it is), but it’s a room of splendid detail, of time and craftsmanship, of history and memories and experiences. I am lucky to be a Royal Holloway graduate and able to strut my stuff through a divine picture gallery and chapel. Through quads where Queen Victoria and Thomas Holloway look so fondly down on us. We are a fortunate group of people who do not have to stand in front of a stage, or wear a regimented uniform – that was a lovely final gift of Holloway for many.

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Clearly, I am staying on for the Quaternary Science MSc at Royal Holloway. However, I think that it can’t possibly get better than these 3 years. I have made best friends and been through so much personally. Next year is my time to shine academically. No more juggling 1, 2 or 3 part time jobs, with geogsoc commitments and two chronic illnesses. The next year is a chance for me to be selfish and focus on my career – the rest of my life. I need to do the best that I can possibly do. And, if my best still isn’t good enough, then I suppose I should just resign my Quaternary dreams. While I believe that if you try, you can achieve anything, sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’ll never get there and in which instance you should just accept that this route wasn’t your intended one and you shouldn’t waste time trying to fit a square into a circle. Life is for living and life is short; it changes in an instant and there is nothing wrong with being in control and changing it if it won’t go the way you think it should go. Sometimes there are pleasant surprises around corners.

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I’m pleased to be where I am and I know that I will get to where I need to go… I just need to believe it a little bit more and not fall off the wagon again.

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Royal Holloway, UoL – Geography – Class of 2013

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Another graduate on the block & a word of thanks.

It’s pretty much as the title says… I am a newbie Geography graduate with an unknown number pending above my head – a number that will stick to my name for as long as I live. I hated the last few months of university, and I can’t deny that. I despise examinations. I have anxiety issues and the pressure and stress is just so unnecessary. I feel that it is a memory exam, personally. And my memory is not great. I learn by doing and I can’t ‘do’ revision; I can’t feel or see it. Despite the many hundreds of mind maps I do, I just cannot retain the vast synoptic information, case studies and facts. I blank on who said what and who wrote what, especially when there are six examinations, on topics ranging from glaciers to dust in Africa. And, while I say that I hope that the examinations don’t annihilate my hopes of getting a 2:1, at the end of the day I don’t actually care what number is attached to my name… This was my post-exam facebook status, and I don’t think I could re-capture the words and feelings again if I tried..

Today, I finished my degree. It’s been three years of literal blood, sweat and tears. But it’s also been three years of laughter, love and fun. I’ve overcome so many things personally in my life just to get to uni, let alone get myself through the degree. And, these last few weeks, I have realised that university was never about the qualification: it was never about the degree classification… It was about healing myself, learning about life, testing my own abilities, making life long friends (and losing life long friends). It was about finding myself and venturing beyond what I knew to be the box that I called life, by pushing boundaries and learning. I definitely couldn’t have gotten through these three years without my parents, Kate and Sean, or Grandad and Dingle. I couldn’t have gotten through these past few years without my teenage best friends Emily, Jaz and Kat. A special mention to my dog, Bella, who has provided me with many snuggles, wet kisses, early mornings and opportunities to pick poo up. And, through all the tears, tantrums, high bloods, low bloods, angst, fury, love loss, essay deadlines, laboratory problems and other general dramatic doings, my university best friends and friends have all been there when I have needed them and you know who you are. I’ve been inspired at university by many and today marks, not the end of an era, but an era of new beginnings. A new platform on which I will be able to continue my learning. It doesn’t matter what grade I get, because I am still here and I am still breathing and living and learning. Thank you, everyone: i’ve enjoyed the ride.
 
To permanently mark and symbolise what I have achieved just to gain a common qualification, I had this tattooed:
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  It means a number of things to me. Stemming from Buddhist mantra that I learned when I was 15 and searching for a religion to follow, it calmed me as I meditated. Some may call that silly, but for me it was a life line for stressful times. For example, on my very last day of secondary school, our year group was having a party and cake to celebrate. I had 3 missed phone calls from Mum. When I called back secretly, I collapsed, weeping. My brother had a head-on car crash at 50mph with another car who was also travelling at 50mph. He had been resuscitated three times and we were told he would be unlikely to make it after needing over 100 stitches to a deep wound in his head and breaking a bone in his neck. I had last spoken to him three months previously, with my last words being ‘I hate you.’ Such a malicious word that is only given to people you actually love. If you really hated someone, you wouldn’t care enough to be mean. Mine and my brothers relationship was turbulent, and after years of not speaking, even after the crash, we made up in January. For the first time in 6 years, he came to my 21st birthday party last week

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It’s things like this that have made me realise, life is too precious to care about a number. I’ve tried hard and I have enjoyed myself. Life will continue whether I get a 1st or a 3rd, and you’ll only be upset if you attach feelings or expectations to materialised objects.

So, I am digressing. But the point is, all graduates should be happy with what they gain from their degree. They gained more than a number; they gained 3 or more years of memories and hopefully are enthused with passion for the subject that they study because the staff in their university inspired them. I need to say thank you to all the people that have been there for me, through all the rubbish times and all the awful times, so here comes a huge list of names, and I apologise if I have missed you out, but my brain has deflated since I pumped all my knowledge out in the exams. And these are in no order, so don’t be upset if you’re last…

My family – mainly my devoted parents: Mum and Dad and my brother, Dan; my Grandad and his wife, Dingle. They have provided me a home, food, support, belief, encouragement, laughter, love and the financial support to be able to live.

My best friends – Emily, Jaz, Ali, Ayisha, Sophia, Cathy, Ioannis, Josh, Cal, Kat, Charlotte, Emma. All of these people have been there to wipe my tears, to give me hugs when I have felt that I would fall over. They’ve made me smile, laugh and believe in myself. They’ve held me together when I was close to falling apart and they have surprised me with their eternal love, generosity and support.

Simon Blockley – he gave me the opportunity to do lab work as a young fresher, which only enthused my passion for Quaternary science. He has encouraged me, provided support on both an academic level and on a personal level, as a person to listen to my academic related hissy fits. He has given me the opportunity to do field work in Yorkshire, and provided me with a clearly amazing reference in order for me to do work experience at the Centre for Ice and Climate. He’s an all round good guy and only provides encouragement and support in academia.

Simon Armitage – he has been my personal tutor for three years. He supported me when I was naive and didn’t really know what a Geography BSc was all about. He’s always got an ear and I am sure that he will continue to provide encouragement as I venture onto the MSc.

Ian Candy – we both share a passion for abrupt climate shifts… He has supported my interest and acted as a good role model. I aspire to be like Ian in many ways as he will always take time out of his busy schedule for a chat and is so patient. He was my dissertation supervisor and has always had time to explain things to me, over and over again, when I was too simple to take in even the simplest of facts. I thank him for teaching me about isotopes. 

Adrian Palmer – for my dissertation, I got roped into doing thin sections. At the time, I was thinking ‘ahhhh, another proxy, this is going to be awful, I won’t fit it into 10,000 words.’ But, thin sections are so pretty and I love the way micro-sediments can tell you about environmental shifts. He is another lecturer who always has time to take a moment out to explain things.

David Gilbert – he’s the departmental head. His first year lectures were pretty fun. Doreen Massey  and all the ‘space’/’place’ stuff! He’s been so supportive throughout my degree, always asking how things are going and how I am doing and has been particularly supportive with Geogsoc –  a society that has become very close to my heart since becoming a social secretary on the committee. He’s passionate about what he does and that can only be good.

Alice Christie – has been so, so supportive of all the students in the  department. She is secretly known as the mum of the department, and is extremely supportive of Geogsoc, helping to integrate lecturers with the students even more than they already are and helping to support the events that we put on. 

John Lowe – although he hasn’t taught the smaller second and third year lectures, he taught us in first year for the ‘oceans and atmosphere’ course. I was fascinated and he, I suppose, really sparked my enthusiasm for climate change in the first instance. I didn’t really think that a Geography degree would enable me to do the things that I wanted to do, but he showed me that actually, it’s the perfect degree for my interests.

Other staff members in the department who have been particularly helpful include:

Thomas Stevens, Varyl Thorndycraft, Katy Flowers, Ian Matthews, Elaine Taunton, Jenny Kynaston and Danielle Schreve

Twitter has led me to interact with a number of people. This has acted as a support mechanisms, when I have been fed up with my degree, and encouraging me to push myself further. These people have helped provide me with PDF files and have generally supported me:

Adam Griggs, Richard Betts, Mark Brandon, Tom Hill, Richard Gravelle, Rena Maguire,  Eric Skoglund, James Pope and Matt Pope.

I would not have been able to go to Copenhagen to do my work experience placement if it was not for these people:

Sune Rasmussen, Lone Hansen, Paul Vallelonga, Anders Svensson, Catalin, Magnus, Helle, The Swansea Tephra Group: Peter Abbott, Siwan Davies and Eliza

A word of thanks for my school geography teachers:

Andy Housten – he was the worst teacher ever. So, so bad. He had no interest in teaching and didn’t care. But I did care, so I demanded our entire class got the education we were entitled too and Beth took 8 weeks before our GCSE’s and taught us the entire syllabus.

Beth Bowles – A brilliant teacher who was always smiling and so into fair trade and ethical consumption it was unreal. She taught us the entire syllabus in 8 weeks.

Crofty – AKA Richard Croft – he liked volcanoes and wanted to take us to Stromboli island, but no one could afford to do this. He was my AS and A-level geography teacher and my personal tutor. His claim to fame was that his son played rugby for England and he was just an all round good guy.

Matt – I can’t remember his last name! That is awful. He taught as all about alien species and geopolitics. I hated human geography, even back then. He also used to tell us all about the parakeets that had invaded his neighbourhood and kept him awake.

And finally, the thing that has gotten me through my degree more than anyone, is my dog: Abella. She’s been there to provide me with snuggles, a soggy kiss, the opportunity to play with her and make me laugh. She is a fluffy bundle of joy and I don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for her. She’s my best friend and I love her more than life.

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So thank you for three years. This last month, I was so close to not doing the MSc, because HE is so expensive and there is no governmental support. At the end of my MSc year, I will be roughly another £18,000 in debt. But, I know it will be worth it, because this is what I want to do. This is my passion, and life is too short to not chase the things that make us happy. Happiness is eternal, money is ephemeral.