My graduation experience: beware of the regalia!

Getting blown away on campus
Getting blown away on campus

Last week I graduated. It’s pretty hard to summarise my feelings about the whole experience. It was more stressful than anticipated, but also a lot more exciting too.

My family came down from Wellington for the occasion. We did a photo-shoot on campus the day before grad, which was made interesting by the bitter cold and howling winds, which do not agree with academic regalia, but we ended up capturing some really cool moments.

As for the ceremony, it felt so satisfying to finally have my years of hard work acknowledged. As I queued beside the stage I suddenly felt really nervous about the short walk in the spotlight – I didn’t want to stuff up my moment! But as my name was called I was elated that it was pronounced correctly (an issue I often encounter) and I walked with pride to shake the Chancellor’s hand.

The stressful part of the experience was caused by me worrying about superficial things – the hair, the shoes, the dress, but mostly the ridiculous hassle of the academic regalia. Boy, did I underestimate the difficulty of making that hood look right!

For the benefit of future graduands, I have put together a list of things you ought to know when it comes to the regalia:

  • You need SAFETY PINS, and lots of them. Go to the $2 shop and buy a big pack. The 2 or 3 you have lying around isn’t enough, trust me. This might be different for those wearing buttoned shirts, as you can hook the loop over a button – but you probably still want to pin it as it’s not very secure.
  • You need ASSISTANTS, preferably friends or family members who have graduated before and know what they’re doing. When you pick up your regalia they can show you how to arrange your hood, but add 24 hours and some stress and it’s not much help. You need someone to make sure the hood is sitting right at the back, and someone to arrange it on your shoulders and pin it in place at the front. I had one pin attaching the sash to my dress under the bust and pins on each shoulder securing the hood to the gown.
  • Even though it’s difficult and you may bend several safety pins and stab yourself in the process, you should endeavour to pin behind the material of the hood so you can’t see it. It just looks better.
  • When being fitted for a trencher (the grad hat) don’t feel pressured to take the first one they give you. There are many different sizes and although they are busy you should spend a minute or two trying on different size options to make sure it actually fits your head comfortably. Mine didn’t, and it was an issue that bothered me all day.

Now that I’ve sufficiently worried everyone, remember that on the day you need to take a deep breath and reflect on your incredible achievement. After so many years of hard work you deserve to enjoy it, so try not to sweat the small stuff!

P.S. if you are also an official graduate now, you can search your name in the Graduate Search, which is quite exciting. Small things…

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