My Ph.D. journey felt at times never ending! While I have encountered many challenges in my life, this particular one made me appreciate some personal aspects I never even knew I had. From studying a subject unknown to my expertise to having to deal with multiple issues while lacking supervisory support, and all that while living miles away from my family and going through personal issues, made me become a whole new person to overcome the challenges, deal with whatever came along my way and in simple terms ‘survive the madness’.
The months following my Ph.D. thesis submission up to my Ph.D. thesis defence, I felt frustrated (the 4 months waiting period drained my soul), lost and worthless! Even though my close friends and family were celebrating my success, it remained stuck at the edge of my mind that I could have done better, I could have published more and I could have had a postdoc job already lined up for me.
Ultimately, I felt a tenacious sense of apprehension that I no longer knew who I was and what was my purpose. The shift from being a student to a Ph.D. graduate, cross-examined my inner thoughts, hopes and ambitions.
But even though, I completed my Ph.D. life with a bittersweet taste in my mouth, I made it my purpose to gloriously celebrate my Ph.D. graduation, the final carved stone obelisk at the end of one road and the beginning of another!
My Ph.D. Graduation ceremony did not disappoint. A week prior, I flew my Mum over and made any arrangements needed in preparation of the day – in a way it felt like I was getting married, you know the dress, the shoes, the guests, the ceremony, the after party and so on…
The ceremony was held at the Elphinstone Hall in Old Aberdeen at 11am. I left the house exactly 2.5 hours before the ceremony, headed to the MacRobert building in the campus to collect my John Knox hat and Red Gown (the colour changes between Universities but here, at the University of Aberdeen, Doctorate Graduates wear a Red Gown) and made my way to King’s College where we were provided with instructions on how to position ourselves on the stage.
I tried HARD not to get emotional but when I wore the hat and gown the tears stream down my face. The big red sleeves and the accompanying velvet hat, representing the doctoral graduate, reminded me of all the struggles I encountered through the past 4 years, and made me realise what an insanely proud day this was! Luckily, all my friends were there graduating too, so I soon found empathy and relief in their arms.
Even though everything happened quickly, I tried to absorb it all in and remember the details and moments of exhilaration. We were instructed to parade outside the preparation room in a line towards the Elphinstone Hall. There was a man in kilt playing bagpipes and cameramen taking pictures and video recording the whole ceremony for our friends and family who weren’t there to watch. The Elphinstone Hall was dressed in red carpets and burgundy velvet chairs. There was instrumental music in the background and proud parents filling the room. We waited for the Pro Chancellor, the faculty, distinguished guests and the rest of the Academics to enter the room before being seated. We listened a few speeches and before I knew it, it was my time to hear my name be called on the stage and be awarded with my Doctorate degree (You can watch me HERE at 19.36!).
I saw my friends being awarded and then I turned my head back and I saw my Mum having tears of pride in her eyes. After such a long, difficult and isolating journey, it felt so special to be there with my favourite people and share this memorable day.
After the ceremony, we gathered all in the white graduation tent set just outside the building. I had prepared a picnic basket from the previous night with a homemade raspberry cake and all my fancy China dishes and cutlery. We got some Prosecco and sat all together filled with joy and fully unable to perceive that my journey was finally over! My friends joined in too and we shared a few too many stories of our years working in the labs and walking through the Botanical Gardens stressed and frustrated – feelings you experience during the majority of your Ph.D. years. We took pictures and laughed and gave promises to meet each other again soon, even if this means to fly to different continents. Once you go through a Ph.D. journey together you are bound for life!
It took me a week to come in terms with this transition and as I type this, the life of the graduation flowers on my desk is coming to an end. I have new dreams and hopes ahead of me and I feel that after successfully completing something so challenging, I can do literally anything I set my mind to. Boastful but true!
I didn’t want to get the Red Gown off me, but we had booked a table at Kildrummy Inn so I made my way back to the gowns return spot and farewelled my glorious friend before getting in the car heading to the Scottish countryside.
Have you ever attended a Ph.D. ceremony? How was it?