The graduation experience


Ever wonder what it’s like to be in the shoes of a graduand? Arts student, Marie Kelly, shares her experience graduating with us. Enjoy!


I wake up at 6.45am on the 17th of December to the sound of my dad’s spoon clinking against his bowl of cereal. He’s up before everyone else in the family because, believe it or not, he’s more excited than I am. He’s anxious too. He knows how crappy it is to get past Hoddle Street traffic at any time of day, let alone 8am, which was when we planned to leave.

It’s the morning of my graduation.

Although it’s meant to be a morning of rushing to get yourself looking perfect for all the photographs that are going to be taken of you; I was calm and smooth sailing. To be honest, I was probably feeling a little bit arrogant. I’d found out the day before that I had gotten into my dream postgraduate course at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). I barely had a care in the world.

Nothing could wipe the smile off my face. Not the morning chill, or dad’s muttering at the chaos that is Melbourne traffic. I was going to wear some sweet as robes and get a certificate that would have the number seventeen on it.

I’m superstitious about seventeen.

We arrived at Royal Exhibition Building around 8.40am and I practically ran to get my robes on. I wasn’t even in a rush; I was excited to play dress-ups. There are few things I’ve learnt about graduation robes in the few hours that I wore mine. Posture is vital for keeping the robes on your shoulders and stopping them from falling to the floor. Hell, you have to be so careful when you give a fellow graduand (what students are prior to graduating) celebratory hugs in case you stick a pin in them or you tear off their sash. Apart from that, I was pleased to see that my regalia matched my Ravenclaw robes that are in my wardrobe at home.

As soon as being dressed in regalia was over, my mum rushed over to me, iPhone in hand, and took about a dozen photos of me. You’ll have to embrace that when it comes to your graduation, no matter whom you bring along to celebrate with you. They will want to take photos of your face, your regalia and your certificate at several different angles, with different filters, with flash on, with flash off, on your own and with them in the photograph too. Let them do it.

Ha, Marie’s so silly, that’s what those professional photographers are there for, iPhone photos are so 2012.


If there’s one thing I learnt about graduation ceremonies is that they will strip you of whatever money you saved over the course of your final semester. The regalia hire and tickets alone are a fair bit of cash. Then there’s a sitting session with the photographers, and although they do have a special promotion on the day of your graduation, you’re not saving much money in the bigger scheme of things. In fact, the photographs taken were so expensive to purchase, that my family and I only bought three of the seventeen taken.

Remember, sitting with the photographer cost money, and then the photographs cost more on top of what you’ve already paid.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 6.20.02 pm

So how can you defeat this? My sister is one of those talented people that can pick up any kind of camera and know exactly how to use it. Find a member of your family that can handle a camera that isn’t a phone if you want quality photos with the potential for giggles. Like I said earlier, embrace every photograph that gets taken of you because one day you’re going to want one of them framed and hanging next to your framed graduation certificate.

The procession and the actual receiving of my graduation certificate went a lot faster than I thought it would. The ceremony was timetabled to start at 11am and finish at 1.30pm, but by 1.15pm my fellow graduates and I were already clinking flutes of champagne in celebration. Alice, a fellow graduate seated next to me, estimated there were almost six hundred of us graduating that day. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was right.

Among those graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, were also students graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma in Languages, and five PHD graduates. There was polite applause when the Dean instructed the audience to do so. However, when it came to the PHD graduates, it sounded like there was thunder in the Royal Exhibition Building. One of PHD graduates, Stuey Richards, received woots and whistles.

The speeches presented to us were highly inspirational, yet at the same time, they were completely relatable. The speakers were the Deputy Chancellor, Professor Lyndal Roper, who was presented with the Doctor of Letters, and Valedictorian Laura Toscano, who quoted Valedictorian Elle Woods of Legally Blonde in her speech. There seemed to be an ongoing theme in the three speeches; be proud of your achievements, whatever they are, and if you ever get the opportunity, come back to the University of Melbourne.

I guess the best part of graduating with such a large cohort was seeing so many familiar faces from my course. Those who I may have sat next to in a lecture or tutorial, those that are long time friends, those who I may have shared assignment ideas with or those that I only recently became acquainted with.

As I saw my friends go on stage to receive their certificates, I couldn’t help but whisper “yay” as my applause was being held. If I caught eyes with a friend that had just received their certificate and we couldn’t speak, we’d grin proudly at each other and give the ‘nod’. There was a great feeling of camaraderie amongst the graduates.

As the hour grew closer to 3pm, my time playing dress-ups was over, and I returned my robes to regalia. Surprisingly, it was a great weight off my shoulders to return them. No seriously, my posture must have been going crazy trying to keep them on. My family and I walked back to the car park, relieved that the most exhausting part of our day was over.

But all I could wonder was if graduating with Masters would be completely different…

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Marie Kelly graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Creative Writing and Screen and Cultural Studies. Next year she will be undertaking Masters of Screenwriting at VCA in 2014. She also writes poetry as a hobby, which you can find on her blog

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