Monday, 25 June 2018

A Day Off: Graduation

Image may contain: Maddie Bayley, smiling, standing and hat
Photo cred: Mum. Needed a new profile pic anyway.

This post was originally going to be about the velvet shoes I wore to my graduation ceremony on Thursday 21st June, and it was going to be an elaborate metaphor about letting go of old hang-ups (I have always hated velvet, yet found myself wearing a pair of velvet shoes to one of the most important events of my life) and embracing a new frame of mind now that I have successfully made the transition from university to the real world.

But I'll spare you all the pain of that idea. Instead, please endure the pain of me talking about what has been going through my head these last few days.

Graduation had been seeming more and more stressful the closer it came, but when it finally got to Thursday morning, when all our things were packed in the boot of the car and we were speeding down the dual carriageway to Dundee, I felt surprisingly calm. I barely even felt carsick, which is unusual for me. I knew that my amazing grandparents had picked up tickets for the ceremony and had also picked up my robe, so we all had the morning free to have breakfast together and take our time getting ready for the 2:30pm event. Such a load off our shoulders to know that things were going to plan. Although there was still an ominous thought in the back of my mind that things were going a little too smoothly and something would surely come along to ruin it, nothing actually did. I got to spend some quality time alone doing my makeup in the hotel room, my folks and I had a cute photoshoot outside (we found a cool statement wall and my dad insisted, but I wasn't exactly going to say 'no' since I loved how I looked in my robes and black dress), and we took a stroll up the road to the Caird Hall, milling around in the square and getting some more photos before we went in.

Image may contain: Maddie Bayley, smiling, phone and selfie
Cheeky mirror selfie to capture the finished look. Quick shoutout to the lipstick, Maybelline's SuperStay Matte Ink in the shade 'Heroine'. Lasted all day without a touch-up!

Image may contain: Maddie Bayley, smiling, standing
Photo cred: Mum. You can't really tell, but the trim on the robes is Slytherin green. Not my house, but still damn cool!

Image may contain: Maddie Bayley, smiling, close-up and outdoor
Hiding the nerves before the big moment. Never has a phrase beginning with the word 'welcome' sounded more threatening!

The ceremony itself is a bit of a blur. It was only an hour or so long, and I was literally the second person to cross the stage, so it was a relief to get my moment in the spotlight out of the way so that I could sit and watch everybody else. The honorary graduates, Dr. Sun Xiansheng and Anuja Dhir, had many a good word to say about Dundee, and I found myself hanging on to everything they told us about the place that I have called 'home' for the past four years. But I'll save my adoration for Dundee until a little later. I just find it incredible that these people who have travelled the world and achieved so many things still remember somewhere as seemingly insignificant on the world map as Dundee, Scotland.

(Side note: Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol fame was an honorary graduate at my friend's ceremony, and she tells me that the chorus sang 'Chasing Cars'. Must have been magical!)

Walking out of Caird Hall to the sound of bagpipes and drums was an unforgettable moment. As I made my way out with the crowd, walking down the steps under a sunny sky with the eyes of everybody in the square upon us, I truly felt like royalty. All I was missing was a tiara.

The rest of the evening was a happy whirlwind of catching up with friends, good food and one-too-many drinks. I spent the night at a lovely hotel where I could see the sunset over the Tay, a very familiar and comforting sight. Dundee may have changed in the four years that I have spent there, but it hasn't changed all that much. It's still the place I fell in love with way back in April 2014, when I sat down in a room in the Dalhousie Building to hear about the English & Creative Writing course for which I would later sign up. 

But my adventures in Dundee weren't quite over. Saturday meant Grad Ball, twelve hours of dancing and drinking and being with friends. I was so glad to be attending the ball with three people that I had met all the way back in Freshers' Week, people with whom I shared a flat in first year, people who have seen me at my lowest but who have also contributed to some of the happiest moments of my life. These are people who have always been there for me, and I will miss them just as much as Dundee itself. 

So, with all that in mind, it was necessary to make the most of the night. And boy, did we do just that! We got caricatures, went to a headphone disco, took a ride on the dodgems (not an easy task while wearing a full-length sequinned dress), and the list goes on. Cut to 5am when I was getting tired and cranky, wanting nothing more than to get back to the hotel and grab a few hours' worth of sleep before catching a train back to Aberdeen. The next morning, the only time I got to spend in the Dundee sunshine was during the walk from the Premier Inn to the train station, i.e. two minutes. 

The last four days have been crazy and emotional and exhausting, if I may rip those three adjectives straight from my personal Facebook post. The same could be said for my university journey as a whole. A retrospective on my uni experience is a whole blog post in itself, but I can safely sum it up in a few words by saying that I have managed to lose myself and find myself again about a dozen different times, it has managed to both make me and break me, and I have hit both my highest and lowest points along the way. But there is very little that I would change. I can't say that I have no regrets, because I'm the sort of person who doesn't take the risk and often ends up wondering what could have happened. Of course I have regrets.

But there is no better place I could have ended up than Dundee. It sucks that I'm leaving the city just as the world is starting to realise what an amazing place it truly is, how creative and innovative and friendly it is. People sold Dundee to me all those years ago by telling me that it was the 'largest village in Scotland', and they're right. It's essentially a town that's been mislabelled as a city, where you'll always run into people you know and where you're only a ten-minute walk from wherever you need to go. Dundee is sunny and small and sweet, and it's never been 'Scumdee' in my book. It's always been 'Sundee'.

I pray that it won't be long until I'm back there. For now, I'm staying in Aberdeenshire, which is nothing to gripe about because the countryside is beautiful, especially in summer, but it's not the same. Dundee is where I tasted real independence, where I had my first legal drink, where I went on spontaneous adventures and nights-out with wonderful people. And now, I've been awarded with a degree from their incredible university, a reminder of where I've been, of what I can do when I put my mind to it, and of how far I have yet to go.


1 comment

  1. I work at the University in the communications/social media team and your post made me so happy, I'm so glad you've had an incredible experience. All the best of luck with your future.


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