I was 10 minutes away from missing my own graduation entirely. My family and I left the house for what would theoretically would be a 40-minute drive to the airport. Rather absentmindedly, we did not consider the traffic jam. All the way from our house to 5 minutes away from the airport. So we ended up spending nearly 2 gut-wrenching hours on the road, missing the check-in, and running to the gate with all our luggage 10 minutes before the flight was scheduled to take off. The boarding gate lady was not amused (just a wild deduction from her calling us “apes.”)
But we made it, thankfully. It was such a lovely symbolic feeling to wear the graduation gown. You spend your overambitious, workaholic life admiring people on telly with their mortarboards and proud glow – and suddenly you are there yourself.
It has been 3 absolutely wonderful years. Psychology was not something I had long anticipated studying, but I have never regretted the choice one second. Neither was UCL, or abroad for that matter, a destination I had planned – but it happened, and I have, without a doubt, had the best years of my life. I have learned and developed so much, both academically and personally, in a manner I do not think I would have, had I not kicked myself in the butt and thrown myself out there into the great unknown. I am sure I would have been perfectly happy as a medic going onto her 4th year back at the University of Oslo now, but I suspect that, deep down inside, I would have nurtured a sense of missing out, not doing exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
I am not one to brag, but I think this is a perfectly fine bragging occasion: I made the Dean’s List, which lists the top students each academic year. I also topped the Dean’s List in my course, which came as an absolute shock, considering I did my 3rd year exams on 2-3 hours of sleep, pain killers and overdoses of caffeine (in espresso, soft drink and pill form), not remembering a single thing I wrote and just wanting to get each paper over and done with so I could go home and sleep. Miraculously, I ended up where I ended up. Perhaps I am a robot (hums Marina & The Diamonds).
After the ceremony (which featured a bit too much propaganda for the Alumni Network for my taste), followed a reception in the Wilkins Building, which is the iconic main building of UCL. Some people may instantly think it looks like the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, which is no surprise as Wilkins designed both. They had draped the ceiling of the main building halls with orange fabric, whilst the walls were covered in turquoise – it looked like some lavish harem. In a positive way. I did not know UCL could have such excellent quirky taste – but then, we are in London.
My family and I then left for a food binge and grocery raid in Chinatown – no fancy schmancy English high tea for us, no siree. We went to the infamous Four Seasons for the infamous roast duck, of course. After having packed 2 whole roast ducks as takeway to bring into their hand luggage on the plane (and here I was half-thinking they were joking when they asked me to bring a duck on the plane the last time I flew home), they went through all the supermarkets for more food. You know you are Chinese, when…
I am a graduate. Not only that, I am a Psychology graduate from one of the strongest Psychology departments in the world, at one of the best universities in the world. Taught by the best of the best, I have spent 3 years in the foot steps of Gandhi, Alexander Graham Bell, all members of Coldplay, Ricky Gervais and Christopher Nolan, to name a few. To think I am an alumna of this great institution.
Oh, stop it with all this sentimentality. I am not done with UCL. In 2 weeks’ time, I am hitting the books, lecture theatres, libraries and campus coffee shops yet again – I am sticking around for master’s. And it will be awesome.