The months of May and June are a truly odd period for students. It’s the time when the second semester ends, final reports are delivered, lectures and laboratory sessions come to an end and there’s a dawning realisation that exam season is here.
At the same time, the weather just makes you want to find a sunny spot and have a pint while at the back of your mind the perfect holiday plan is being constantly reworked and updated. All this however changed for me last year as it was my final semester before graduating.
During the early years of my studies, the prizes at the end of the second semester were the end of year celebrations and the upcoming summer holidays. Last year though the whole experience was quite bittersweet. With the ending of that year, my academic journey as an undergraduate was coming to an end. I was eager to finish my last set of examinations but at the same time I realised that these last few weeks truly were the end of a chapter. And as with most worthwhile journeys in life, earning your degree is a “rite of passage”.
A rite of passage is defined as a “ceremony or ritual which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another”. This is what a University graduation is essentially. It is not just an event to commemorate your efforts, celebrate your achievements and take a lot of phots. It is a cultural ritual which signifies that you have now entered a new domain in the social landscape and that your previous identity has been changed to reflect your newfound skills and knowledge.
The ethnographer Arnold van Gennep has said that the final stage of a rite of passage is the “Incorporation”. Having traversed the path, the individual is called to participate in a ceremony where a sacred bond is made. The gown and cap with the University colours signify that you have now been inducted into a cohort of people who have walked a path like yours. The ceremony also indicates that you have now been accepted into the big family of alumni with whom you not only share similar knowledge but also the of values that The University of Manchester represents.
Graduation day is a truly unique and beautiful experience. It is deeply personal as your hard work and efforts are recognised and rewarded. But at the same time, it is a cultural and social phenomenon that lets you know that you have now been accepted into a group.
If you’re struggling with your final exams and need some extra motivation, watching your School’s previous graduation ceremony might just do the trick – I know it did for me last year! Watching that and thinking about what graduation meant gave me the motivation I needed for that final push.
Whether you are graduating this summer or still in the early stages of your studies, I would like to wish you all good luck with your journey!