When my good friend Rita invited me to her graduation ceremony a few weeks back I instantly accepted her invitation. I knew how hard she’d worked to finish her course and the sacrifices she’d made along the way; so I was more than happy to see her collect her certificate.
“I should probably warn you though” she added, almost apologetically, “these ceremonies can be quite long and boring.” I assured her that this wouldn’t be a problem. After all, I really thought I knew what to expect after my own ceremony back in the UK.
I graduated from the University of Liverpool after attending one of its campuses in the nearby city of Chester. Chester is arguably one of the most charming cities in the UK, there is just something so timeless an well preserved about the place; from the Roman built walls enveloping the city centre to the rows (the name given to the unusually structured shops). My ceremony was held in the city’s cathedral, a venue with a history spanning almost two thousand years. On reflection the place was very Hogwarts-esque, with its gothic architecture, high ceilings and stained glass windows. The graduation event was beautiful.
I remember sitting silently through the speeches given by the lecturers and applauding politely when the degree certificates were being awarded to my peers. So I had naively imagined the style of Rita’s big day would be kind of similar to my own…I probably shouldn’t have imagined that!
When my friend Lucas and I had arrived at the Creditcard hall (the arena used for recent Joss Stone and Luan Santana gigs) we walked into the auditorium to see a sea of empty chairs on the stage ready to be filled with graduates. After everyone in the audience was seated, the lights dimmed slightly and an expectant silence fell over the crowd. Then the music started.
I suspect any Brits reading this blog will imagine that I’d say a classical song had been chosen to accompany everyone’s journey inside. Or that perhaps even that the music had come from an orchestra at the front of the stage. Well, no!
The song selected to kick off this celebration of academia was a track by…Calvin Harris.
Yes, Calvin friggin Harris!
As soon as the first few bars of one of his songs were pumped out of the huge speakers (I’m not sure which song they chose, his song’s all kind of all sound the same to me!), the roar from the crowd behind me prompted me to turn around. This is when I saw the former students walking towards the stage. Actually, when I say walking, what I mean is that the women leading the graduates into the arena were seriously strutting. I felt like an audience member on the British dating show, Take Me Out.
Then, from what I can only assume was an industrial sized cannon at the back of the auditorium, confetti was shot out into the air covering at least ten rows. Whilst I was scanning the crowd I noticed that a number of people were blowing into vuvuzelas. Yes, some Brazilians had taken their vuvuzelas to a graduation ceremony. I stopped clapping politely when I realised that there was no need to be so formal (fist pumping and whooping were clearly more appropriate here!)! This event felt as rowdy as the World Cup 2014!
By the time the final graduate had sat down, the room was vibrating with an enormous energy …Hogwarts-esque this was certainly not! The music was then cut and it was the turn of the professors to take to the mic. During the first speech I couldn’t help but notice a good third of the graduates in the Creditcard Hall had either pulled out their phones (presumably) to message friends and family, or they were waving at these people from the stage. In total, about five professors took to the pulpit to talk and the more popular they were, the more applause and cheering they’d receive. Many were even screaming “lindo!” (beautiful) at one of the professors, with the same amount of passion as those mental girls you used to see Justin Bieber concerts. This got me thinking about how quickly I’d have been thrown out of my own ceremony if I’d screamed things like this at my professors (and how embarrassed my parents would have been!).
After this came speeches from five of the former students, each of whom had been selected to speak on behalf of their academic disciplines. The most bizarre came from a girl who criticized the professors and students she’d studied with at the University. “We’ve had some great professors, some not so great. And do you know what? Despite going through so much together, a lot of the people on my course still don’t even know the names of the people they’re sat beside right now.” Unsurprisingly she left the mic to muffled comments, a confused round of applause and stifled coughs. My favourite speech came from a girl who was heckled mid-way through. “You’re beautiful” one of her peers screamed. “Yes” she replied, running her fingers through her hair and looking highly unimpressed at the interruption, “I know!”
The audience was then treated to scenes of the forty professors being awarded with presents by random students. I’m not saying that this part of the ceremony was dull and unnecessary…but what I will say is this; I’m glad there was a Ministry of Sound CD accompanying it! As I write this I’m still smiling to myself that this graduation event was so electronic music heavy.
Then came the part we’d all been waiting for (well, really the only thing we’d been waiting for!), the handing out of the scrolls. As each name was announced over the block rockin beats, family and friends would stand up and scream encouragement towards those they’d gone to see. Some were inevitably blowing into their vuvuzelas again too. As all of this was going on silver paper was trickling down from the roof, like the stuff they drop onto the stage immediately after a winner is announced on shows like the X Factor or American idol!
So when it was the turn of my friend Rita to collect her award, myself, her family and friends stood up to scream as loud as we could. Despite our best efforts though, we were nowhere near as loud as another girl’s family of about 30 who’d gone there on mass armed with one of those industrial confetti cannon (the sort I can imagine Beyonce using in one of her live shows) to set off as she walked across the stage.
On reflection, I’m kind of envious that some Brazilians will have this type of graduation ceremony. It was was so loud, rowdy and so fabulously over the top….very Brazilian! Whilst I wouldn’t have changed anything about my comparatively subdued and formal graduation ceremony, I can’t help but feel that had my mother been in Chester cathedral with an industrial sized confetti cannon and a vuvuzela…well, it would have added a certain something to the event!