The icing on the cake

The chance to attend aconvocation in Australiagot NITHYA SIDHHUpondering on thedifferences between thegraduation ceremoniesthere and in Malaysia. 

Gaining a degree is the culmination of years of studying. – Filepic

THE programme book I was handed began with the words: “Before the proceedings begin, a short recital of music will be given on the digital organ.” As the music flowed, so did my sense of well-being and awe. 

I was seated in the imposing interior of Bonyton Hall, in the University of Adelaide in South Australia, late last year to witness the convocation ceremony students from Science Faculty.  

A good friend’s daughter was graduating with a degree in bio-medical science and I had been invited to share in her parental joy and pride.  

The day saw understandably proud parents jostling shoulders with friends of the family as we all sat together. To avoid long-drawn affairs, graduation ceremonies were held separately for the various faculties. I found this fact both practical and interesting. 

Outside the hall, I knew the weather was at its summer best. The sun had come up early to fill the day with sunshine. The fields were a verdant green and the sky a lovely blue. I thought to myself: “What a perfect day to take photographs!”  

Inside, I was struck by the grandeur the hall. The female graduands had been advised not to wear shoes with heels that might damage the lovely historical wooden floors.  

The ceremony, when it began, started off with minimal fuss and proceeded smoothly. The Chancellor of the University presided over the affair.  

It was minus the pomposity we Malaysians are used to in such affairs, the proceedings were delightfully succinct and gratifyingly short. 

I was absorbed by the graduation address given by the University's deputy vice-chancellor (research) Prof Neville Marsh: “Every one has a place in the grand scheme of things” he said in his speech which had wit, humour and wisdom.  

The parents in the hall must have shared my enthusiasm for they punctuated his speech with appreciative laughter.  

As a teacher, I shared with him, his exhortation to the graduates to make the best of their learning, to generate new ideas and not to stagnate. 

He reminded the graduates that they should use their skills carefully in the real world. “Carefully” I thought, is indeed the right adverb to use with a science graduate.  

The application of knowledge should be done with care, caution and a conscience.  

When Prof Marsh sat down and the candidates for the awarding of degrees were presented to the Chancellor one by one, I found myself mulling over his words.  

All that he said made eminent sense to me. If you intend to pursue a degree in the sciences, be heedful of the fact that excitement and passion must be there to fuel your path forward, and that humility and respect must go hand in hand with the acquisition and application of knowledge.  

And whoever the undergraduate and no matter where he pursues his degree, (here or abroad), I think it will always be true that while the “acquisition of a degree may be a period filled with bouts of pain”, (learning does after all extract its pound of flesh!), at the end of it all, the graduation will be the icing on the cake – the “moment of pleasure”. Graduates should therefore savour the joy they feel on their graduation day. And then, reach out further.  

Later in the day, as I watched my friend and her daughter take their official convocation photo together as a family, I was thinking. “After this, she will begin another new journey.”  

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