UCL Graduation blogs – Victoria Antoniou
20 September 2022
Newly graduated student Victoria Antoniou tells us about her recent Graduation experience
There aren’t a lot of things that I would willingly wake up at six o’clock in the morning for, but graduating from my four-year undergraduate degree at UCL was, luckily, one of them.
Brimming with excitement, and more so, tiredness, I donned my dress that I had bought specifically for the occasion and spent far too long on my makeup, wanting everything to be perfect for a day filled with socialising and pictures. In the predictable grey weather, I made my way to UCL, trying to ignore how very cold I was in my summer dress, and thought about what was to come. Graduation was a new experience – I didn’t know what to expect or what I was meant to do. I was nervous about every aspect of the day – how do I put on the gown, will I be able to walk in my heels, will I trip on stage and have to never show my face at UCL again out of shame? All very important and serious worries.
In the Institute of Education, I met my parents – on time, surprisingly – and changed into the most uncomfortable heels in the world, picture-ready. Speaking to my family and coursemates outside the hall where I was about to become a graduate, I could feel the excitement and tension building. We were all pretending to be cool, calm, and collected, but the truth is, graduation is exciting! And we were all most definitely feeling it as we filed into Logan Hall, taking our seats, and hoping for the best!
Then the ceremony started. Let me tell you, that was an experience. In true UCL fashion, things kicked off ten minutes late, and began with the most fabulously ostentatious procession of academics, including the Provost and the department heads, heading onto the stage. It was a spectacle to watch, and did absolutely nothing to calm my nerves. I was not prepared for such grandeur and over-the-top celebrations of academia!
The speeches that followed were surprisingly interesting to listen to, and held my attention far more than I had expected them to – having said that, I could not tell you a single thing that was said in them, I was so nervous. Luckily, my course was up first. We were ushered to the stairs and our order checked about five separate times to ensure there were no mix-ups. After a lovely speech from Alison Macdonald, names began to be called, and far too soon, it was time for Anthropology with a Year Abroad BSc – a whopping four of us, of which I was the first alphabetically. Walking on that stage, tipping my cap to the Provost as he did the same to me, I felt unexpectedly proud of myself. I had done it! Four years studying a subject I had no prior knowledge of, through strikes and a global pandemic, across two countries, writing a dissertation which at some point had felt impossible – it had all lead to this moment, and for that little, terrifying walk, I felt pretty damn good about myself.
And then I tripped. My biggest fear about the day come true, walking down the stairs off the stage, my legs unsteady with nerves, I tripped over and just about saved myself from falling flat on my face. Luckily, the cameras weren’t on me at the time. Unluckily, everyone in the audience saw me, and my parents were right there filming the whole thing. Smashed it!
But you know what? Who cares! I’m a graduate now, and I’ll trip over all I like. Face flushed, cute little UCL pin they give us in hand, I took my seat beside all my friends once again and relaxed for the rest of the ceremony, glad that my moment was over. Speeches from other heads of department followed, all as encouraging as the next, as well as several videos from various UCL alumni in important positions around the world – including the CEO of TikTok! Now that got people’s attention. The ceremony remained upbeat and inspiring throughout, full of fascinating speakers and proud students. We wrapped up early after hearing one final speech from the Provost, during which I don’t think a single student could resist smiling at their own achievement.
Afterwards followed a blur of photos and friends, all of us heading over to the main quad to take pictures in front of UCL, and, more importantly, the iconic UCL-shaped shrub. I took the classic picture throwing the mortarboard with my coursemates, since we weren’t allowed to do that during the ceremony, I took pictures with my parents, with my friends, my boyfriend, for what felt like forever, all the while dodging the rain. We were given champagne and small snacks, and even though we all should have been tired and cold, the energy outside of UCL that day was electric – we were all happy we got through university, and all excited for what comes next. A job, another degree, some time off travelling – everyone seemed to be off on some new adventure, and even those with no clue what to do next had their whole futures stretching out before them.
Graduation, though several months after my course actually finished, was a perfect way to end my time at UCL. The last four years have been tumultuous to say the least, but overall, I could not have asked for a better place to be for my undergraduate degree. The people I have met and the experiences I have had have made my time at UCL extremely enjoyable, and excited for the future. On the downside, as I now go on to study a master’s degree in Amsterdam, I worry that no other university experience will measure up! But seriously, I think I’m going to miss UCL, and I will always cherish my time here.