Thursday, July 16, 2009

Graduation - A Memorable Day

Monday 13th July 2009 was the day my graduation ceremony was scheduled for, starting at 10am. Sunday night though, you could find me pulling my hair out from one side and my mother pulling it from the other! Yes - she was insisting that I "look smart" and gave me a huge complex about it all, and that too the night before the ceremony. I understood where she was coming from (whilst being deeply offended of course, at her suggestions about how I normally appear) but it didn't help. I ended up asking Dr. Eccles opinion on this in an email I was writing to him!

You see I have a "healthy sized" family and wanted extra tickets for my graduation, thus my email to Dr. E thanking him for his help. I had asked him if he could do me this other massive favour you see, and thankfully he knew a graduate student who didn't need the two tickets that he was allocated so I got them. (We were all given two tickets and had to ask for more if needed).
Anyway, I didn't sleep very well on Sunday and dreamt of deliberately falling of the stage to upset proceedings! (That might be because Bella had spoken to me earlier and had expressed her fear of falling down the stairs). {\aside this is more of a case to remember this for the future than anything else, but in one of the Galois Theory example classes, Bella was asked to go to the board to answer a question and she tripped on her way! Thus she was worried about repeating this in front of a lot more people}.

My ceremony started at 10am so I had to be seated about 30 or 40 minutes before hand, and the guests had to be there 15 minutes or so before the start. I stupidly didn't realise that you could be seated any time you went, and assumed that guests should be there for 9:45am. We live quite near to Manchester, so myself and one M.Hatter got to Manchester at 8:30am by train. I had to get there earlier to get all robed up and collect my tickets. The night before I had also given clear instructions to my parents, informing then that the ceremony starts at 10am, so they should leave the house at 9am. I had also found the post code of the car park (for my Dad) so he wouldn't have any problems - how very thoughtful of me I had assumed.

The idea was that I would get robed up and collect my tickets, which I would then give to M.Hatter who I had dragged along with me (at that ridiculous time!). M.Hatter would then wait for the others whilst I went inside Whitworth Hall. Brilliant plan in theory, you would have to agree...

On to the robing room it was then, where thankfully we also collected the tickets. However straight away a problem occured - my hat was too big. I politely asked for a smaller one, but still it kept on falling off! Now rather than feeling wonderful at the fact that I had now proven everyone who thought I had a big head wrong, I began to worry. The woman who had helped me with the gown was started to become creased around her eyes. I asked a third time and still the hat kept on sliding down to my eye brows. I'm not known as a pest for nothing though, and asked again and again and again.... until I found a half-decent hat! (It slid down but not drastically). Thinking about it now, when I had hired my gown I'm sure that I had measured my head wrong, thus the hat problem. Sadly though, the woman had the last laugh as the top of my hat was slightly damaged, which I noticed quite later.

All robed up I strolled in the sunshine and had a few photos taken. I honestly can't describe how cool it felt wearing the gown and hat. It was going to be a great day, I sensed. It also so happened that the car park where my Dad was going to park was a stone throw away from the AT Building, so it was quite close to where the ceremony was.

9am: I rang my mum enquiring as to their position and a mild panic started to build inside me. They hadn't set off yet. Not to worry I thought, they'll be here. So I then proceeded to make sure that M.Hatter knew the way to Whitworth Hall from the car park (which wasn't too problematic as we'd been there before in June).

9:13am: I spotted Milo with her family. I was also borderline hysteria now. My parents had only just set off. I didn't know what to do. We decided to walk to Whitworth Hall and hang around outside for a while, before heading in. I gave my backpack and the tickets to M.Hatter, and panic rising in my heart, we went separate ways.

I did one stupid thing though - my phone was left with M.Hatter and all my other things. I had no way of knowing where my parents were or whether or not they had arrived with Nuno.

The hall was ginormous and full to the brim with students and guests. I spotted Fizz's parents sat near the front and thought bitterly about where mine would be seated (no where....). As it was nearing 9:30am we had to be seated so had found our seats near the front. Now it so happens that the Powers that Be felt sorry for me as I was seated next to a friend who had her phone with her! But woe and woe again - I only knew my own mobile number and the house number! Nobody at home was picking up, and M.Hatter simply refused to pick up my phone (as it said my friends name on it - someone who wasn't recognised).

9:45am - I walked towards the back of the hall to a woman in charge. "If my family come five or ten minutes late can you please let them in? Can I wait outside for them? Please...".

But we weren't allowed out. The prefects were very strict with us and wouldn't let us leave our seats. This was Hogwarts readers! Witches and wizards in their robes and hats - yet I was still not taken in by this magical atmosphere. I had one last option: attempt to guess my Dad's mobile number. (If I say it in a certain way I know it, but otherwise I always forget a zero in the middle). Ring ring.....

"Hello."
"DAD - WHERE ARE YOU? IT'S BEANS HERE!!"

They wouldn't be able to make it for 10am he told me. The motorway was very busy, and they might be five or ten minutes late. I sat back dejected. Hollow. Honestly speaking, sharing the experience with my family was what this was meant to be about. As my friend had free minutes (and she thankfully permitted me to use them) I rang my own mobile again hoping against hope that M.Hatter would pick the phone up. Ring ring...

"Hello"
"WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN PICKING THE PHONE UP" *deep breath* .....

I told M.Hatter to remain outside the car park (as the tickets had to be passed on to everyone else) and to inform me when they arrived on this number. Everything was going wrong. I enviously watched all the excitement around me, wondering who to blame! Ring ring...

It was my Dad - ringing on my friends phone. He wanted to know what building the ceremony was in as he had decided to drop my Mum and Nuno directly outside and come back later after parking the car. It was 9:53ish. I told my Dad that he had to get the tickets first so head to the car park as instructed. The phone had disconnected. I rang my own mobile again. The tickets were no longer outside the car park. They were on the move. What the heck was happening!

Now I don't know what happened next properly (as I was in a very bad state and hadn't had any breakfast too), but according to the myth, M.Hatter had decided to walk towards Oxford Road as my Dad had told him to do so. The plan being that everyone but my Dad would be dropped off directly outside Whitworth Hall.

At 10am the ceremony had started. We stood as the procession walked in, but I without a clue whether or not my Mum, Nuno and M.Hatter had arrived in time, was preoccupied. I solemnly sat, craning my neck towards the doors and balcony every five seconds, praying like mad. And then a miracle happened! My Dad appeared on the balcony directly in front of me and grinned down at me. Relief flooded me as I knew that my Mum, Nuno and M.Hatter had to be there too. Sitting back with ease for the first time, I smiled and let the magical feeling take over me.

The rest of the ceremony went smoothly (in contrast to earlier!) and I didn't fall down any stairs as I collected my certificate. It was only then that it hit me properly - I had got the degree I had wanted. My work in my first two years had definitely paid off. I carried a stupid grin on my face for a very long time afterwards too - just enjoying the sense of having achieved something. Even now I can't believe the dramatic change in fortune! How my Dad entered late I don't know; but the myth continues that my Dad had taken the graduand entrance, flashing his ticket to everyone around, wanting to know where to go. Thus he was ushered to the balcony where upon seeing him, I relaxed.

After the ceremony a lot of photos were taken after which the maths building had invited us for nibbles and snacks. This was great (although I was slightly late!) and it gave me a chance to talk to lecturers and other students, who I won't be seeing for a while now. They even had graduate hat cakes there! I hung around till 2pm-ish I think, after which I trudged home, having returned books that had been loaned to me.

Yes - this is the very long tale of my graduation. I think my Dad being late (though my Mum and Dad blamed each other) made the day all the more memorable. Wearing the robes had also felt great, and a part of me was actually wishing that I had bought them instead!

I started this post in July - and today on 15th August I finish it. Why? Well due to the building work I didn't have internet access for some time, and then I went away for a while. Upon returning it has taken a few days to sort things out (as the building work left a big mess) but hopefully normality is returning. I haven't checked my blog emails for quite a while as when I was at the computer I just checked my normal account; thus upon checking I was surprised to see a few serious emails about this blog amongst the spammy ones! This motivated me to finish this post, and since it is 2:34am I have decided to reply to all emails after some sleep.

I also think an update on my current position is best left for another post... :p

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hats, Gowns and Graduating!

Today at 10am I will graduate with a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics.

It feels slightly weird though. My graduation signals an end to my undergraduate days - an end to a certain chaos I lived in; however I don't feel "bad" or regret how things have turned out. I am to be honest mostly relieved that I managed to get a decent grade, for in my third year life went topsy turvy and my University studies suffered very badly. My worst University result was in "An Introduction to Algebraic Geometry" (no surprises there!) and my best was in my first year module "Sequences and Series"! Yes the very same module which, three years ago, I had hated and complained about till I went blue in the face.

I haven't thought about the major question "what next then?" just yet though. Thoughts of it flit through my mind sometimes, when I lose guard, but my problem is that there's too many things that I want to do but they all can't be done at once. Dr. Eccles best understands my situation at the moment, and once again I have to say that he's a great guy. Tinky Winky tried to give me advice the other day, but I don't know how many balls I can juggle.

This problem is closely linked with me studying Maths further. Before I would have loved to do the MMath course, but then I started struggling to pass my exams, hence that was out of the picture. Next comes doing the MSc, which is what I think I will do before considering a PhD. Yes - a lot of people are pulling their hair out at what I'm writing, since I was told that this is the best time to study what I like and get it over and done with. I recognise that my "mathematical ability" might be at its highest point at the moment, but my interest in Maths will continue to grow. Thus that gives me enough encouragement to not give up my hope of studying Maths further. I know that I have disappointed someone by my decision, and that hurts me deeply. However, other things in life are more important for me at the moment, and I wish to accomplish them first. The Maths will follow.

On Friday 19th June 2009 I was humbled by the University for some strange reason! I was told it was to do with The Galois Group, but on that Friday I had felt slightly out of place... This brings us to my next dilemma - TGG. I have two student volunteers for next semester, and lots of lecturers, but its students which we need. My summer holidays have been very "bad". I haven't been feeling well for a while (and my Dad dare joke about Swine Flu!), and this renovation work is just not finishing. Banging my head on the car's frame also didn't help... Anyway, I intend to get working on TGG in the summer once I have graduated and things calm down.

This is going to be a jumpy post so please bare with me! My results had gone online on Friday 26th June 2009 and I find it amusing to recall how nervous and twitchy my parents had been! My mum and dad had kept on ringing me asking "are they online yet?" and they didn't like hearing my dull no! The University did seem to enjoy torturing us, for they came up after 5pm I think which didn't help anyone's nerves.

There's a lot more that I want to post about, but I have to go to sleep now as my graduation is first thing in the morning. Humbug. I have got used to sleeping very late (or early!) you see, so I'm confident of looking like a zombie tomorrow. I actually can't wait for tomorrow now! I promise that I will resist the urge to throw my hat... (Like that's ever going to happen).

On a final note (!), this blog will continue as the Maths hasn't died yet, and of course shouldn't die. Yes - it has shrivelled up a lot, but as I said, the more I studied the more I posted (so you get the idea of when things went pair shaped!). I would once again like to thank everyone who commented and helped me to graduate tomorrow -- it has been greatly appreciated. :)