By Rayna Maharaj
Whether it is kindergarten, primary or secondary school, graduation day is memorable and joyful. Yet, nothing beats the thrills of a University graduation. I am 22 years old, but I have been waiting on this day for the past 17 years. As a child, my parents always instilled in me the value of education to the highest level. I always thought about the day I would graduate from The UWI, simply because it would have meant I successfully attained my degree. It’s been three years of sitting through interesting and boring lectures, over 30 examinations and living away from my family, but most of all, knowing the possibility of being a future CEO, businesswoman or even Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
I remember my first day at UWI in 2008, feeling so lost, not knowing where to find my class; the mix-up in timetables; the weird looks at us, the first-year students and total confusion about the purpose of certain classes. That soon dissipated as the semesters wore on, and I kept focused on the notion that I had to stand the grind for only three years and I would graduate in 2011. So said, so done.
Looking back at the past three years, I have certainly grown, both academically and personally. Throughout that time, I wrote countless essays; read more than I ever imagined; ate too much Ramen noodles, Mac and Cheese, KFC and pizza; lived on probably the lowest budget of my life; met inspirational lecturers, made great friends and opened my imagination beyond limits. Sadly, I also lost my father, who passed away right after I completed my first semester. Nevertheless, I set my mind to overcome (not forget) that obstacle to reach my finish line: Graduation 2011.
From the moment graduation application information became available online, I swiftly confirmed my attendance. Paying the $750 for the rental of my gown and DVD had me smiling from ear to ear. Although I was not over-impressed by the retro look of the graduation gown, I was still honoured to know I would be wearing it. I figured my feeling that it lacked the glamour I had imagined for all those years, would find compensation in the sophisticated feeling I would get when I put it on.
My years at The UWI have been the most enlightening, enriching, emotional and enduring of my life, thus far. While it sheltered me at first, it gradually introduced me to the real world. I was forced to grow up, which wasn’t a completely horrible thing. I’ve started working at the Marketing and Communications Office so I’m still here at UWI, but on the other side, in a sense. Two weeks before the big day, as I address invitations to Academic Staff, it only meant one thing: the day was practically right in front of my eyes.
Every graduation has been special, but naturally, this graduation seems extra special. While I miss the fact that I won’t have my father to share this day with me, I know he’d be proud to have seen me reach this far. I’m even more proud of myself for having reached this day, given all the obstacles throughout the years. It is indeed the end of one phase, and the beginning of another. I can breathe a sigh of relief as I hear my name being called and collect my certificate.
It’s a small sigh though; I know the journey continues.