As some of you may know, I submitted a graduation speech to the Graduation Board at my University, in the hopes that it would be read out at my graduation ceremony on the 8th of November. Unfortunately, it wasn’t chosen, but I decided to post it here for you guys to see anyway, since I thought it was pretty good.
Friend, colleagues, staff, family and friends of the graduates here today, lend me your ears and I will be brief. I couldn’t resist adding a reference to Shakespeare in there; I am, officially, the owner of a degree in English, after all. But it wasn’t always going to be like that.
Up until 2012, I was convinced that the only way I would be happy was by doing something like a Bachelor in Science, specifically medical sciences. I wanted to put aside my squeamishness to save lives, but I kept failing Biology. And really, who wants a doctor who failed Biology three times?
So I changed my game plan, and harvested my love of literature into an actual career choice. I learnt a lot about myself in the process, especially about the world around me; University has been good to me in that respect.
So here I am – and I’ll be honest, I’m surprised I am – today with you all, celebrating the end of an era and the fresh start of another, and I’d like to share with you what I think are the important things I’ve learnt here at this University.
University has taught me that there is always so much more to the thing you love than you bargained for. I’m sure that most of us here today started out first year with a very rough idea of what the course was really about. Personally speaking, I had no idea that half of the books I’ve read for my course at the end of these three years even existed. And while I still cringe at the words ‘Irony’ and ‘Modernism’, I at least appreciate them for what they are: an important part of literature, and a terror to any English student.
Studying at University has also taught me a lot about myself, and my capability as an individual. If the me I was at eighteen thought that I worked hard then, then she would probably get a shock when she looks at the me I am now at twenty-two. Never before have I worked as hard as I have at University, to get the grades I felt I deserved, and to finally be standing here before you, successful. I never knew how hard I could be pushed, or even how hard I could push myself, until I started this first degree.
I would like to make a quick little footnote right here, and on behalf of all the students here, thank caffeine for being a determining factor in reaching deadlines and making it to class on time. Thank you, coffee.
I’ve also learnt a lot about the way the world sees me while studying here. I’m sure that, as Arts students, we’ve all heard the jokes. Our degrees will lead us nowhere, our degrees are only good for teaching or flipping burgers, our degrees are too ‘artsy’. To that I say, yes, we are ‘artsy’, but that’s the beauty of it. The world cannot exist without us – the Arts students, who find beauty where others can’t, or won’t. The Archeology students, who uncover ancient cultures we never would have dreamed about; the History students, who find answers in archives most of us are too bored to even bother looking through; the Philosophy students, who ask the questions we’re all too afraid, or maybe too dim, to even pose ourselves; the English students, who have read and read and read and lived a thousand lives between pages before they’ve even reached twenty-five. The world needs people like us, to do the work others think is too menial, too superficial, too ‘artsy’. To quote one of the most popular pieces of graffiti the world over – ‘The earth without art is just ‘eh’’.
Finally, and at the risk of sounding like a walking cliché, University has taught me that the best opportunities turn up at the most unexpected of moments. I came to University three years ago thinking that I would one day become one of the professors I admired, a lecturer passing on an infinite wealth of literary wisdom to younglings in the future. I stand here today – three years, one Erasmus placement, one twelve-thousand word dissertation, and a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears later – reading for a Masters in Interpretation, the farthest career from teaching I could have ever come up with for myself. I look out at my colleagues, particularly ones from my course, and remember how some of us are studying abroad now, and others are making their way in the world already, as best as they can. And I bet that a good three-quarters of us here today would not have bargained on the path we’re on right now being the one we’re so happily taking.
So, there we have it. You didn’t need me to tell you that University is a learning experience, both personal and educational. But maybe you did need me to remind you of how far we’ve come to get here. Fellow graduates, today we leave this hall with a degree, and though this may feel like the final nail in the coffin for our childhood – we can definitely no longer call ourselves ‘kids’ with this under our belts – I assure you, it’s only the beginning. If being at the University of Malta has taught us anything, it’s that we’re stronger than we think, more valuable than we realize, and much more capable than we thought we’d ever be.
On behalf of all students, I would like to thank the lecturing staff at the University, particularly from my end the staff of the Department of English. I would also like to thank the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Prof. Dominic Fenech, and the Rector Prof. Alfred Vella. Thank you, for walking us to this finishing line. We’ll take it from here.
To my fellow graduates, there are no other words to say, apart from: congratulations, and good luck.