Monday, June 18, 2012

Graduation Day

Saturday was convocation--the first I've ever gone to.

That morning, I rolled out of bed at about 7:30. Since I planned to eat and do my makeup in the car, all I had to do was make and drink my coffee, get dressed, grab a couple things, put on my shoes and head out the door. I'd planned to snooze in the car, but that ended up not happening.

Prior to the afternoon's events, we had a rehearsal. Jan Brooks (FVA studio head) was in charge. She spent a lot of the rehearsal telling us individually where we were to sit. The Photogs were in the third row. Jan also told us how to enter the auditorium (half of us were to enter the auditorium on the right aisle, the other half on the left aisle, and file into our seat rows in alternating directions: first row entered on the left, second on the right, third on the left, etc.), how to accept our certificates or diplomas (one row at a time lines up along the right wall and one by one we walk up the stairs to the stage, hand the studio head a card that has our names, any awards/scholarships we've won and honours--if the student attained a 3.3 or higher GPA during the final year of their program--proceed to Michael, shake hands with him while he switches the mortarboard tassel from the right to the left, go to the academic dean, Keith McAlpine, shake hands with him and accept your certificate or diploma and then walk down the stairs on the left side, up the left aisle and back to your seat), and went over the routine with one of the rows.

As Jan was calling our names, Peter came up to where I was sitting. He asked whether I'd heard from NSCAD about my updated credit situation. I haven't. He said that no one else who applied from NBCCD had heard from NSCAD, either. Grr...

In the last two years, I've noticed that NBCCD has upped their efforts to include more vegetarian options when they supply food for us students, and lunch was no different. In addition to having the usual pepperoni pizza, they also had a veggie pizza.

Over lunch, we got our gowns, sashes (aqua for FVAs, gold for diplomas and maroon for Advanced Studies) and mortarboards. It was only then that I realized that I'd forgotten the $30 that I needed to give them (refunded at the end of the day). I was ready to call Mom, but they let it go. Yay for small schools (bigger ones like U of Guelph, where Tom earned his B.Sc., and which looks like a town about the size of St. Stephen on Google Earth, probably wouldn't be as likely to let something like that slide)!

We spent the rest of the time before the ceremony waiting. I put on my robe, sash and mortarboard fairly early, mostly because I was excited: this was the first time I'd ever worn graduation garb.

Jan then had us line up in two groups and took us to the foyer, where we waited some more. Eventually we filed into the auditorium. And there was Peter, onstage, playing a jazzy number on a grand piano. One of the Ceramics grads, Melissa LeBlanc, sang O Canada en Français. I sang along in English.

Two women from the Maliseet First Nation sang a prayer, and then John McLaughlin (chairman of the NBCCD advisory council) officially opened the convocation. The Honourable Martine Coulombe (Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour) delivered the welcome from the provincial government. Michael spoke, and then they got on to the business of handing out certificates and diplomas.

The studio heads read our names, honours and awards (if applicable), and we went through the process of having our tassels flipped from the left to the right and getting our certificates or diplomas. Peter spoke about how graduation is like giving your child away, sending them out into the world--which doesn't surprise me, given how close-knit the college is.

When my turn came, I took a deep breath before climbing the steps to the stage: this was it. This was the culmination of two years spent happily slaving away in the photo studio. Two years of learning, discovering, howling with laughter, listening to music, being stressed out of my mind during finals, being teased by my teachers, joking with classmates, spending hundreds of hours at the school, printing lots of photos on the Epson printer, spending hours in the darkroom (and coming out with my hands smelling of photo chemicals) and, oh, yeah, going to class.

I then walked up the steps, handed the card with my name on it to Peter; walked over to Michael, shook his hand, had my tassel flipped left-to-right; walked over to Keith, accepted my diploma, shook hands with him and walked off stage--all with a huge smile on my face.

After all the certificates and diplomas had been handed out, Audrée Hamelin-St-Amour received the Governer General's Medal, and then our valedictorian, Spencer Corbett (Fashion Design), gave his speech. Michael talked about what the Student Representative Council (SRC) accomplished this past year, and the changes that have been happening at the college.

Keith presented the college fellow to Anne Reynolds. Michael spoke again, and then the students marched back out of the auditorium, followed by everyone else.

By the time I came out of the auditorium, the reception area was already filled with people, and it continued to fill up even more over the next several minutes. I looked for Mom and Tom and eventually found them. Tom took several photos of me (alone and with Mom). Eventually I took my gown and sash back (I got to keep the cap).

We then headed over to Memorial Hall, where the grad show is. I talked with some of my classmates and introduced my parents to Trudy Gallagher. We talked, Tom took photos, and Trudy mentioned once again how good my business plan was. I also chatted briefly with Mitch Kavanaugh (the store manager), and mentioned how I had wanted to say good-bye to him on my last day back in April, and gave him a hug.

Mom, Tom and I left after about an hour and drove home (I wore my mortarboard most of the way), where I popped the cork on a bottle of Asti. We had supper (some pad thai and veggie patties that Mom got at the market). Mom and Tom spent much of the evening sleeping. I was more than a bit tired myself.

When I finally went to bed, the fact that the chapter of my life known as NBCCD was now really and truly over--and that there was no going back--hit me, and I cried for a bit. I guess I'm not quite as used to life post-NBCCD as I thought--and even April twenty-sixth, bittersweet as it was, didn't give me enough closure. I also choked up several times during the ceremony.

Today I'm almost feeling normal after spending yesterday doing virtually nothing due to exhaustion (I was running on fumes by eleven last night).

And now, my final letter to the FVA Class of '12 (just so you know, even though I'll be at NSCAD I will continue the series next year: I will probably always have a massive case of NBCCD Pride):

Dear FVAs:

This year, I neglected to write a letter at the end of the spring semester. And then I decided to hold off deliberately, as I knew graduation was in a couple months.

Congratulations: you survived FVA! Though probably not without a few bumps and scrapes. I still bear the bruises and scars that I earned in my FVA year--but I'm proud of every single one, as I learned from them all. I learned about college, and I learned about myself as an artist and a person. I hope you guys had a similar experience.

I hope you've applied for the diploma program: after FVA, it only gets better. To any future Photogs reading this: I can't begin to tell you how awesome the studio and faculty are--and how indescribably funny the studio head, Peter Gross, is. I'm going to miss that guy...

Once again, congratulations. I'm ridiculously proud of you guys.

FVA Class of '10, Photography Diploma Class of '12, NSCAD Photography BFA Class of '13

You know you're a graduate of a photography program when the first thing you do upon arriving home is take a photo of your mortarboard and diploma.


  1. Great post Annapurna! I teared up a little when you talked about your nbccd experience being officially over. I know I will do the same when mine comes to an end. It's one of those bittersweet moments in life. Good luck with everything in your future and I hope you have a fantastic time as well as a NSCAD student.

    - Deb