Rachel Goh - “My Graduation!”

Rachel Goh

Rachel has travelled from Singapore to study Psychology at the University of Otago. She is often seen running around campus juggling various commitments. 

10 December 2014

That is the day I will always remember because it was the day that I finally graduated. Wow. Where do I even start? Everything feels so surreal even till now, and the feeling of being a fresh graduate is indescribable. But lucky for you, I’m going to do my best and describe my graduation experience from the start to finish.

So first things first, every graduate-to-be (i.e. graduand) needs the proper attire that is special to Otago: a graduation cap, a hood that denotes what faculty you’re graduating in (pink with no fur because I was a BA(Hons) graduand), and the long black gown. I was most looking forward to getting my hands on my graduation attire so I got to the dress shop one day early. Unfortunately, everyone else was as eager as me so most of my morning was spent waiting impatiently in queue. But the wait was worth it; because trying on the gown and everything else was just magical. It kind of makes you realise that you’re finally graduating and you get to look extra special to boot!

After getting the right fit and all, it was time for some photos around campus. After all, what’s so special about graduation if you have nothing tangible to remember it by? It was fun being able to be a model for the day and my photographer (Graham Warman) definitely did a fantastic job at capturing my glee at graduating.

graduation-celebrations

“… my glee at graduating.”


It was also a proud moment for my dad because for once, he was willing to step in front of the camera and smile. Thankfully, we aren’t professional models for a living because after two hours of posing and smiling, our faces were hurting real bad ha! Unfortunately, more photos were going to happen the next day….

Because it was time to graduate for real!

a-proud-family

“… a proud moment for my dad …”

Graduation day was absolute madness, but I enjoyed every single bit of it. I remember waking up at 6 am because I was too excited to sleep, and I remember my parents reminding me to stop hogging the bathroom because I was too busy making sure I looked perfect. Needless to say, I took too long (#girlproblems) and almost missed the university graduation brunch. I am so happy I didn’t miss it because I wouldn’t have been able to take so many more photos with my friends who were decked out in their finest. These people have been there for me since day one, and are the best and brightest of the 2014 psychology honours class. I have never been prouder of my friends. So rest assured, there were a lot of hugs, hi-fives, and many shouts of congratulations among us all.

university-friends-at-graduation

“These people have been there for me since day one …”


What made it even more special was the fact that my friends and I were able to participate in the graduation parade together. This parade is something that is unique to Otago – picture people in kilts playing bag pipes, everyone lining on the sidewalks with their paparazzi cameras, and lots of cheering and laughing. Furthermore, the parade is such a longstanding Otago tradition that Dunedin always closes off its main street (i.e. George Street) so that we graduands could walk proudly without fear of oncoming traffic.  The whole day seemed as if the whole town was coming alive to celebrate with us, even if the rainy weather threatened to dampen our moods.

university-of-otago-graduation-parade-2

“This parade is something that is unique to Otago …”


After the parade, the graduation ceremony at the Dunedin Town Hall was a blur to be honest.  One possible reason was probably because I was learning my most important lesson of the day: Always ALWAYS remember to use the toilet before going in because a) you can’t exactly get up and leave and b) waiting for 400 people to get their degrees is the most agonising wait ever haha. However, despite the wait, it was fun finally being able to greet the chancellor face to face and obtaining that degree in front of your loved ones and friends. The best part of it all though was seeing your name on that piece of paper with first class honours right next to it. It made all those 4 years of late nights studying, eating random junk food, and stress-crying worth it.

a-proud-otago-graduate

“… seeing your name on that piece of paper …”

So to all you people struggling through the night to finish your assignments, or feeling so burned out from constantly studying for exams, let me tell you this: Graduation will come sooner than you realise. And it will be the best day ever whether you are graduating Otago-style or not, because it will be YOUR DAY. All that hard work, all that waking up for 9 am classes, all that note-taking, and all the university friends you made will be worth it. So keep pushing forward, have a drink now and then to ease the stress, and keep your eyes toward graduation.

It will feel like a relief that you made it through university. And hey! No more studying for a while sounds like a pretty sweet deal.  Although if you’re weird like me, you may decide that 3 years of post-graduate school sounds like a great idea… but that is a story for another time. Good luck y’all!

Credits to Jacob Ong and Andrew Mills for their awesome photography skills.  

Take a look at more blogs from international students at the University of Otago http://www.i-studentglobal.com/student-blogs/institutions/university-of-otago