This is an irrelevant time of the year for this article. As usual, my timing is wrong (must set a reminder to be in sync with the rest of the herd). Thoughts and hopes of graduation begin to emanate at about early May to late June, sparkly spring seems to set in motion a chain of celebration. Then, reality hits: you still have to get through those exams.
Without much smugness (but a bit of an irritating smirk), the exams have been completed. A flurry of revision tape recordings completed, trying out every accent possible to make enzymes’ mechanisms and odd bits of biochemistry sound as exciting as possible, hoping the subconscious would absorb facts. To say I hate my squeaky voice would be an understatement. I’ve had enough of listening to myself, and so will you by the end of this article.
Reminiscing about revision and exams is fun: in hindsight you can laugh off the laws of thermodynamics on the bathroom door, and the diagrams of molecules and mechanisms on the ceiling so that every morning DNA helicase was staring at you. Biochemistry was, for me, basically two years spent studying proteins, and one year in the Management School, to deal with the trauma.
I graduated in 2010. Let it be simplified … graduation is an anti-climax. Suddenly, you venture out in the big, wide world to try and figure out life, not unlike Bambi. Yet, there are no more hoops to jump through, no more do this coursework or pass that exam; no more levels of this academic adventure, or that fluorescent light bulb moment. The chains that reined in the horse are removed, and suddenly … whoosh. The horse doesn’t know where to go. Why isn’t there someone telling you what to do!?
After Imperial, everything is easy - working, mastering, projecting. That’s why being an alumnus and being involved in gazillion different projects is the norm. Or perhaps, some of us are those strange species of workaholics who are actually addicted to (and might I add in confession, get an adrenalin rush out of) working, projecting, and hobbying (as well as opinionating).With your shiny degree, you would think you know a lot, have seen a lot, and damn the world – you’re going to make it through. Eventually, you mature and actually grow up. For real this time.
As you realise, there is so much to learn, and not enough hours in the day to get everything done, but despite everything you still make time for the important stuff. You also learn to handle ironing: smooth and without creases.
In retrospect, if I had to do my degree all over again, I would be fearless, take part in a lot more activities, branch out and actually enjoy my time at Imperial. In fact, I should’ve regularly gone to Mindy Lee’s art workshops in Blythe, and been more proactive on the History of Art humanities course in the twentieth century liaison at UCL, as well as communicating with fellow humans a LOT more. Shyness gets you nowhere, neither does awkwardness, neither does geekiness for that matter.
When you start your degree, and throughout it, just remember a little fact: you’re still a baby. Focus on your studies and appreciate that your parents and lecturers care about you. In the real world, you’ll grow up fast enough.
In a bittersweet way, graduating is a process in the coming of age ceremonies. Welcome to the real world, independence, toughness, explorations and the make-a-difference-to-the-world-especially-now-Mother-Teresa-is-no-longer-with-us feeling. Don’t forget you’re a citizen of our society - define it and make positive ripples in the pond, before you explore the ocean as a grown up. Even if you still sleep with the light on.