ME, Myself and I: Graduation Tips

It’s graduation season, or it is here in the UK, and as the ceremony thing for my degree is coming up I thought I’d post about the things that have been suggested or are going to be in place to make the actual ceremony easier. If any of you are graduating congratulations! It’s a big achievement and, although it seems a big day and a lot to do on the day, it can be a great way to celebrate the fact that you’ve finished along with others who have done the course though it is a bit intimidating with everything that you have to do on the day.

Since finishing my degree I’ve been kind of nervous about the actual ceremony, whether I’ll be up to it, whether it’ll be too much and I’ll end up feeling ill part way through or become dizzy or something when I’m going up to get the certificate. Also the fact that I did this all at home, through the Open University, it’s a bit more detached than it would have been in a brick and mortar university. I have to say that the people in charge of the special circumstances for these events with the OU have been great and have suggested all these things I wouldn’t have even thought of.

Although we bought the tickets in December my parents have been really understanding when it comes to maybe not being up to going and I was thinking about saying I wouldn’t go but I have ended up getting more into it recently since getting actual physical proof of it happening. I think a lot of it is probably more what other people have said about it than me having this desire to go from the beginning, which I know some people do, but people saying I’ll wish I had and seeing all of the photos and the videos of past ceremonies on YouTube (the OU posts the full vide on a channel) I’m quite looking forward to it. There is still a chance that I might not be well enough for the ceremony or have to leave part way through but I will definitely be going and getting the photographs taken in the gown.

I will definitely do a post of the day and include photos of everything but this felt like it would be worth a separate post as some of these things I hadn’t really thought of. I realise it might be a bit last minute if you are graduating soon but if it’s in July you might have time to ask about some of these if they’d help you. These are the things that have been suggested, I’m not using them all but they’re things that might be worth thinking about:

Being able to be dropped off at the door, or as close as a road goes, to the ceremony is going to be a great help. I know that the areas around the ceremonies, even in most other universities going by the past ceremonies I’ve been to for family members, can be blocked off due to the heavier traffic and the ceremony itself, or at least parking is reduced or not allowed. As there is one space per person allowed with this OU ceremony I have a parking permit for one of the car parks but they have also sent me one that allows me to be driven to near the entrance and dropped off.

If you think you might want a wheelchair the University might have some of their own available to reserve on the day. The ones the OU provide, at Ely anyway, are just for the area the ceremony is going to take place in, this may be different in other places especially if it’s a brick and mortar university you’ve been studying with and it’s their own premises.

A similar idea, even without the wheelchairs they asked if I wanted to use the ramp. With Ely Cathedral I have seen the stage they have used in the past and it has very small steps so it won’t be a problem for me but if it is then there’s a ramp as well. I think most will have the possibility of a ramp for disabled students but it may be something they only put up if someone asks for it. There was also a mention of it possibly being presented to me on the floor level if I needed it, though I know that’s not something that will be possible in a lot of places it was good to know all the options.

Being able to leave at any time and them knowing that I might have to has removed some of the stress. With POTS and ME I find it hard to sit in one place for any length of time, sometime a ten minute wait in the Doctors’ surgery makes me feel light headed on a bad day, then sitting there for an hour and a quarter was not something I was looking forward to. I hope I won’t have to leave, especially if my course is one of the earlier ones called up so there’s a shorter time sitting before it, but knowing that it is a possibility reduces the stress and probably makes it less likely that I will have to leave, if that makes sense.

Reserved seating in a separate place, especially on the end of a row if you might have to get out part way through, is one of the big things I think will help. It does mean that I won’t be sat with the rest of the students, or maybe I’ll be on the front row of the students rather than with others who did my course but it isn’t a big thing as I don’t actually know anyone who is going, I don’t think there’s anyone from my courses going and even if there was I haven’t talked to them outside of the courses themselves.

Having someone sit with you might help a bit, I’m lucky that they managed to have both mum and dad sit with me as I think there are still seats left so it’s not fully booked yet with less than two weeks to go. If you have someone with you who can help you with anything if you need it I think it will help reduce some of the stress, for me anyway. There will be volunteers there but having someone I know and who can tell the signs when it’s getting too much will help a lot

They have said that, as I am sat separately from the others in my course, I will be slotted into the line with the rest of those on my course when we’re going up for the presentation. I’m hoping this means less time standing up and waiting but we’ll have to see with that one. At least this way, with the seating on the end of the aisle as well, I won’t have to squeeze past all the chairs or stand in an awkward position while everyone is making their way along the row of chairs to get to the end.

See if you can take a water bottle in. This may just be me but I find something like a cool drink can help a lot if I’m starting to feel a bit shaky, if nothing else it gives you a reason to move your arms. I hope that it won’t be too hot in there, I don’t deal well with heat, but if it is then having a drink to cool down will help a lot.

Find out where everything is ahead of time. Things like the stalls for the souvenirs, the photo area and the area for gowns can be spread around so if you can find a map or someone who knows where everything is ahead of the event you can work out the best way to get it all done with the least amount of energy used. You can also use this to work out some timings if you can, maybe ring the gowns and photography people and see if they have a recommended time that will be less busy.

One thing that was suggested to me with the gowns and souvenirs is to have someone else get them. They normally say that no one else apart from the graduates can go into the gown fitting area and I can see how it could get confusing and hectic and overcrowded in those places but the woman at the OU suggested maybe seeing if someone else could get the gowns for me. While I sit down I’m not sure how this would work but it would mean less waiting around and queueing so less energy spent on the day. The same with the souvenirs and the snacks that are provided by the OU for the event, as they’re a bit of a walk away in this case someone else getting them will reduce the amount of walking I do and the energy used up.

One thing that wasn’t suggested but I think is a good idea, if you can, is to visit the place the ceremony will take place. A year or two ago I went to Ely Cathedral with my parents, as it’s a general tourist attraction anyway it isn’t hard to see it, so I know the general size and layout for it. I know this one will not be possible for some people but if it is then I think it will help a bit. I know it helped reduce some of the stress for me, knowing what the place is like even if it’s going to be different on the day because of seating.

And the main thing with these is to have fun! It’s a great day to celebrate everything that you’ve achieved and, if you decide to go, try to enjoy it as much as you can even if you don’t manage the whole event. I am looking forward to it and can’t wait to get the photographs even if I don’t make it through the whole ceremony.

I think that’s everything, I may have forgotten something or just not thought of it so if any of you can think of anything then please leave a comment with any suggestions or anything you think I should do before the event itself. I know it may seem slightly odd but I want to be as prepared as possible even if I don’t actually use the things that have been put in place, I’d rather they were there in case I do need them.

Have any of you graduated? What was your day like? Or did you decide not to go? I’ve been reading a few older blog posts about OU graduation ceremonies, not that they were called graduation ceremonies, I think they were presentation ceremonies but they seem to be going with graduation now, and it’s interesting to see what these events have been like. 

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