Well, that’s that. As of yesterday I officially graduated from the University of Alberta with my Master of Science degree. I went into convocation with the same attitude as my undergrad one, that the ceremony would be cheesy and the medieval convocation traditions are weird and cult-like and it’s really a formality that I could take or leave, but once again I left thrilled to have been a part of the celebration. I got goosebumps from the Chancellor’s speech and the President of the University’s remarks and I was beaming with pride as I crossed the stage, and in the final moments of the ceremony when the audience stands to congratulate all of the grads and then the grads turn around and stand to thank those that supported them, it was pretty emotional. I could see my parents and brother sitting in the audience and I hope they know how integral they were in every step of my academic journey and in shaping the woman I am today.
The degree I received yesterday has one name on it, but it took more than one person to receive that piece of paper. It’s a degree with more than one name.
My mom is someone who exudes kindness and generosity. She’s the type of person to send flowers to a friend across the country if they’re having a bad week or anonymously drop off a complete homemade dinner to a neighbour in need. She is beautiful inside and out and when you’re in her presence you don’t know whether to be more taken aback by her gorgeous blue eyes or how unbelievably smart and funny she is. She takes every day for it’s best and sees the positive in every situation. She’s humble and hard-working and will always speak her mind and her heart. She has stood by my side every step of my life and I can’t even begin to thank her for her love, inspiration, and support.
My dad is someone who has always pushed me to pursue excellence, not in a domineering way but if I ever were to say, “I can’t do that,” he would simply ask, “Why not?” He has always been one to prompt me to ask questions and form opinions based on evidence and instinct, and to find what I’m passionate about no matter how outrageous it is or how big of a dream I have. He is a dad that always told his daughter she was smart enough, strong enough, and driven enough to do anything she set her mind to and if I ever fell (metaphorically and literally) he was there to pick me up so I could hit the ground running again.
My parents are two of my best friends and have been a source of strength, inspiration, and support not just in my six years of University, but for my entire twenty three years on this planet. I’ve always worked my hardest to make them proud and I think I’ll just have to Sharpie their names onto my degree to make it moderately official who really deserves the credit.
It’s pretty crazy to think I’ve been in University for six years. I openly admit that I love to learn and I really enjoy immersing myself in foreign subjects, and finding topics I’m passionate about and find fascinating. I think some of my best “self-discovery” has come from tossing myself into things I wasn’t familiar with. I took a wide range of electives and courses simply to learn and challenge myself to think differently. I did an embedded graduate certificate in community-based research and evaluation to improve my program evaluation and data analysis skills. I began work in a First Nation community where I knew no one and wasn’t familiar with some of the Cree traditions and history. As with many aspects of life and really life in general, you get out of it what you put into it and the same goes for post-secondary education. You are paying thousands of dollars to attend classes for 15 hours a week. Make school more than that. I tried to take advantage of the people I was surrounded by every day, from people in my classes who had connections to jobs and committees and clubs, to my professors who are literally one in a million experts in their fields. If you don’t ask tons of questions and venture our of your bubble and research things that make you curious and passionate, you might never find out what you’re meant to do in life.
I love how my University experience has shaped me, and I know not everyone can say that, but it has helped me achieve some pretty big goals so far and I’m proud of where I have reached in my life. Yesterday in convocation I got goosebumps listening to the honourable speakers and thinking about my own journey and how much potential I think my academic career has given me. I don’t even know how to begin to thank the friends and family that helped me get here but if you’re reading this then you’re probably one of them… so thank you.
As I have begun to realize, it’s not really about the piece of paper at the end, or the line you get to add to your resume… it’s about the people you meet, the things you learn, the skills you gain, the shift in perspective, the broadening of your mind. I think a while ago I promised to stop mentioning grad school but I think this is a fair exception. 😉