Finally leaving the student life behind

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After staying in education for as long as humanly possible, I can finally say I am no longer a student! Aled and I both graduated this weekend, and we are now officially doctors! Yay! Cambridge graduations are an experience in themselves… A brief description: we met in the senior common room at our college (we were both members of Clare college – the best college in my humble opinion.. hehe) where we had coffee with the other graduands and their families. Then we had a practice run through of the graduation movements (where my dad very happily played vice chancellor – and got to learn a little bit of latin in the process!). After that it was time for our praelector to walk us down to the senate house, where we met with the other colleges for the ceremony. Cambridge graduations are basically a lot of speeches in latin (it’s quite funny to watch the praelectors giggle when someone makes a mistake), and a lot of people taking their hats on and off. The ‘big three’ colleges graduate first (St Johns, Trinity and Kings), followed by the rest in order of age. Clare is the second oldest college (after Peterhouse), and so we graduated fifth. We each held a finger of our praelector, who walked us to the front of the room and presented us for graduation. Then, one by one, we walked up, knelt on a little stool, and the vice chancellor granted us our degrees by holding our hands (there’s also a lot of hand holding in Cambridge graduations…) and saying something in latin again! After that, we did a little bow, and left the senate house. At this point, it was finally time to put on the doctor’s bonnet, aka the silliest looking hat I will ever wear 🙂

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I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my PhD. I made some great friends, got to travel to some cool places, and experience the Cambridge lifestyle of punting, May balls and formal dinners. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. I remember in my interview for the studentship, one of the interviewers asked me if I was mentally prepared for the loneliness of a PhD – and although I said the whole “yes it’s very difficult and challenging but I like a challenge yada yada yada...” I didn’t really get what he meant at all by lonely. In the second year of my research, there was a point where  I had been troubleshooting the hell out of an experiment and getting no useable data for over a month, while everyone else seemed to be making progress, and I finally understood what he had meant. But now, I’ve realised that the PhD was a marathon and not a sprint – there are peaks and troughs… and without the lows, the highs wouldn’t have felt so good! It’s a test of endurance and all in all I came out of it a much stronger, more resilient, version of myself.  So thanks for a great 3 years, Cambridge!

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