What I’m really thinking: the college student at the graduation ceremony

This hat is ridiculous. Wandering around Front Square in gowns; well done Trinity, fighting the stereotype since 1592. Right now, embarrassment is the overriding emotion. It’s nerve-wracking, filing up the steps in front of all these people (trying not to trip on this fucking gown and mill myself on the way). Paraded like a show-dog at Crufts. Now listen to yourself. Talk about first-world problems; an existential crisis brought on by a stupid hat and a bit of paper. The real test, though, will come after the ceremony, when you have to unleash your parents on your class, resigning yourself to the inevitable cringe-worthy anecdotes; waiting for the first, terrifying dad-joke. A weird role-reversal, as we watch on as our parents play nicely with the others. Hopefully.

Who is this ceremony for? Our parents? As a validation of their investment, the money they’ve sunk into our – my – education. For the Provost, for the administrative junta? A new crop, another batch off the production line, four years in the making, four years swelling their coffers. I’m not sure it’s for us, anyway, this thing. I never really did get all this bollocks, to be honest. Although maybe there’ll be free drink afterwards. Hope so.

Making us march up to the front in groups, but not the groups forged with the others in my class over the space of four years, forged through solidarity, all struggling through together. We are now organised by grade – first to go up are the firsts, followed by the 2.1s, 2.2s, thirds. This is a ceremony to break down those bonds of solidarity, imposing a new class system in its place, one defined by cold percentages.

Well, I suppose we were always told that college was meant to prepare us for the wider world. And speaking of getting out into the wider world, what is there for me there? And where – how many of us will stay here, in Dublin, in Ireland? How many will leave? To London, to New York, to anywhere with the promise of “prospects”. Of course, I won’t have that problem. I’m sure there’s a million jobs out there which require an in-depth knowledge of medieval poetry and what can only be described as a mediocre grasp of the French language. These are skills employers are crying out for.

And, at this point, you doubt your choices, yourself, whether it was all worth it. Would I have been better off doing this, or that? This is obviously a brilliant time to be having these thoughts. Everyone else seems to have an idea of where they’re going. So, where now?

Illustration: Mariam Ahmad