I was not looking forward to Commencement. Commencement is NUS’s rebadge of Convocation which basically refers to the graduating ceremony. On paper, it felt like a simple ceremony packed with recipients where you will spend 99% of your time waiting first for your turn to come and then for the ceremony to end. Thankfully, things turned out very differently from what I expected. Commencement 2013 was a memorable moment and one that will hold a special place in my memory.
It began with a huge rush. I left my workplace late the night before to use the gym facilities (which are rather good). I am almost at the end of recovering from a stress injury in my foot and am transiting back to my normal exercise regime. After being physically dormant for almost 4 months, I am starting to grow sideways again. So, the day started off slightly tired without sufficient sleep, but thankfully, it soared quickly after that.
We had an early group photo taking session at 8:30am for the Economics honours students. It was early but going down early was a blessing in disguise because most of the photo taking was done before the event. We had time and space to get dressed. After the group photo taking, the crowd had not swelled yet and so all the individual and small group photos could be taken without having hordes of people in the background.
Because of the early group photo taking, all individual and small group photos could be taken without having hordes of people in the background.
This is also where I began to feel that I was at a milestone in my life. The same friends that I had toiled hard together in projects and exams were now fellow working adults. It’s kind of crazy to use the word adults but I didn’t really feel like I was an adult even after army and during university. It is really the moment you stop becoming a student that you feel like you’re no longer a kid and this event captured that transformation. Things like chit chat turned from school work to how our first jobs were like. It was a wonderful atmosphere of change and anticipation. This pre event set the stage for the ceremony that would start at 10am.
The crowd swelled quickly at 9:30am. What was absolutely great about it was the sheer amount of joy and energy that flowed throughout. You could feel the buzz emanating from happy graduates and proud parents. It was an amazing and refreshing atmosphere to be in. My parents soon arrived with the help of a family friend and joined up with my grandmother and my uncle. The joy and pride written on their faces was priceless. It was something they worked so hard for, I am just glad they received their due reward.
You could feel the buzz emanating from happy graduates and proud parents. It was an amazing and refreshing atmosphere to be in.
On paper, the ceremony was a drag but it turned out very differently for me. We started with a couple of videos of past graduates and even one on former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew receiving his honorary doctorate from NUS in the Istana. As much as LKY is a massive figure in Singapore’s history, I did not see the reason why a video of him receiving his doctorate should be screened during this event. Nevertheless, we stood for the arrival of our professors who frankly did look a little like clowns in their academic gowns.
The event formally started with the singing of the National Anthem. I did not expect that and I was surprised (and somewhat embarrassed) to feel slightly emotional during the Anthem. I think the Anthem brought back memories. The last I sang it was probably 5-6 years ago when I was in full time service in the army. Before that, it reminded me of the many days in school and how things have changed so much. The days of running around before morning assembly in Primary School, leading the school pledge as the head prefect in Secondary School and the morning groans and grumbles (and sometimes the dash to be in time) during pre-university. The National Anthem somehow became a running motif for my education journey.
The National Anthem somehow became a running motif for my education journey.
Thanks to my surname (Lum), I was quite fortunate to have my name in the middle of over 500 students receiving their degrees. Being near the front or end would have made the perceived waiting time to be twice as long. Nevertheless, this rather long segment was interspaced by friends that I knew making their 30 second appearance on stage. It felt really great to see everyone reach the finishing line together. This was the moment we were waiting for the past four years. The ceremony ended with a few speeches before a balloon waterfall and streamers. The sheer happiness and joy was infectious. We were finally graduates!
My family exited the auditorium to a sea of graduates and their family members. The Universal Cultural Centre (UCC) is a small place and it became quite difficult to navigate the place. As mentioned above, I was glad I took photos with my friends before the event. My parents and relatives found a spot at the other exit of UCC to take family shots before we left the place a buffet lunch at Penang Place Restaurant.
It was a special occasion especially for my parents and I feel blessed to be able to deliver what they had dreamed of and once thought impossible.
I cannot describe the pride and joy that was etched on the faces of my family and friends. It was a special occasion especially for my parents and I feel blessed to be able to deliver what they had dreamed of and once thought impossible.
It was indeed a wonderful day and a milestone for the family.