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Seing my students graduate (Oxford University)

Weekly Topic: Memory of Your Graduation Ceremony

Mar 19, 2019

My first students' graduation is the best memory of my teaching career. I never felt this proud before.

Everything started with the final examinations. You could see students wearing their gown all around the city. It meant that it was time for the finals. I spend months with my 4th-year students for them to be able to hold a conversation in French, to be able to debate in French, to understand a long audio dialogue and to write an entire essay in French. 

I believed in every single one of them and I knew that no one would fail. The only thing I wasn't sure about was my ability to speak in front of 60 students without stammering. During the comprehension exam, a native French speaker had to read a 10-minute text out loud, and so... I had to. 

I had to be confident. Everything went (kind of) well. During the second reading of the text, I mispronounced a date and it had to be reported, but fortunately, it did not affect the exam.

After that, the oral examination took place... and I was the examiner with a senior fellow.
Of course, you are not allowed to evaluate your own students, they have to be from a different college. So I discovered many very talented students of French and I was probably as nervous as them during the examination...

After a few weeks, we knew the results and the "Oxford traditions" started. You could see students wearing their gowns in the streets, but this time they were covered in paint, eggs, shaving foam, glitters, etc. Another tradition was to jump into the Thames, the water was freezing but every student had to do it to celebrate the end of the year. (It is a tradition amongst students, professors don't really agree with it, as it can be dangerous, but young people are wild sometimes. Haha.)

Graduation in Oxford cannot be a real one without a fancy dinner. Having dinner in huge halls, dressed as penguins, with waiters asking you if you want white or red wine, IS A REALITY.

However, during graduation, dinner is a little more intimate, as you only eat with your finalists (students) and their professors. You get to eat in a private room of the university, with the most beautifully dressed table. There were so many forks and knives. I was completely lost. Fortunately, I was sitting next to a very kind student who helped me with the cutlery, and we had a good laugh about it.

I had an amazing dinner, but the most memorable event was, going on top of the highest tower of my college, to see a beautiful night view of Oxford, surrounded by all my students, before saying goodbye.

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