For all the negative things I’ve said about Leiden University, I’ve got to give it to them with regards to how they conduct their graduation ceremonies.
Yep, yesterday I graduated from Leiden and received my Master of Arts. Woohoo! Unlike my Bachelor of Arts graduation in Melbourne, where I was among 300 or so people graduating in a single ceremony, yesterday it was just me. For a whole hour.
It was a bit full-on at first, but I ended up really enjoying myself. I was able to present my thesis and defend it in a building that’s older than any building in Australia, in front of Paul and his family. That was cool enough, and almost to top it all off, it began to snow outside.
(Although there was no dressing up – no robes and NO MORTAR BOARD – which Melbourne and now Leiden have eluded me.)
And it got better. After I was given my diploma, I was asked to sign my name in the ‘Zweetkamertje’. The Sweating Room.
I’d never heard of it. But everyone else had. The Sweating Room is named as such because it used to be where graduates-to-be would wait before defending their theses. You’d get sweaty palms from stress, and since anyone can remember, the successful graduates would sign their names on the wall.
It was a lovely touch, particularly due to the fact that I’d never really felt part of a community at Leiden. Not knowing about it beforehand made asking for the key to the room all the more special; it was like uncovering a Harry Potter-esque hideaway.
I signed my name, dated it and went over it a dozen times to make sure it wouldn’t fade away anytime soon. In true Caitlyn style, I firstly thought it was January (I really have erased February from my mind), only for me to have to go over my graffiti to change the date. I looked around the room and saw other names and dates; not far from my scrawl was one from 1944. I can only imagine what Leiden was like that year. We think the job market for graduates is tough now.
There were other names; the Queen, the soon-to-be King and even Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela (who have received honorary degrees). As someone who just finished a history degree, the room’s significance did not fail to make an impact. I was standing in history, right there in that room. It’s not easy to shut me up but that room did, for a few moments.
Today I’m back at it. I’ve flown to Spain, to guide a tour of the Las Fallas festival in Valencia. I attended the festival back in 2007 and loved every moment of it, so it’s a bit surreal to be back.
In previous years I’ve made promises to blog regularly when I’m guiding, but who have I been kidding? I’m not going to make such promises this year – I’ll try to aim for a post a week when on the road – but I do want to share where I’ll be this year in as close to real time as possible. If you’re on Instagram, I’ll be posting a photo each day called ‘View from the office’, which I’ll also share to Facebook. Fingers crossed for reliable wifi!
And, viva Las Fallas!