After a long wait finally everything came to a meaningful and heartwarming finale – the Commencement Ceremony! I don’t know how to best describe it. When I woke up that morning to get ready for my graduation, I was consumed with so many emotions. There was sadness, excitement, and, of course, the overpowering anxiety gremlin.
The feeling of sadness stemmed from the thought that I will no longer see my GTA friends on a regular basis. For almost a year we have shared a lot of life experiences together, not only as classmates in the graduate program, but also as colleagues at work. This Summer Term we sat next to each other in the faculty room and almost every day after our classes, we would share stories, jokes, and laughter. There was never a dull moment with my co-GTAs. They are so full of life and optimism that sometimes I forget these ladies are actually half my age. What made us get through the challenges in our program was the unified support we rallied for each other. We conquered our obstacles and reached our goals not by competing with each other but rather by lifting each other up.
The feeling of excitement, on the other hand, obviously came from the thought that I will finally be off the hook from the endless writing and long chapters of reading. Oh boy, that was tough! The day I finished my final exam for my last course requirement, I felt a big load was lifted from my shoulders. For the first time since I started the program, I didn’t have to worry about schoolwork; I didn’t have to worry about anything at all. I’m FREE and it feels wonderful!
The night before my graduation I rehearsed in my head what to expect during the ceremony. Surely there was nothing to worry about, but it was still nerve-wracking (at least for me). I can only compare it to the drilling of a root canal-similar anxiety. But once it is over you wonder what all the fuss was about. I believe it is human nature, of course, that we feel anxious about the unknown. Despite the fact that this was my third time to walk for a graduation (first for my Bachelor’s Degree, second for my first Master’s Degree), obviously I still haven’t gotten used to all the pageantry. The anxiety built when we entered the UCF Arena while the graduation song was playing. There were several thousands of people in the audience. I felt my tummy churning when I saw the crowd, and the first thing that came to my mind was where’s the bathroom. Thankfully, the butterflies in my stomach settled down as the program progressed. I felt both proud and humbled when my name was called and I heard my husband shouting “Omaha” from the crowd. I am still comprehending why he did that except for it had something to do with Peyton Manning, who is his favorite football player. I also felt victorious when I shook the Dean’s hand and crossed the stage without tripping (that was my husband’s greatest fear). Phew! Likewise, I didn’t wave and pose like a model just like I did during our dress rehearsal in the faculty office (that was my husband’s second fear after seeing my video). He thought it would be a nightmare. Haha! So, overall, it’s a mission accomplished. Yes, I MADE IT!
A lot of people have been part of this journey: my brilliant professors in the MA TESOL Program at the University of Central Florida; my wonderful GTA Lead; UCF’s ELI faculty and staff; my co-GTAs; my family and friends from the Philippines; and, of course, my loving husband who untiringly supported me during the entire program. To all of you, THANK YOU so much for believing in me!
Here’s a video of our Summer 2016 at UCF’s ELI courtesy of Ms. Rose Tran. Enjoy!