On graduating from Cambridge University

I began my blog almost five years ago when I started at Cambridge University. My studies were based in the department of sociology and I focused on precision farming. It was five years of incredibly hard work. Somebody told my parents once that ‘PhD stands for Permanent Head Disorder” and it very much felt like that. Having the same subject matter rolling over and over in your head like a tumbler dryer. Once I had submitted my PhD thesis to the Student Graduate Union such obsessional forms of thinking finally came to an end.

My graduation day and graduation ceremony was incredible. My journey to Cambridge from Bristol began at 5am in the morning. The train journey from London to Cambridge was standing room only with the amount of people traveling to Cambridge for graduation day. My mother, father and eldest niece met me at the train station. First of all we visited my college, St Edmunds College, where we ate sandwiches, met up with college friends, and rehearsed for the ceremony at Senate House in the city centre.

As PhD students, Adrien, Megan and myself lead the parade of graduating students down to Cambridge city center. We were really lucky with the weather and it was a really fresh, frosty October day with a lovely warm sun.

I felt extremely nervous and because my surname begins with “A” then I was the first student to walk up the the front to be sworn in as a doctor. Being the sociologist and rebel that I am, I ticked the box not to bow but stand in front of the Vice-Chancellor.  I hope he understands that it is nothing personal, but after studying social and symbolic power relations over knowledge, then last thing you feel like doing is bowing down to hegemony (that’s sociological speak if you do not understand me). Anyway looking into his eyes, seeing him nod his head, confirmed that I had actually done it – I’d graduated.

Then I walked out a small side door of the Senate House onto a narrow side street in the middle of Saturday afternoon, in the middle of Cambridge, as if nothing had happened. I looked down into my hands to see that I was clutching a PhD certificate, and I thought to myself: “Is that it?!” It looked like something you could print with a home computer purchased from PC World, although the two signatures looked rather difficult to forge.

I was really glad it was a good day because experience of Cambridge University was unfortunately tainted towards the end, and I struggled to remain positive at times. It was quite an ordeal but man falsely claiming to be a ‘Senior Member’ of my college attempted to claim co-authorship rights over my PhD thesis against my will. You read about these kinds of things but never think they will happen to you. Although my department was incredibly supportive, this event cast a  dark shadow over the final year and a half of my studies – life is after all ups and downs. But the day before my graduation I was issued a contract from another book company, and that did brighten things up no end.

All in all, I felt so incredibly proud to have studied at Cambridge University. It was an utterly life-changing experience and I feel enlightened just by immersing myself in an environment of intensive learning. It really is important for human to once in a while feel approved and feel recognised for any hard work invested, and this best described the moment you look the Vice-Chancellor in the eyes to accept your post as a newly appointed doctor. The best part of my day was having my family there, with massive smiles across their faces. Thank you to Adrien, Emma and Megan for brightening the day up even more.

P.S.: My advice for future PhD students is be aware that you do not need to buy a PhD gown and hood for the event. No one will tell you this and I forked out £380 for a gown and a hood I did not need. You will wear your masters degree gown to Senate House with a PhD hood that you cant rent from the shop across the road from Senate House (Ryder & Amies).

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. Follow me on Twitter @james_addicott or Instagram: ieaddicott or visit my website: http://www.jeaddicott.com

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