Last month, I had the opportunity to go back to my beloved Oxford for my degree ceremony. My dad came along with me, and it was so wonderful to show him around the city that is so dear to me. I literally dragged him around everywhere--from the iconic Radcliffe Camera to obscure backroad passageways.
Going back for the week was a gift. I teared up stepping onto the platform at Oxford Station and I teared up many times while I was there. It was wonderful and surreal to be back. It felt, in many ways, like I was coming home. I just allowed the air and the light and the beauty of Oxford to fill my soul.
[With Dad by the Rad Cam.]
[Walking on Turl Street.]
[This place. Oh, how I love this place.]
[One of my favorite places to run at one of my favorite times of day.]
I fit right back in. It was just so good to see beloved faces, to walk familiar streets, to run in Christ Church and Port Meadows, and to just be there again. It was amazing to me how even the scent of laundry detergent brought me back to last year. It brought me back to late nights writing papers while doing laundry, or reminded me of warm embraces from dear friends.
I missed it. It surprised me how much I missed it. Oxford will always have a part of my heart, and I am grateful for the opportunity to go back and remind myself of who I became there and to be surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. Who knew that a year could change you so much? That year was certainly golden. And going back for my degree ceremony was icing on top of a most-beautiful cake.
[Speaking of cakes, look what my friend Mary got for me! I seriously have the best friends. And not just because they give me cake.]
The degree ceremony was a treat in and of itself. My dear friend Hannah (who is studying at Queen Mary's this year--she's just amazing), came up from London to celebrate my graduation and to be the designated photographer. It was so great to have her there (so thank you, Hannah! Love you bunches).
[Hurray for Hannah!]
The degree ceremony is steeped in tradition. All of it (except for the vice-chancellor's speech) was in Latin. We were presented to the vice-chancellor and the proctors twice. The first time, they called us up based on our degree and our college. We grabbed the right hand of our college dean, and then we bowed to the vice-chancellor and the proctors.
[Graduands in the Sheldonian. If you can spot the girl who looks lost, that's me.]
[Lining up for the first presentation.]
[Bowing. So much bowing.]
[Walking out to the Divinity School.]
After the initial presentation, we went back to the Divinity School to get our new robes. Nick, the Head Porter of Corpus Christi, was the one assigned to help all Corpus graduands get their new robes, so he helped me put on my new robes and green hood. (Also, fun fact--there is this "inner sanctum" in the Divinity School where only a select group of people get to go--like, it's used to officially elect new vice-chancellors and such--but that's where the Corpus Christi robes were, so I got to go into the room of the Divinity School where not many laypeople get to go! That was really cool. I was geeking out.)
Anyway. Back outside, we waited to go back to the Sheldonian Theatre. Once it was our turn, we were presented again. This time ,everyone just cheered for us. It makes you feel like the coolest person ever.
[We're so delightfully awkward. None of us really know what we're supposed to do.]
[More delightful awkwardness with all of this pomp and circumstance.]
After you've been presented the second time, you can finally wear your cap. You line up outside the Sheldonian and the chancellor and the proctors come by in a procession, and you doff your hat to them. (Again, why does that happen? I don't really know. Tradition, that's why.)
And then, you take pictures and celebrate!
[Master Meg in her cap!]
[Except I soon learned that wearing the cap was a bit overrated. But the point is that I NOW HAVE A CHOICE.]
[Rocking the Oxford regalia.]
[With Hannah again!]
[And with my former housemate, Mimi! She was so kind to come by and say hello.]
[With Dad. :)]
[Outside of the Radcliffe Camera.]
[It was really cold and windy that day. But it wasn't raining. And that is the important thing.]
[At Corpus Christi.]
[So fun fact. This tree at Corpus is my favorite tree in the world. At least, at this moment it is. I love this tree. I love it so much.]
[Glorying in the beauty and majesty of this tree.]
[In the library. I actually am Hermione Granger.]
There were so many celebrations that day (and that weekend). I ended up graduating on Guy Fawkes' Day (aka Bonfire Night), so there were fireworks and bonfires all night long. So much fun. Again, I'm so glad I got the chance to return.
[Remember, remember . . .]
As a final word (well, a final few hundred words). I think that it is fitting that Oxford's motto is "Dominus illuminatio mea," or, in regular English, "The Lord is my light." It is fitting for me, anyway. It is a necessary reminder of how I got to Oxford and what I am supposed to do with the opportunities given me. None of us are self-made. And I wouldn't have been able to go to Oxford without the sacrifices and help of many people.
I would be ungrateful if I did not acknowledge the help I received--from friends, advisors, family members, and from a loving Heavenly Father.
The Lord is my light, and He has given me so much. I am grateful to believe in a God who values truth, knowledge, and growth. Light, knowledge, and truth are intertwined in some beautiful ways. The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.
There are many ways to gain that light and truth. Through different disciplines, different people, and different experiences. I know that I gained much light, knowledge, and truth during my time at Oxford.
And that light and truth has changed my life forever.