What University Has Taught Me – Leonie's Graduation

What University Has Taught Me

5 years, 2 degrees, 2 continents
and more memories than I can count.

I don’t think there are words that can adequately describe the past five years of my university journey. A lot has happened during this time. I’ve lost friendships but made new ones. I’ve extinguished old flames but in turn, nurtured a fire that found me a life companion. I’ve been on many tumultuous journeys – both emotionally, mentally and physically. I’ve written more words, thought more analytically, been more curious and cried more tears than I had before.

It feels as though I’ve been waiting for my graduation for a very long time. I honestly thought that my graduation ceremony would be the closure that I’ve been seeking at the end of this chapter – the closure that I didn’t feel when I handed in my last assignment on my very last day at The University of Technology, Sydney.

The end of university has been more than disappointingly underwhelming.

Leonie's Graduation UTS

I had my graduation ceremony yesterday. Despite waiting for that moment of closure, I just felt completely out of my own skin – like it wasn’t me standing there, weighed down by the academic robes and graduation cap.

I looked around at my fellow comrades dressed in the same attire as I, trying to seek out a familiar face. There was none – none that I knew too well, at least. There were some that were passing faces – faces that I wish I had gotten to know better if my social anxiety and shyness had not gotten in the way.

Despite not knowing many of the people that I was graduating with, I kind of liked it better that way. I think it gave me more clarity as I tried to decipher why all of a sudden, my graduation didn’t feel important to me. It gave me a clarity as to why the ending of this chapter was so underwhelming.

Clearly not impressed at my own graduation...

Throughout the last five years of university, I had always had the finish line in the back of my mind. Like, wow, I can’t wait until I graduate and get to wear fancy robes. 

There’s such an emphasis for students to finish their studies and finally get out there into the ‘real world’, as though university and the real world are vastly different things. They certainly are different things, but university is still the real world. It’s real (to me at least), because it’s where I discovered and found myself. It’s real because it was the time of my life when I truly got to be myself, to make mistakes, to learn and explore more about this world than I probably would have if I were suddenly thrusted into a full-time job and a closed mind. That’s what university has done for me – given me the time to open my mind and see things with a different perspective.

Leonie's Graduation UTS

That’s not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of challenges along the way. I still remember that day during the Spring Semester of 2013 when I broke down in tears after my first ‘Contemporary Switzerland’ class. I was a nervous wreck, so stuck in my comfortable university life that the thought of living in another country on the other side of the world for an entire year had me seriously considering dropping out of my second degree.

But I did it. I went. And subsequently, I had the best year of my entire life. A year that I will always remember and always cherish. The year that I grew, made new friends and fulfilled a part of me I never knew I had. I discovered my love for tranquility – something that a big city girl would never have appreciated in amongst the concrete jungle.

It's all good!

I discovered that no matter what skin colour, no matter what religion, no matter what language or what beliefs we and others may have, that it’s perfectly OK to form new relationships and get to know one another. Of course, there are still many closed-minded individuals in the world, but the beauty in that is that there’s a chance to change the prejudice that they harbour… And what greater thing is there than to be a positive influence? What greater thing is there to change lives and be a beacon of hope that you can be a better you?

My experiences during university has changed my perspective on what it means to be successful. Success to many may mean a great paying job and a nice house. A huge part of my life prior to university was so intensely focused on the materialistic world as a means of success. I have lived the majority of my life saying, “I want this car,” and “I want that makeup brand,” as though success is an outwardly thing for people to judge you and assume that you’re successful based on your appearance.

Behind the scenes of how graduation photos are taken...

^ How I really feel about graduating… jokes, there was a bee in my bouquet of flowers

Success is not what others deem upon you. Success means for you to be happy. I found that despite getting a handful of high distinctions under my belt, despite landing myself a nifty corporate job, despite getting amount of views, likes, follows and what-not on social media… that these things are not what makes me happy.

What makes me happy is experience. What makes me happy is being able to have a relationship with nature. What makes me happy is just… simply, life. It’s the most simplest thing that everybody has, and it’s the most simplest thing that defines ‘success’. Life is brimming with the most amazing opportunities and experiences, if we just go out there and take it.

Celebrating the 5 years of my university life... thanks UTS!

The end of my university chapter has been underwhelming, but only because the story in between has been so life-changing and amazing. And for that, I am grateful.

Until next time,

Leonie xo

Watch My Graduation Video