All change...

Trip Start Mar 23, 2009
Trip End Jul 23, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Thursday, June 4, 2009

We are told that only 25% of this years American graduates have been able to get a job, thankfully Melissa is one of them. She is joining the staff here at the university straight after graduation, so she will be staying in the area. This means she is moving from a student apartment to a 'proper' one…ah…house move could there have been an ulterior motive here?

Well, with the convoy of Doug, Matt (Melissa’s fiancÚ) Melissa herself and Toad we managed it in two journeys. Most rentals here are unfurnished so it meant moving everything that she has acquired over her 3 yrs + some extras Mum and Dad had brought.

Exciting times for her, new apartment, new job and when Matt leaves the navy in Feb next year new flat mate!!

Preparations for the graduation began early at Washington & Lee; it is tradition for the ceremonies to take place on the lawn in front of Lee Chapel. The whole campus is very striking and there was an air of expectation as we got a personal tour from Melissa. At the Baccalaureate service the graduates and audience listened to excellent addresses from the President of the Uni Kenneth Ruscio and from Jennifer Strawbridge a former graduate of W&L who is now continuing her studies at Oxford. Much emphasis was placed on ‘the family of W&L’ what it stands for and how the graduates take those values into world with them. They operate an honour system – you are able to leave anything anywhere without fear of it being stolen, honesty is prized as much as the degree. It seems that universities run in families so to speak, in that many of the students have relatives that have studied here, but I suppose that happens everywhere. In true American tradition the fraternity and sorority bonds are strong carried with the graduates for the rest of their lives. On Wednesday, the day of the service it was baking hot – I mean baking! The lawn in front of Lee Chapel was bedecked with hundreds of chairs in preparation, 400+ for the graduating students and hundreds more for their families and friends; we took our seats and waited for the proceedings to begin.

As we cooked in the June sunshine (where were our hats? -back in Bree!) it was fascinating to watch all the proud parents, some who had clearly sacrificed much in order for their offspring to be able to study here and others in their designer outfits for whom that process had been just a formality. For some international students it was the first time their parents had been to the States. The proceedings were by nature somewhat formal, the procession of academic staff solemnly made its way to the platform, followed by the ‘grads’. Some looking rather apprehensive, though whether this was from

a) the effect of celebrations the night before

b) the thought of the ceremony or

c) the thought of life after uni I’m not sure.

Others delighted because;

a) they were still celebrating from the night before!

b) their studies were over or

c) the thought of things to come – who knows?

Anyway it was an enjoyable morning, followed by an excellent, outdoor, buffet lunch – though the sun was even hotter by now.

The following day was the graduation ceremony itself, again preparations had been made for it to happen on the lawn, however today, in place of the bottles of water beneath the seats were plastic ponchos – no, not for some weird custom but for the threat of rain. (We were better prepared, we had brought brollies!)The forecast was as disappointing as the skies and before long the heavens opened. A field of umbrellas shot up over the audience as the grads struggled to get their ‘protective’ plastic over their mortars.  But I have to applaud everyone’s stoicism, the president battled on with his address (he was under shelter though) and thankfully the rain eased off just before the first graduate was presented with their scroll. Many of the guests had escaped to the shelter of the terrace but this didn’t spoil the proceedings and despite not being as colourful as English ceremonies in that the graduate’s gowns are plain black with no distinguishing hoods/collars, it was a great experience.

Later in the day we toured the president’s house (which was once occupied by Lee himself) Mr.& Mrs. Ruscio were at the door to greet everyone, though I think they may have been a little surprised to hear us introduced as Melissa’s ‘surrogate parents’!

Again, congratulations Melissa and well done mum and dad too (the real ones).
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