A day of smiles and cries

I graduated exactly three weeks ago – May 11, 2013. A date of graduation should be filled with joys and smiles. But unexpectedly I cried as a child that date.

I got my handshake photo today, one week earlier than I expected. Photo: Commencement Photos, Inc.

I got my handshake photo today, one week earlier than I expected. Photo: Commencement Photos, Inc.

My sweetie and I went to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center where my commencement would take place more than an hour before its start at 2 p.m. This was the first time my school held the commencements there. Emerson College traditionally organized its graduation ceremonies at the Wang Theater, which is a few blocks away from its headquarters.

Countless smiles were produced on my face that afternoon. So were my people.

My sweetie's presence served as a special gift to me on my commencement day. Photo: Elizabeth Hollingsworth

My sweetie’s presence served as a special gift to me on my commencement day. Photo: Elizabeth Hollingsworth

I smiled a lot because I concluded my Master’s program with a result far more than what I set before I came to America on July 29, 2011.

I smiled a lot because I didn’t disappoint the Fulbright program in Vietnam which granted me a full-time scholarship to study journalism at Emerson College two years ago.

I smiled a lot because I didn’t let down my professors who trusted my diligence, especially in my last semester when serious challenges came unexpectedly and continuously.

I smiled a lot because I didn’t spoil the expectation of my people in Vietnam and America who always support my journey for knowledge in America.

I smiled a lot because I saw nearly all my classmates and some of my professors whom I were aware that I would not have much chance to see again soon.

I smiled a lot because of the precious presence of my sweetie from Vietnam, my great friend Elizabeth from New York, and her Mom, and my best friend, Uncle Jim and his daughter.

Professor Jerry and our class of graduate journalism 2011-2013. Photo: a fellow student of us.

Professor Jerry and our class of graduate journalism 2011-2013. Photo: a fellow student of us.

Everything seemed perfect. My ao dai, a Vietnamese women’s traditional dress which I had it tailored for my engagement ceremony years ago, enableld me to be dressed up for my special day. With the assistance of my sweetie, I put on the graduation outfit soon after I got to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

One thing I must confess was that I didn’t know how to wear my graduation hood correctly though I tried it on at home. My thanks went to my classmate Katie who helped fix my dressing a few minutes before we walked to the front seats on the left in Hall C. It was nice of her to prepare safety pins and use them to fasten the fronts of our hoods in front at the base of the neck. It was my mistake that I didn’t check beforehand how to wear the back of the hood, which should hang in the way that its folds are open and inside colors show.

On walking down the aisle to my seat, I was glad to see Elizabeth and her mother whom I didn’t have a chance to see from the start because we had to line up for the procession in a different hall about an hour before the ceremony. So did Uncle Jim and his daughter. Elizabeth and her mom were standing along the aisle and try take my photos.

Walking down the aisle. Photo: Elizabeth Hollingsworth

Walking down the aisle. Photo: Elizabeth Hollingsworth

I got a little nervous when our class was called and my graduate program director Jerry led our class to proceed to the stage. As the reader called my name, I ascended to the stage, handshaked with the President who smilingly conferred the diploma on me and walked to my professor who stood in between the President and the dean of graduate studies Richard and gave a hug and handshake to us. Because I got more nervous on the stage, I didn’t look at the audience and didn’t know that my professor Melinda called me, and Elizabeth and my sweetie expected me to turn my face toward them so that they could catch my delighted face.

I was glad that my sweetie caught this moment. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

I was glad that my sweetie caught this moment. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

Handshaking with my professor Jerry who gave me a farewell hug. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

Handshaking with my professor Jerry who gave me a farewell hug. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

Handshaking with the dean of graduate studies Richard. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

Handshaking with the dean of graduate studies Richard. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

Like other classmates, I exited the stage to the Registrar’s table to receive my real diploma. Never did I know that something wrong was awaiting me there. Never did I know that I would be the only one who returned to my seat with a bare hand. I tried to hold my tears but I failed when Registrar people said “Sorry we didn’t have your diploma here.”

How could that happen?

One of the two Registrar persons said that my diploma might have been left in their office while the other said I didn’t belong to the spring graduation. The second explanation was unacceptable to me because my name was on that date’s graduation list.

– I am eligible to graduate in the spring. My name is on the list today.

– We are sorry but we will mail it by Fedex to you tomorrow. Just write down your address please.

I walked away in tears without anything in hands. Because my diploma wasn’t available, I wasn’t given an alumni’s shirt, the diploma holder and other stuff as my classmates were. On my way back to the seat, I met Elizabeth and her mom who were patiently waiting for me and told me that they took photos when I was on the stage. I cried as a child when telling them what happened.

Right after the ceremony ended, I tried to walk as fast as I could back to the Registrar’s table to ask for the diploma holder but Registrar people left. Lucky me, when learning that I was looking for Registrar people for a diploma holder, a person of the school staff came to the stage and at last found one left near the podium for me. It was also kind of him to give me an alumni shirt.

I felt guilty for letting my people waiting for me and wondering where I was then. I felt sorry for missing a chance to take a photo with my thesis professor who asked me to wait for her outside when I was on my way to exit outdoors. I felt regretful for not saying a goodbye to all my classmates and taking a photo with each of them. I should have taken photos with them when we were queueing for the procession if I had my camera with me then. I wished there had been a farewell buffet for all of us so that the faculty and students could get together after the ceremony.

Though the commencement wasn't perfect, I was happy to be part of it. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

Though the commencement wasn’t perfect, I was happy to be part of it. Photo: Diep Ngoc Dung

I was thankful to my sweetie, Elizabeth and her mom for waiting for me to the end and celebrating my graduation at a good restaurant in the Chinatown on that late afternoon. Before we left the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, I met my internship professor, some of my classmates, my best classmate Shazia and our common friend AbdulRafiu, exchanging a few chats and taking some photos with them.

At last I have my belated Master’s diploma before I return home. I got it almost a week after my commencement. It was enclosed in a holder.

Many thanks to all for helping me make May 11, 2013 my day. All my memories at Emerson College will never fade.

 (Boston June 1, 2013)

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