Recently, I have participated in a Doctor Honoris Causa award giving ceremony. It was my first time attending one, and I must say, it was a very interesting experience.
In the beginning, I really had no idea what to expect. To be frank, I was not even sure whether or not I was going to participate, since I was a little scared that I would not be able to keep up with everyone, or that I would embarrass myself for not knowing how to act or what to do. Besides, none of my classmates were going, which meant that I was all alone.
Since I was being indecisive, I asked one of my professors for advice; she kindly encouraged me to go. So, after checking the venue and the time a few more times, I embarked on a new adventure. The place was actually well-known to me, since I have visited it a couple of times before, which made me feel a little less panic-y.
When I arrived there in the morning, I realized preparations were still being made. I somehow got there way too early. There were only a few students around, and I wondered if they had ever attended such an event before, but I lacked the courage to walk up to them and try to strike a conversation. Instead, I grabbed a chair and sat down.
Minutes later, one of my friends made her appearance. None of us knew that the other was coming so we were both surprised at each other’s presence. We chatted for a while, and then we stopped. Gaudeamus Igitur began to play. The foreign professor to receive the title, and the commission to award the honor entered the room. They were all wearing black robes, which bore the University emblem on the left side of their chests. In addition, they all had distinctive marks over the right shoulder, of different colors.
We all stood up, listening to the song, and waiting to see what happened next.
By the time the song was over, a few more people joined in. The ceremony continued with one of the professors holding a speech and welcoming us all to the event, as well as offering a brief introduction of the professor who was to receive the honor. Then, another professor stood up, giving a Laudatio, which is basically a speech in which one offers a brief introduction of the person to receive the award, as well as enumerating some of his or her awards and achievements.
Soon after, the initial speaker rose up once again and talked a bit more, closely followed by the handing-in of the award to the recipient. Congratulations followed, and then the newly awarded doctor honoris causa delivered a speech in which he thanked the University for the title.
Everyone stood up and gave a round of applause.
The committee, along with the doctor left the stage. The crowd dispersed.
While my friend and I were wondering if there was more to happen or not, one of our friends, who came in later, came up to us and asked for our opinion on the event. She then asked us to follow her, which we did. We climbed down the stairs (the ceremony took place on the first floor of the palace) and reached a large door, in front of which we waited for a bit. Some of our professors joined us and invited us inside.
At first, I was a bit reluctant to joining in, as my friends and I were the only students around (one of them is actually doing her PhD studies now), not to mention that I had no idea what I could possibly talk about with the people there, and that I felt awkward for not knowing the etiquette. I was scared I would mess up in a way or another but eventually, I ended up inside.
The professor who was awarded the title was writing down in a large notebook. Some of the professors took off their robes, well, most of them, and then stood in a corner. The males were next to a large wooden desk on which two bottles of champagne and a tray full of ladyfingers laid, while the ladies were chatting by the door.
I gulped as my eyes landed on the champagne, wondering how to avoid it, since I dislike drinking any kind of alcohol. Suddenly, I was swept into a conversation with one of my professors.
The doctor finished writing and someone from the staff tried to take off his robe. Another professor came to take a picture with the first. Then, they both took off their robes and engaged in a long conversation.
Champagne was poured into glasses and served. One way or another, I ended up with a glass in my hand too, whispering Cheers! to whoever came and clinked his or her glass with mine.
Ladyfingers were served too, and my friend was swept away by one of her professors right then, in order to be introduced to the guest. She asked me to take pictures of her (which, by the way, was done in the most awkward way possible), and shortly after, I found myself engaged in a conversation with my other friend (the PhD student).
Towards the end, we all gathered around our guest and listened to him talk about educational opportunities abroad.