Day 32: “Well Done!” Day vs. “Congratulations!” (aka Oxford v OSU)

I was thinking this morning about translation.  If I have to spend this much energy translating American English to Britain English, what must international students be doing?  I say this because yesterday was the “big day” for many Oxford students; the day of graduation exercises.  For the most part, emotions expressed by the graduates and their families were the same as I witness at OSU every Spring and fall.  The words and the traditions with which they express those emotions, however, are slightly different.

For example, the academic regalia throughout all the colleges here is stepped up considerably.  There are strict regulations about what you wear underneath your gown, as well as what you wear on top of your regular  clothes (which are regulated by the previous regulations, on a regular basis).  This girl has done a nice job at following the required standards – dark skirt, white blouse, and her BA robe trimmed in white rabbit fur.

I won’t make this entire essay a comparative piece, but I will say that the variety of what our students at Oklahoma State University (OSU) wear under their robes covers a broader range of selections.  I know this because our students usually put their robe on right BEFORE graduation, and take it off right AFTER.  I’ve seen graduates traipsing around Oxford in theirs, now, for the last three days.

Family of the graduates in Oxford have to work a bit harder as well.  Because of the limited space for the grand halls used for commencement exercises, they have to order tickets for each person.  Oxford will “do its best to accommodate as many as possible on a first come, first served basis.”

Okay, this IS a comparative piece.  At OSU, our general attitude is, “Bring everyone!  It’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, for Pete’s sake! We hold several ceremonies just so everyone can attend..the more, the merrier!” (Was that too many exclamation points?!)

Many of the ceremonies at Oxford are conducted in Latin.  At OSU, we speak Cowboy.

In Oxford, the graduate celebrations and receptions include a full table of chilled champagne.  OSU is an alcohol-free campus.

And, in Oklahoma we usually greet a graduate with a hearty, “Congratulations!”  Here, the standard greeting is, “Well done!”

At OSU, the atmosphere inside Gallagher-Iba tends to be celebratory, and sometimes quite loud (drums and bagpipes, air horns, large group yells as a family hears their student’s name).  At Oxford, most of the ceremony is really very quiet.  Here is a video of the matriculation (entering the university for the first semester) ceremony.  You can see how quiet the proceedings are.

Matriculation at Oxford – running time, 1 minute, 29 seconds

And here is a 30 second video of part of the Latin graduation ceremony, illustrating the bowing in respect to the faculty tradition…(fondly referenced among the students as the “Sheldonian Wave,” – Sheldonian Hall being the place where the ceremony is held).

The Sheldonian Wave

I don’t have to tell any of my Okie friends how something like the Sheldonian Wave might be viewed by the student body at OSU.  I think you know.

We may simply not have the patience for this kind of pomp and circumstance in the U.S.  Certainly not in Oklahoma.  I recently served as a “name reader” during our commencement ceremony and the key concept was, “Keep them moving along.  Read loudly, articulate each syllable, and as quickly as is comfortable for you.”  One of my friends said in jest after the ceremony that “it’s sort of like listening to six game show hosts read a thousand names, where everybody won.”

The faster paced process in Oklahoma, however, has it’s advantages.  For example, here is an excerpt from Oxford’s policy on sending students their diplomas:

“Your award certificate will be sent to your home address (as recorded on the university’s student information system) within 4 months of the date that the award was conferred (ie the examination committee date).”

And…here is OSU’s:

“Diplomas are available to students approximately 6 weeks after their graduation date.”

Yeah, buddy!  I’ve also learned that students here received their grades for a regular examination approximately six weeks after they take it, due to the exams being sent through three reviewers.  The professors here exasperate over how wonderful it would be to teach in the U.S….for very reasons such as this.

So what is the same?  The sense of family.  The sense of accomplishment.  The look of pride on a parent’s face and the beaming jubilation that a goal was achieved on the part of the student.

Regardless of American English OR British English…or, I would venture to write, any language found, the emotions associated with graduation are by and large exactly the same around the world.

So…if you’ve ever experienced graduation as a student or a family member, and are asked some day if you speak another language, just tell ’em: “Yeah.  I speak Graduation.”  It will be true.

Above, a picture of a proud “mum” walking by her graduate son in case you have any doubt left.  You can’t tell it by looking, but she’s pointing out to the family of another graduate that, “…this was where my son lived for four years.  We’re here to celebrate his graduation!”  By the look on the son’s face, I think he’s just fine with that little bit ‘o mama pride.

I walked by them to my dorm room, ducked under a few cameras taking pictures, looked at the proud mama and whispered, “Well done!”

She beamed.

One more thing…You know OSU wins, right?  If I’m writing, OSU ALWAYS wins.  I wouldn’t trade the OSU Alma Mater, singing “Oklahoma!” and cheering like crazy for our students for anything in the WORLD.  The WHOLE world.



2 thoughts on “Day 32: “Well Done!” Day vs. “Congratulations!” (aka Oxford v OSU)”

  1. Well, aren’t you a lucky dog. Your mom sent me the link because I’m not to great at all the high tech stuff. But I know that you are having the time of your life. And I must say that Jim Yates would be aweful proud. I know he would have met you at the airport and cornered you to get all the interesting details of British life. Ah well. You stay safe, have a ball, and when you get home I’ll tell you about my upcoming trip. Just as far away but on the equator. See ya’all soon.

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