Thursday, June 12, 2014

And There Were Flutists

My year of French study is complete... Well, at least officially... Having very little hope that I would pass the overwhelmingly horrific final exam and holding timeless grudges against French pronouns, I really hadn't planned on going to the "graduation" ceremony which takes place at the end of each semester. However, since I magically conjured a passing grade and my American friend highlighted the pros of such an experience, I figured I really had no choice but to embrace the French flare for formality. Plus, how many times do you get to walk across the stage at a grand location like the Sorbonne and fully envelope yourself in spectacular pretension?

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, very few things are quick and to the point in France. Graduation ceremonies are no exception. Funnily enough, our "toge", which I had imagined to be a Grecian-style robe harkening back to the days of Socrates, was actually an American-style graduation gown, fully equipped with flat hat and tassel. I was quite happy that the color of choice was blue, a rather fetching shade to match my sapphire-like eyes. A few of my friends and I collected in the foyer to don said toga and take some traditional snapshots on the staircases and near ambiguously regal looking wall fixtures. We were not told to line up in any sort of alphabetical fashion or arrange ourself by professor, we were merely directed to sit with the other blue-robed bodies in the room and get ready to rumble. 

From what I could tell, there were a few rather humorous speakers, but since I am not remotely close to French fluency, I was only able to extract various pieces of information, like the fact that the Napoleon historian referenced the separation between church and state, and another important looking French guy compared the different meanings of the word félicitations... I know at one point he referenced American Hallmark cards. Aside from that, I admit my American friend and I turned into Regina George and Lindsay Lohan as time went on, commenting on strange-fitting togas and outlandish footwear. There were four rounds of students mounting the stage to receive their certificates, so in our defense there wasn't a whole lot else to do. The school did manage to have a rather efficient system, however, grabbing our student I.D.'s as we lined up by the stage and feverishly looking through alphabetized files to give us our diplomas before we stepped onto the stage. The girl who was about to announce my name definitely gave me a panicked look before asking me to pronounce "Lewonczyk" before she had to.

The best part was of course the fact that amidst 4 or 5 speeches and really spotty piped in boxed music playing "Pomp and Circumstance"at the beginning of the proceedings, there were two flutists providing background music throughout and offering up a totally unnecessary interlude right before the ceremony was over. Despite my mischievously mocking tone, however, I am quite glad that I attended. As I said, how many times in my life will I have "graduated" from the Sorbonne and been distinguished enough to be a part of a truly French ceremony at such an esteemed institute? Until I become the next JK Rowling and am asked to give the commencement speech at Harvard University, I'm guessing not many...

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