Today was my graduation morning tea celebration! When the staff at my school heard that I was missing my Penn State graduation, they immediately started planning a mini celebration for me here. I had only been here for two days when people started planning and getting things together, and they picked this Friday as the date because we had a two-week holiday break after my first week and they wanted to do it on the same weekend as my real graduation in Pennsylvania. The cap I’m wearing is made by Maria, the teacher I worked with during my first week (and the same one who I made lasagna with during that week) and the gown was brought in by someone. The cap is made of black thick paper and there are Aussie flags on top with a piece of rope as the tassel and a cork to top it off! At the start of morning tea (which is like a snack time in the morning – all the kids eat some of the things from their lunch and then have some time to play before going back to class for another chunk of time before lunch), Maria told me to go into her room – which is right across from the staff room – and she gave the cap and gown to me to put on. I had never even seen it before and was already surprised and excited to wear that. Then she instructed me to walk into the staff room as she recorded me. All of the sudden I heard graduation music playing and as I walked in the room everyone was standing around the table smiling and watching me ‘walk’ during graduation. It was really nice and funny and fun. I got a certificate – shown in the top left corner of the picture above – and I love what it says. I was also presented with a gift bag that had an Australian flag cape and an Australian flag umbrella hat (many people quipped that I should be sure to wear it next time I go fishing!). It also had a drinking glass with the name of the school engraved on it and some Australian candies inside. Oh and someone brought a little koala to stick to my gown also! The plan had been for everyone to bring in Australian food so I could try everything – and there was SO much food! There was yummy punch and pavlova and lemington with creme and more and more lemington and honeycomb chocolates and fruit and vegemite on toast (the only gross thing there!) and fairy bread and my pumpkin cookies and some cheese dip in a bread bowl and more stuff that I can’t remember and kangaroo meat!!! I wasn’t sure I really wanted to try it, but I had promised everyone I’d try whatever was on the table – and it was actually delicious!
I can’t get over how nice everyone here is and I’m so thrilled that they took the time to put this little celebration together. It really is sad that I can’t walk in my graduation at PSU this weekend and it’s hard to think of myself as a college graduate without the closure that the end of a semester offers. My Aussie graduation was a small way to feel that I did graduate and to celebrate that! This graduation morning tea will definitely be something I always remember as I think back to how people that I didn’t even know very well went out of their way to make me feel special and celebrated. I’m still glad that I get to walk in my PSU master’s ceremony at the end of next year, but this Aussie celebration will definitely be a hard one to beat!