02 October 2008

receiving my master's diploma from the Vrije Universiteit

on monday, i received my Master of Arts from the Vrije Universiteit. it was a bit anti-climactic since this master's degree is merely a step towards my goal/hope of getting a Ph.D., a step that i had already unofficially completed/taken last december! [A blog entry from 13 dec gives both the step and a summary of my thesis].

the delay between my completing the work and getting my diploma was due to some incomplete paperwork, the lack of familiarity at the University with this new degree (it was formerly a doctorandus), my being in America for most of january-june, and how summer (holiday) in the Netherlands makes it difficult to make arrangements for anything. thus, in August i could have picked it up in person - or just wait another month to receive it as part of a ceremony. i figured it couldn't hurt to wait.

back in North America, graduation consists generally of: a large event with a speaker (of interest to everyone), some sort of liturgical event (singing, poetry and/or a biblical passage), some praise for the graduating students (plus a student speaking on behalf of all the graduates), the (dozens of) students being called forward one-by-one (quickly) to shake hands and receive their diploma. and when we're finished, we stand around and drink juice or tea and eat cookies and cakes and fruit and so on.

Master's degree ceremonies in the Netherlands are different. a few words of explanation for the event are given and some praise to the students or certain programs, but the majority of it is about the accomplishment of each student. each student is invited forward, has a few words said about them (that are provided by their supervisor), is asked to say a few words about their master's thesis, shows their (previous) diploma that qualified them for entrance into this program, is possibly asked other questions, and then has to sign their diploma before receiving it. although i remain puzzled about the need or desire to show your previous diploma (this might be biased slightly by the fact that my previous master's diploma is still sitting in a closet in my parents' house in Canada - i couldn't arrange to get it when i was only told 3 days before the ceremony that i needed it), there is something wonderfully personal about this. the audience gets a stronger sense of the work that each student did in completing their diploma.

but, when there are a lot of students, each student is limited in what he/she can say. irrelevant of how interesting the different theses are, in 2 sentences you cannot say much - and hearing 2 thesis sentences 24 times just gets long and dull. and with so many students over a wide range of programs (religious studies, cross-cultural readings, systematic theology, theological education, islamic studies, biblical studies), it's less likely that the students know each other - or are known by the faculty. and the person handing out the diplomas and conversing with the students up front had a lot easier time showing enthusiasm about and asking good questions of students that she knew than those she didn't. and for those students who were part of a larger group/program or a program that was unusual or new, more was said. i was part of a small program and unknown, and felt generally ignored (although i did get a couple of looks for whispering during the ceremony - it was partially to help with translation and partially to be more able to enjoy the event). but, nonetheless, i was thankful to be there. every experience is good to have once (but i've told friends that there's no way i'm going to their ceremony if there's more than 10 people i don't know receiving their diploma). otherwise, i'll just come to the celebration after the ceremony - for in Europe, they serve wine and beer after the ceremony :)

and tonight i celebrate my new master's degree with the community and friends. it's a "tussen feestje" - an in-between party - celebrating that i've come this far (and recognizing that i've been able to do something that most people would love to do but never will) - and looking forward to my hopefully getting a Ph.D. some day.


deb said...

Congrats! Finally, they gave it to you...

Kim said...

Congratulations! I'm pretty excited for you, even if it *is* only a masters =)

Ruth said...

Sounds like it was an interesting cultural experience! And congratulations!

Theo said...

Van harte gefeliciteerd!