July the 16th, the Graduation before

Ooh ooh, ooh
You are not alone
Ooh ooh
For the last time I am sure…

Graduation week at Solent. My favourite working week of the year, by-a-mile. A celebration of our students’ achievements, a special moment in their life, one they share with their loved ones, one they will always remember when they get old and wrinkly and I get to be part of it, helping out, ushering them, cheering them on just before they nervously walk on stage to get their certificate. Steve, a colleague told me a month later when I bumped into him how nice it was to see a friendly face down the stairs, smiling and chatting to the students before their big moment. See that’s why I love volunteering. The joy you get from it doesn’t compare to anything else.

This year was even more special, one I will remember. Why you ask.

Wednesday, 11th of July

I woke up in horrible pain. It’s not those days of the month yet, not just yet but all the anxiety took its toll. I sometimes worry the effect of stress on my body may have permanently damaged it…

I slowly got ready and went in the office early to scan and send some paperwork to the letting agent and put my gown on before I head to Guildhall for graduation.

I found out yesterday that if my references go through on time, I’ll have a place to move to on Monday. What else can go wrong you say…

Emails went through to a contact I had at the agency I rent my current flat from and my manager last night.  But neither reference forms have been filled in yet.

The heat, the thick gown and the anxiety levels fast rising caused me to break into nervous sweat. I could feel it dripping down my back.  I won’t have much time to check my phone as soon as the first ceremony starts until lunchtime…What if? What if?

Just before I finish my morning coffee I give Dan, my current landlord referee a call but there’s no answer…

I go back in, I can’t let this distract me from what I’m here to do. A year later I’m once again behind the bar at the Guildhall and some of my favourite colleagues are there. We have a chat and prepare for the morning ceremony. One of my favourite moments, the calmness and quiet before the first guests walk through the door. God I love everything about Graduation.

I check my phone every now and then, no news, neither reference has gone through yet.

At lunchtime I call the Radian main office and ask for Dan but I found out Dan had left the company so they give me another number to call. Nadine who is now managing our property was out and she was off for the rest of the week. I send an urgent email to a generic address and pray for the best.

The morning ceremony was just beautiful. There was an in house student band this year and they were in-cre-di-ble. Pete Wilson, the Popular Music and Performance course leader who organised the whole thing, did an amazing job once again.

I still remember their cover of Swim by Fickle Friends. By the end of the week we all have danced to it. Another little moment I saved in my memories box, watching everyone swinging along sometimes without realising.

Ooh ooh, ooh
You are not alone
Ooh ooh
For the last time I am sure…

After lunch I get an email from the agent, my landlord reference has gone through but not the one by my manager.

I go back in the office after we wrapped up for the day. It seems Suzanne never got that second email. Seriously? Sometimes I wonder how unlucky I can be.

I call Homelet, (the referencing company that the lettings agency is using, £75 references cost by the way, £75 for me to do all the hard work and for them to just send a reference form through email and they can’t even get that right) but they closed early that day. Come on!

I still need to book a removal company but I can’t really until I know for sure I’m moving on Monday.

It will all be VERY last minute…

Thursday 12th of July

I go straight to the Guildhall today. I want all the flat related problems to be over with so I can enjoy Graduation to the full. And soon they are.

I call Homelet first thing in the morning, apparently there was a glitch on the system but they re-send the email to Suzanne there and then, she fills in my reference soon after and then the lettings agency emails me to say that everything is OK and to go on Monday at 12pm to sign the contract, pay my deposit and get the keys. AMEN!

I can finally relax. I still have to arrange the actual move and do most of the packing before Saturday, since I’ll spend it in London but that’s something completely under my control, so I don’t have to worry about that.

The rest of the day was brilliant. I loved chatting to all my lovely colleagues, especially Gillian. What a woman. So caring, motherly and offered to help with anything. I hope she knows how lovely she is.

I loved ushering the students on stage especially Paul Maple, a talented colleague I remember since I met him when I first started working at Solent, 7 years ago, and I finally managed to sit on the big deck chair and have an ice-cream with Dext, enjoying the sunshine.

It was the best ice cream I ever had. Not because of the taste. It was a common vanilla ice cream. But that moment. The sun shining in my face, blessed I had a great day and finally a stress-free relaxing moment, after all the drama of the last four days.

Ice Cream

When I got home, I booked the removal company through AnyVan, the website I used six months ago when I moved again, I had no time to do any research and call for quote. It seems a local company accepted my quote but they didn’t send me any details straight away.  Maybe I should start thinking of Plan B in case I end up with no-one to help me move? My contract ends on Monday so I HAVE to leave my old place by then…

Friday, 13th of July

If you love somebody, let them know whilst they are here ’cause they just might run away from you… 

On Top of the World was playing on speakers and Lou, Sarah, Helen and I smiled at each other and hummed along…

I looked forward to this day for months. The last day of Graduation week 2018 and I would be part of the surprise Sarah, SingForce, the Solent choir and I were planning since Sarah came up with the idea months ago.

The morning ceremony went unexpectedly fast (in the meantime I got an email with my Removal company details, finally all ready for Monday) and with it a great surprise.

Whilst ushering students on stage, a familiar face… Steve Carter!!! Steve worked at Solent for years as the Head of Finance but I only got to know him better the last couple of years. He worked at Greece in the past so he knew Greek. Every now and then I’ll hear ‘Καλημέρα’ (Good morning) when wandering at work and it’ll make me smile, I knew it was Steve.  A sweet, caring manager and incredibly awesome at what he does.

As soon as I saw him I couldn’t help but smile. He gave me a hug and whispered in my ear how much he loved my blog. I teared up watching him go up on stage. What an honour to usher Steve on stage to get his Masters.

After a quick break for lunch, it was time for the last ceremony of 2018. Dan has just arrived, looking handsome in his black suit and Jack came along to film.

All the volunteers, exhausted but happy that we got to the end of this year’s Graduation ceremonies danced along to Swim whilst the procession came over from the Spark for the last time. Familiar faces were in the Procession who wouldn’t be under normal circumstances. Suzanne asked me if I knew why but I pretended I didn’t.

When everyone went in, just before I were to go in with Sarah and Donald to get in place for ushering, two trolleys full with gowns arrived from the Spark for the 80 special guests we were about to sneak into the Guildhall.

After ushering I didn’t get out as I normally do. I stood at the side and waited. The plan was for Dan to go on stage, start singing the first verse of On Top of the World and after that we join him, the Solent choir (some of were in the Procession) and Singforce members who came along to help us make this flashmob bigger. And we made it! What a beautiful end to an amazing week.

After wrapping up for the last time, we went out for a well-deserved drink. Sarah has done an incredible job again. Superwoman I call her. She really is. Thank you for trusting me again with such a great responsibility.

I’ll always remember Graduation week 2018. The drama and stress of moving but more so for the laughs, the chats, ushering our graduates on stage, watching Paul and Steve getting their degrees and of course the Flashmob.




What a week. Congratulations SSU graduates!

Happy weekend!

I meant to write a post about the most recent book I’ve finished reading (Awakenings) and the incredible film inspired by it but I didn’t get the time. I started writing about it today but I couldn’t not mention how my week’s been and the post became ridiculously long.

So I decided to dedicate this post my Solent Graduation week experience.

I had an amazing week (although my feet and back still hurt but totally and utterly worth it)  and I’d love to share the highlights with you.

The week didn’t start that well, I felt very unproductive for the last 10 days, thinking of what to do now, what to do next and I had this stubborn cold that wouldn’t go away, which made me feel even worse. But the week got better, way better than I thought.

On Tuesday I handed our Snowdonia climb money to my lovely friend Dan who is part of Tempo Wellbeing and will be planning a festival very soon with the amount we raised. So happy we helped such a wonderful cause.  Thank you again to every single one of you who shared/donated. We wouldn’t have done it without you.

From Wednesday until yesterday I had the most amazing time helping out with the 2017 Southampton Solent Graduation.

I’ve worked at Solent for the last 6 years but this was the first time I’ve volunteered for this and I’m incredibly proud and honoured I got to play a tiny part in it.

I love being around people, having interesting conversations, learning from others and I seize every opportunity to get out of the office, so I’m very happy I was given the chance to be part of our Graduation.

My main responsibility (on top of selling water, crowd control and general advice and guidance) was getting our graduates on stage. I fixed their gowns and hats, comforted them when they felt nervous and reminding them to take a breath and smile. What a lovely feeling to see the smile and excitement on their face.

I, as many of my colleagues who are not academics, sit in front of a PC for 8 hours every day, doing our best to keep the system up to date and working, making sure their fees are correct and on the system on time, spending hours and days updating fee regulations and so on and although I’m aware how our work impacts on our students’ experience, we don’t get to interact with students or follow their journey until the end.

To watch them graduate after three years of swimming in the adult sea, learning how to live on their own, trying hard to find a balance between partying and studying was incredible.

Some of our students, as a lot of students do,  struggled with personal issues, disability, mental and physical health issues. And I felt immensely proud to watch them get on that stage.

Needless to say it got emotional a couple of times. One of my favourite moments was a sweet, young lady, who was on a wheelchair but didn’t want to use it on stage, walking up the stairs and the crowd clapping and cheering her on. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

I cried when a brave mum who got up on stage to accept the degree on behalf of her son, who died recently. She was accompanied by her son’s classmates who some of them also worked at graduation, filming.

I was proud to watch one of the students I knew under my previous role at SSU, who worked for the University calling graduates asking them to complete the graduate survey, graduate himself a couple of years later. Congratulations Ben!

And although I did not know them personally, I was extremely proud for all Cypriot students who graduated this week. Out of everyone, I can understand best how tough it can get living alone in a foreign country, let alone when you are so young.

I loved the singer, who sang for all ten graduations and graduated herself on Wednesday. I later found she is Greek. I knew as soon as I heard her voice! Amazing voice (and hair!). She will definitely go far.

We also had lots of fun! As you’d expect. One of the reasons I love Solent is people. Most of them are the loveliest, sweetest, funniest people I’ve ever met.  I loved our chats when we got some time to sit down and rest, running up and down in our gowns, Steve Carter pretending to through his graduation book to me every time he saw me, free ice cream, lots of laughter on the MASSIVE deck chairs. Taking photo on the chairs with our boss was definitely one of the highlights!




Some of the funniest bits was watching our lovely Academics doing their best to pronounce difficult names. Martin Skivington pronouncing a name which unfortunately included the f word in the surname made everyone in the room burst into laughing.

I can’t finish this post without thanking the graduation team and especially Sarah Bishop, the organiser, the brain, the main lady behind this. Sarah has not only worked hard for a year, as she does every year, to organise the graduation ceremonies to perfection, but she was there to deal with everything thrown at her. Angry, rude guests who haven’t booked tickets and demanded to be let in although the ceremony was fully booked, students who haven’t finished their degree but showed up anyway, personally taking care of graduates who were feeling ill on the day and many many more other little and big things who happened during last week. Superwoman!

To all of our graduates, if any happens to read this post, if I could give you one piece of advice is to live your life to the full and chase your dreams NOW, whatever they might be. Even if you think they are too big or too ambitious. Go for it. Don’t wait. Never wait.

What an amazing experience. If I’m still at Solent next year, although I hope I’d moved on by then, I’d love to be a part of it again.

If not, it will always be one of the most tiring, exhausting but beautiful moments of my life.

Enjoy your weekend everyone! I’m spending mine resting my feet.

I’ll post again in the next couple of days. And it will be all about Awakenings.

Love you all

Eleni x