The Journey so Far

Reflections on my Graduation Day

June 14th, 2024, marked a day that I will cherish forever, my PhD graduation. It was a culmination of intense study, sleepless nights, and (for much of it) not really knowing what I was doing. I remember the countless times I had to rewrite my research proposal, the sleepless nights before my thesis defence, and the constant battle with imposter syndrome. This journey tested my resilience and passion for learning almost to the point of giving up. As I stood in my cap and gown, surrounded by my fellow graduates, professors, family and friends, I reflected on the path that led me to this moment in time.

The Day Begins

The day began with a mixture of excitement and nervousness and of course dropping my beloved dog Bailey off to the minder for 24 hours; Bailey, needless to say, was less impressed by my graduation! Bailey (and Paws who I lost last year) were my constant companions throughout my PhD journey, providing comfort during stressful times and reminding me to take breaks. On June 14th, I arrived early with my family; being an early bird is how I cope with anxiety, and as much as possible being prepared for all expected and unexpected events. Luckily, there were no unexpected events, and we had plenty of time to catch up with colleagues and share in the excitement of the day before the activities began.

As I joined the parade of graduates and we made our way to the auditorium, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. For me, and maybe for many of you, a sense of accomplishment is not easily felt because I have always struggled to be proud of myself and appreciate my effort. Indeed, I find it easier to be self-critical and tend to reflect on what I have not done, minimizing what I have accomplished. But not today!!! Today I could not help but reflect on the countless hours of research, and yes, the moments of self-doubt, but mostly, the support of my loved ones that led me to this point.

The Middle

The ceremony itself was a beautiful blend of tradition and celebration. As tradition in Trinity College Dublin, the ceremony was spoken in Latin, a language that has been a part of the college’s history for centuries. This tradition, while a bit challenging for non-Latin speakers like me, added a unique and nostalgic touch to the ceremony. However, there were QR codes available where I could have got the information in English had I been as efficient as some. Nevertheless, more than the words being said, what made the ceremony beautiful was the people in the building, a community of family friends and colleagues coming together to share this special occasion.

After the ceremony we gathered for a reception, a time to celebrate with those who had been part of the journey. Friends and colleagues shared their experiences of late-night studies, conference presentations and countless hours of writing and rewriting academic papers. We laughed about the times we struggled to understand complex theories, and we shared our excitement about the future. What we all had in common was the sense today ‘it was all worth it’.

The Next Chapter

As a lifelong learner, I believe that if you stop learning, there’s nothing left to do; graduation day was not an end. Rather, it was the beginning of a continuous drive to learn about anything and everything that matters to me, my family, my community, and society. The PhD journey teaches you how to be a researcher and how to critically analyse information in a reasoned, logical and fair-minded way. As I continue my goal to develop as a researcher and critical thinker, I carry with me the lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the mistakes made. I am proud of having accomplished something truly significant. And if I were to select one thing that helped me make it this far, I would say the people in my life (1) my family, (2) my friends, (3) my Trinity community and (4) my dogs.

Dr Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly

Dr Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly Collage

Posted on 18th June, 2024, under News