My Master Graduation Ceremony Speech

I was asked to do a speech at our Master's Graduation Ceremony. It went pretty well!

June 30, 2017

To those who don't know yet: I am now a fully graduated Master of Science! Holy shit! In Medialogy with a Games specialisation to be precise, with a thesis on The Narrative Quality of Games and Play. And while I might have more to say on that specific topic soon (TM), I here want to share something else that I happened to do as a consequence.

I was asked to perform a student speech at the graduation ceremony.

Now, I met this task with some trepidation, as I am still a nervous, shy individual, not used to talking in front of crowds. But I am also a writer, and had confidence that I could at least write a decent speech. The problem was just delivering it.

But, now it is over, and done, and I did it, and it went... really well. I am really proud of it, actually. And even if the feedback is only 10% accurate, sounded like people enjoyed it, too.

It is about what it means to become a Master, and what it meant to study, and how it feels to not yet be that adult we all hoped we would be. Have a read or watch it, as my father and a friend was so kind as to record it :D ).

Full Speech:

I remember watching a graduation ceremony in a TV show. It was American or something, because I remember seeing their funny little square hats. You know those? Yeah.
And I remember wanting one of those hats.
Not because they look good, but because the people wearing them… looked happy.
They looked like… adults.
Like they knew where they were going. Like, they had figured it out.

And then I learned, either then or later, that what they had done to get that hat, was get a Master’s degree.
Where we all are now. We won’t, if you haven’t noticed, get any funny hats.
I really wanted my funny hat.

I doubt most of you know me. I’m Bjarke, I’m no longer a Medialogy student, and I tend to keep to myself. This is not my natural habitat.
And, I don’t know about you, but I do not feel like an adult yet.

I do not feel ready to stand up here in front of all of you, declaring that I know how the world works. Declaring that education has made me ready for the rest of life. I don’t know if it has.
I am unsure, despite having been told countless things about how ready I should be.
We’ve all been told countless things about how to behave, how to choose, how to be productive, how to get a job, how to present ourselves, how to “just be ourselves”, how to get friends, and how to study.
As if there was a right way.

In many ways I was the exact student this government wants. Studious, hard-working, didn’t stop to take a break for a year or two, went straight from high-school, straight from bachelor’s, now ready to pay taxes.
Don’t think they expected that student to wear a hoodie and dreadlocks.

And I doubt most of my friends here were what the government expected that student to look like, either.
Many would not get in with the current grade requirements on Medialogy. And they got out of here with phenomenal grades, all of them.
And while that is in part a testament to the model we use here, I think it is also in part because the ideal student is not studious, or efficient, or fast.

What we have learned here, above all else, is how to tackle problems. How to be critical and curious. And that takes time. Both learning it and the act of doing it. We will not solve problems with easy solutions when the problems are not easy.

I went from a shy, brainy kid who sat in the back to standing up here. I (used to) bloody stutter, and I stand here. I did not have many friends in high school, and now my friends made me stand up here. None of those were easy problems. And they took time.

We are now Masters of Science (I believe so(!), you can translate).
Science as a word conjures up images of laboratories and white coats, physics professors and chemists, mathematicians and biologists, of people researching the foundations of the world.

In that sense, I didn’t do any science at all! No pouring one liquid into another, no calculating the orbit of the stars; I did not even split a single atom. Instead I wrote programs and I wrote stories. Made pixels move around on a screen, and hoped others found meaning inside them.
But we did do science. Science does not mean fact. It is not physics or astronomy, chemistry or biology, data or technology.
The word “Science”, from its Latin roots, means to “know”. It is knowledge. Being scientific means not natural but rigorous. It means not truth but understanding. You can “know” anything. What we graduate here, today, is our minds. It is the quality of our thoughts and what they bring.

And contrary to our current minister of education, I am unsure that we can ever find a quantifiable measurement for that quality. The quality of your mind, of your knowledge, is your own. It is to everyone else here, unknowable. I’m not sure I know my own.

And maybe we’re not supposed to yet. We are, after all, fairly new to this. New to the world, to life. New to ourselves.
What we will become now is uncertain. I stand here without an immediate job, without knowing how my future will shake out.

But, University says we’re done. We are now, supposedly, masters of our field.
If that title means I’m supposed to know now, then University failed.
But I don’t think so. Studying was never about making us ready for life—as much as they all tell us that. Studying was not about learning.

Because we are still learning. Just because we’re done studying doesn’t mean we should stop learning.
We started learning before we were students and we should keep learning after. It would be dangerous not to.

Then, what did it mean to be a student? I liked being a student.
It felt safe. We could hide as students. We could excuse our lack of experience, our lack of sage advice. We could assume ignorance.
We could, as students, learn in a safe environment. And fail ad nauseum, because damn, we needed to.

However, we must accept now, as we probably should have earlier, that it is no safer than anything else. If we assumed that getting a funny square hat made us understand the capital T Truth, then we must admit now that we were wrong.
And if that is true, then there is no difference between where we are now and where we are going. Of course, we are wiser. Of course we are more certain. Of course we can act the part.
But I am increasingly unsure we will ever get there.

And that’s ok.
Even if we don’t get to wear the funny hats.

Some might say we are only now entering the world, but really, we have already, always been a part of it. There is no secret formula to becoming an adult. Nor is there any hidden spell that’ll make us a Master of Science. Nor was there any clever curse that bound us in ignorant youth.

We are no longer students, but I think that matters less than my brain tells me it does. There is still plenty of studying to do. Plenty of things to learn. Plenty of problems to tackle.

And we know what it means to tackle a problem. So, this, like any other, we will deal with.
Because we are pretty good at it.
But of course, we will always wish we could have learned it a little earlier.

Thank you.

To the non-danish: Yes. We really don't get any hats when we graduate. (We do get hats after high-school instead, though. But not the same ones.)