Posted by: vlibrizzi | June 9, 2009

La Ceremonie de Remise des Diplomes a.k.a. Graduation day

IMG_2681Yesterday I attended my graduation from the Sorbonne. It seemed a bit silly to me to attend—I had only studied French for one semester and clearly haven’t come close to mastering the languge, but now I’m graduating? 

But nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to see how French graduations work, so I donned my cap and gown and took part in the festivities.

IMG_2678 I arrived at the main Sorbonne building at 47 Rue des Ecoles (photo to the left) just before 2 pm. The security guards wouldn’t let us in until exactly 2 pm although it was pouring rain outside (ugh!), but when they did let us enter the esteemed halls, my friends and I took a quick tour around the famous building, and the were shooshed into the Grand Amphitheatre for the ceremony to begin.

IMG_2687The ceremony began  with an address by the director of the program (photo to the left), then the president of the program, then an important professor….you know how it goes…lots of graduation speeches about how “you are the keys to the future” or, as one of the graduation speakers yesterday put it, “you are the ambassadors of France to your country.” But this time it was different because all the speeches were, of course, in French!

IMG_2691After the preliminary speeches, we were ushered onto the stage where our name and nationality were announced, and where we were given our diploma by one of the directors of the program. I was a bit nervous about being on stage and having to speak in French, but I held my own, I think 🙂 (Clearly, I couldn’t take a photo of myself receiving my diploma so the photo above is of another student receiving his diploma and then having to have a short conversation with the director)

IMG_2695After 1/3 of the students received their diplomas, the commencement speaker gave her address. The school had invited the granddaughter of Albert Camus to speak to us. She gave a really interesting speech about how to achieve personal success like her grandfather, and she read some of her favorite lines that he wrote. 

IMG_2693Then, our class speaker gave his address. He was a student who had reached the highest level at the Sorbonne: superior. As he spoke, I took photos of the other graduates (as you can see in the photo to the left), but as my camera snapped away, I  had fleeting ambitions of being that superior student someday giving a speech to the other graduates all in French. But then I remembered that to get to that level, I’d have to spend a year and a half more at the Sorbonne, which is something that I would absolutely love to do, but I’m not sure if C. would be too keen on staying in Paris sans travaille et sans apartement while I finish my French studies. Une idee tres mauvaise! 

IMG_2703So, then after the class speaker finished his speech, and my dreams of reaching his level of French studies were dashed, two soloists performed. Each one sang two songs on their own (all in French) and then did a beautiful duet together.

But by then, the graduation had lasted over 2.5 hours with no clear end in sight….about 1/3 of the students still hadn’t received their diplomas yet! So, I snuck out the back door, ditched my cap and gown, and bolted for the metro. One can only have so much pomp and circumstance, if you know what I mean 🙂

Later on last night, C. and I had dinner with some friends, two of whom were French. I was telling them about my graduation and how excited I was to go to a real French graduation and then be able to blog about it later, when they looked at me quizzically. Apparently, the French do not have graduations at all; they just finish their exams and then get their diplomas in the mail. I guess graduations are  a totally American thing. And, as my French friend said last night, my  Sorbonne graduation yesterday, was just a total “tourist gimmick.” Bah humbug! All that pomp and circumstance for nothing?!?!



  1. well, I am proud of you for graduating Val! I’ve been loving the blog lately, although I’m disappointed that after years of hanging out with me, you didn’t know that a good head on a good belgian beer is always a good thing 😉

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