Graduation address: Ester Ruskuc

Tommy Oldfield
Monday 12 June 2023

Monday 12 June 2023
Afternoon ceremony

Vice-Chancellor, special guests, colleagues, and graduates, it is an honour to give this Graduation address today and congratulate all our graduates on your achievements.

Graduation means that you have successfully completed this stage at St Andrews and a new one is beginning. Moments of transition, like these, are special – we share and celebrate them, including your parents and supporters whether in person or remotely. This is your moment – earned and deserved, I very much hope that you enjoy your day.

There is no university without students: your questions, your engagement, and your energy, keep our University vibrant and our minds open. If students, like a river, flow through a university then we, the university, are its riverbanks for that important stage of your lives. A river, with its rapids as well as steadier streams, is guided by its riverbanks, but importantly a river shapes its banks, in the way that you have all left your mark here, and the University is better as a result.

I grew up, studied, and dreamed on the banks of one of the big European rivers; and on my graduation I could never have imagined that today I would be standing here talking to you almost 2000 miles away, conversing and thinking in another language, and being surrounded by such interesting and smart people. I did not always have a plan to work at a university or to do strategy; but the skills I gained, the belief that I could learn, and the drive to make a difference, grown and honed through my time at university, have been a solid foundation for all of that.

You may wonder why the sudden nostalgia! Well, ahead of this address, I did some preparation and asked an unrepresentative and statistically insignificant number of past graduates – mainly in the shape of my children and their friends – what they would have liked to have been told at their graduation. What follows is a selection from what they said.

‘Getting my first job after university was really hard, but subsequent ones were much easier, so don’t worry if it feels like a struggle the first-time round.’

‘Don’t take absolutist advice about your career as gospel. Some people will tell you that to begin with you have to stay in jobs for longer than six months; others will tell you that it is good to move around a lot. You can actually decide for yourself.’

‘It is never too late to change your mind about what you think you want to do with your life or career. You can spend years being a vet and one day decide that you want to teach piano and you will not have wasted your time.’

‘You are the raison d’être of any plan for your future – you will try and figure things out, and sometimes this will be clear earlier and other times it will happen as you go – trust yourself to be your own guide.’

And above all: ‘Don’t forget to start paying into a pension, go to the dentist, and wear suncream!’

As I mentioned earlier, you all have shaped our University during your time here. And I want to thank you for that; and for sharing this important part of your lives with us. We will always be your University.

As you move on, be confident in your skills, build on them and develop new ones, be confident in being able to think and decide for yourselves, and continue to shape the world around you, the new riverbanks, for the better.

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