Home Sweet Home – Graduation
When I left the U.K. in mid-January, I was unsure when I would return. Of course, I wanted to return as soon as I had departed – but it was just a matter of whether circumstances would allow me to make a quick return.
Fortunately, they did – and in time for me to attend my graduation. I officially finished my course at Leeds Beckett last October but the graduation would take place this summer (The school spreads its graduation throughout a week in July and each day features several ceremonies). Several of my coursemates mentioned they were planning on attending, so that was the perfect motivation to book a U.K. holiday.
As for the actual ceremony, it was short but sweet. American graduation ceremonies tend to be marked by one dominant speaker who blabbers stuff no one will remember. But a couple of speakers did drop some important nuggets: “Make glorious mistakes” and “The harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.” More importantly though, walking across the stage was exciting and better yet: my name was pronounced correctly 🙂
Aside from walking across the stage (and the sun deciding not to take a nap afterwards) the most super part of the day was the reunion aspect. Not surprisingly, I hadn’t seen most of my coursemates in several months so graduation presented a great chance to meet up. Five of us were present and my post-walking across the stage day included a copious amount of picture-taking and fun chatter over beer.
But my U.K. trip was far from limited to walking across a stage. Over my five days in West Yorkshire’s finest city, I met up with as many people as I could. The Leeds portion of my stay really didn’t take me to any new sights – but beers, hot chocolate and chatter with friends is always better than sightseeing.
But Leeds’ favorite and coolest green locale would be the scene for plenty of Saturday fun – the weekly and the annual. Saturday was a normal and abnormal parkrun day. Abnormal because… I’ll touch on that in more detail later. But I was given a shout out at the start by one of the race organizers because I was “coming home.”
As for the race, after 30-45 seconds, I usually have a good feeling about how the day will turn out. Well early on, I was very much in the front pack and starting the third loop, the race was mine for the taking. And I won 🙂
Okay… why was it an abnormal parkrun Saturday? Well because the course was modified to accommodate Hyde Park Unity Day – the annual celebration of the LS6 postal code. A day full of musical performances, stands selling secondhand books and groovy clothes as well as organizations promoting their services. Being a day to celebrate the youthfulness of Hyde Park, the scent of Mary Jane not surprisingly fills the air.
But a full day in Hyde Park was not in the calling – a 1:45 bus to the capital was. My flight from Heathrow left early the next morning so a Saturday night in Leeds was impractical.
After a bus ride that filled my ears non-stop with “My Humps” for 30-45 minutes, I made a beeline for the Arsenal Backpackers’ Tavern – a place I’ve stayed at before and in area of town that comes alive when Arsenal Football Club is playing at home.
Which was the case on Saturday. The Finsbury Park and Arsenal Tube stations were crammed with jubliant Gunners fans. I’m not sure how really jubilant they should have been – after all, they only won a friendly (6-0 against Olympique Lyonnais). But it’s a spectacle to see the red half of North London congregating (or dispersing) on match day (although it does cause a hassle for Tube staff to direct the crowds).
Although I was a bit disappointed to be leaving Leeds, my disappointment further evaporated when after checking into my hostel, a fellow guest amazingly recognized me. A dude named Ela – whom I met at a CouchSurfing gathering in Leeds – mentioned that I looked familiar when he saw my Leeds Beckett University bag. Interestingly enough, he and his friend Moses were in town to attend the Arsenal Football Club. It was quite fun catching up.
And another reason why I should be happy about spending a night in the capital came up. My bud Yassin texted me and said he’d be willing to hang in North London. A bit surprising because I didn’t think there was anything worth seeing near my hostel other than the Emirates Stadium.
But Yassin took me on a tour of Kingsland High Street, which he described as being full of “hipsters, cool people and real Londoners.” As well as interestingly attired people 🙂 The street is also a focal point of the capital’s Turkish community, boasting Turkish restaurants, baths, barbers and travel agencies. Yassin told me that Kingsland High Street is livelier than much of the city center.
Pretty fun place to spend a last night in the U.K.