Home Sweet Home – Graduation

Lucy, John, me, Jorge, Xavier, Claudia and Maxi after the ceremony - and during our picture-taking barrage

Lucy, John, me, Jorge, Xavier, Claudia and Maxi after the ceremony – and during our picture-taking barrage

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.

My reason for coming to Leeds last week...

My reason for coming to Leeds last week…

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 🙂

Claudia and Trish (I figured I'd get the latter in a photo since I'm so thrilled she was able to make it to the ceremony)

Claudia and Trish (I figured I’d get the latter in a photo since I’m so thrilled she was able to make it to the ceremony)

Xavier (has a nice smile), Claudia and Davina

Xavier (has a nice smile), Claudia and Davina

I so love Simon's gown!

I so love Simon’s gown!

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.

Clare and I at the Eldon

Clare and I at the Eldon

Me and Mohammed - the first person I met in Leeds

Me and Mohammed – the first person I met in Leeds

One of my old-Burley Road housemates Thient (she actually wondered why I didn't invite her to her graduation. Not many people asked me that)

One of my old Burley Road housemates Thient

Scott and I at a bar named the Aire - I actually lost my Tetley virginity that night (It's a local beer, by the way)

Scott and I enjoying chatter over beer

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 🙂

You figured the Greens would be out in force

the Greens were out in force

One of the musical acts at Unity Day

One of the musical acts at Unity Day

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.

I like one of two flags more than the other

I like one of the two flags more than the other

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.

Match day in the red half of North London

Match day in the red half of North London

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.

Me and Yassin on a night we explored North London

Me and Yassin on a night we explored North London

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.

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8 Comments

  1. What a great milestone and beautiful pictures. All the best and congrats!

    • Thanks. The ceremony and my trip to England was so much fun.

  2. Congrats on graduating! It looks like you had a wonderful time revisiting and catching up with friends! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for your comment. I had a blast in Leeds and London 🙂 – it helps that the weather was nice, which isn’t always a given during a U.K. summer. I’m really looking forward to returning to the U.K. and hopefully, that will come soon.

  3. Congratulations on your graduation, Rashaad! And I’m so glad you had a great time reconnecting with friends in London while you were there.

    • Thanks. I would love to return to Leeds to see friends but I don’t know when I will be able to do so. But I often wish I were still in the U.K.

  4. So glad you made it back there Rashaad….looks like you had a blast catching up with old friends! Make sure you connect up with all of them on LinkedIn….what a great resource that is (sorry for the PSA, lol).

    • Thanks for the response 🙂 Going to England was exactly what I needed for my sanity (as I’m in the job hunt) as it was great to meet up with friends and colleagues at Leeds Beckett (yeah, I’ll definitely a point to network with them). I’m so looking forward to returning to the U.K.

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