Alastair Cameron's Letter from America

News, views and opinions from the one kiwi expat sent to New York University on a Fulbright Scholarship to study his masters of law.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

All said and done

It's unofficial; I have my master of laws. My student colleagues and I graduated last Friday and had our degrees formally conferred. And while the small-print makes this conferral contingent upon us actually passing our exams, I don't anticipate this will stand in the way of me receiving my degree. So it's more-or-less official; I have my master of laws from NYU.

We had two ceremonies in the end. One was with the entire graduating class at NYU - 15,000 students or so - in Washington Square Park. Mercifully, the ceremony did not involve each student having their name called out individually, but rather our degrees were conferred en masse in our respective schools. The law school graduation in Madison Square Gardens did involve all 946 students - JSD (doctorate), LLM and JDs - having their name called and walking across the stage to be "hooded" before shaking the hand of the dean and having our photo taken. Although long, the speeches were genuinely meaningful on the whole, and it was fun seeing friends having their 25 seconds in the limelight, so I enjoyed the day. Some photos appear below and there are more here.

And of course it is always fun to dress up for such occasions. Our gowns did make some of us feel like breaking into a James Brown gospel number: something akin to his role in the Blues Brothers . Others felt very priestly, desiring to swing some incense around in time with the music that ushered us into the hall - luckily we all restrained ourselves. People's cameras were in full flight, and below is a photo of me with my flatmates, Quang and Harold, outside our dorm.

Still, it was interesting to wear something different from the traditional, black, open-front black gowns worn during NZ graduation ceremonies. The particular shade of purple wasn't an enormously flattering colour on too many people, although I think Sharon (far left; Canada) looks pretty good in the photo below, with me and Liliana (Brazil).

And there were some particularly meaningful moments, such as the four New Zealanders in the program each graduating. None of us knew each other well before coming, but have forged what I imagine will be enduring friendships.

Nina Khouri (Akld), Sarah Raudkivi (Akld), me, Quang Trinh (Wgtn)

The two photos above were taken in Madison Square Gardens, whereas the one below of me and Nina was taken during the Washington Square Park ceremony involving the entire university.

Nina was kind enough to invite me to join her family celebration after the law school graduation on Friday. Her boyfriend, Tim, surprised Nina (and me in the process) with a trip to the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Centre. The view was spectacular, the bubbly delicious and club sandwiches cute. Thanks so much to Nina, Tim, Philip and Suzanne for adopting me for the afternoon for a memorable kiwi celebration.

One of the best things about the two graduation ceremonies was that they provided a chance to see people before they began leaving the city, as many have done this weekend. The Barristers Ball, which is the end-of-year graduation ball for final year JD students and completing LLM students provided the same opportunity. Held at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, it was great to see people letting their hair down after a long, hard exam period, and taking advantage of the open bar. The level of behaviour was very respectable on the whole, although some people looked very green around the gills at 8:45am the next morning at the graduation ceremony. Below is a shot of me, Harold and Quang on the way to the ball (good to put up a before shot...).

I have to say that it all still feels a little unreal. The year here is all but over, but that fact, and what I've achieved, hasn't properly sunken-in, which I think is because it all ended so quickly. We finished exams, graduated more-or-less the next day, and had to be out of our rooms the day after that. So there's been little time to reflect on the whole experience. Still, that reflection will occur over the coming months, filled with happy memories and perhaps some feelings of remorse that the year came to an end so soon. But even now, I do feel some sense of the achievement involved with getting a masters from one of the best law schools in the world.

Right now, however, I will enjoy the company of my brother and sister here in New York, free from the pressure of readings, lectures and exam study. They're off sight-seeing at the moment, leaving me some much-needed own time to write this blog and read my book in a cute cafe on the Upper East Side (providing free wireless internet allowing me to use my own laptop - pure luxury).

If I can find something to say, I may post again before leaving New York. Otherwise, I'll hail next from London.


At 6:10 am, Blogger Matt said...

Congratulations, great stuff for finishing your studies. Rock on!

At 4:16 am, Blogger Dean Knight said...


big snaps indeed!

At 8:27 pm, Blogger Jordan said...

nice pics and well done Al - look forward to seeing you in the UK's summer heat soon enough ;)


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At 1:34 am, Blogger G. said...

Congratulations Alastair!

Do I look like a s.?

At 2:26 am, Blogger stef said...

Wow! Sounds like you had a fantastic time. All the best in London.

At 4:13 pm, Blogger G. said...

Alastair we wanna have some news on the troubles you got yourself into in London!!!
Update the blog!!!

At 2:36 am, Blogger Xavier said...

Gah! So much purple! [My Eyes!]

At 7:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations !!!

I can't believe you have finished your studies. At least to me, it sounds that we left Berkeley just a few weeks ago!!! I am starting to be worried about the time. The older I get, the faster the time goes.

You might be very happy – if you aren’t you are out of your mind ! – for finishing your LLM and returning to New Zeeland after a whole year in USA.

I wish you have all luck in the world, and, I’m sure you will be very successful !!!

P.S. I wait for the day I will turn on the TV and see Alaister as New Zeeland's President, Senator or Judge of the Supreme Court.

P.P.S Do you still have my e-mail ?

I hope hearing from you soon.

Kind Regards

James or Thiago from Brazil

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