Every university has its traditions, and every university likes to believe that their traditions are the best. Luckily for attendees of The University, their way of doing things actually is the best, but I digress. Graduation is upon us, kids. Time to pound a bottle of cheap champagne-ish substance with your best friends, walk the lawn in a decorated cap that absolutely guarantees a bad hair day, and let one single, stoic tear roll augustly down your slightly sunburnt cheek. If you’re feeling unprepared for the whirlwind of Final Exercises, here’s a taste of what to expect.
First, Streak the Lawn.
Okay, you’ve probably done this (even if prior to enrollment you were a denim-cutoffs wearing never-nude like Tobias Fünke) but you’re walking this weekend. Pretty much everything you do right now is going to be your last _____ as a UVA student. That won’t mean much to you until the end of this summer when it hits you that you’re not going back to classes. When it hits you, though, you’re going to want the memory of your last streak. Don’t trip on the terraces, and watch out for chairs.
Buy your Balloon (or environmentally sustainable balloon-like device)
I swear, this is not a UVA only thing, and it’s actually pretty polarizing. Many students choose to carry giant balloons to identify themselves in the throng of their graduating class, much like the tour guides in Rome might so that they don’t lose their tourists. In recent years, environmental clubs have requested that you not do this. On the one hand, the balloons look cool in pictures. On the other hand, you have to manage an oversized balloon all through final exercises. Have you ever taken a toddler to Disneyland and then needed them to sit quietly between your knees for an hour of speech? Take that experience and then imagine the toddler can float. Maybe carry your childhood stuffed animal on a pike? That’s what the tour guides do, anyway.
Prepare for Rain
You may have heard the refrain “It Never Rains in Charlottesville.” This is a joke. Anyone telling you otherwise is a liar. It rains hard in Charlottesville, and it almost always rains (at least a little) at Final Exercises. Wear sensible shoes.
Walk the Lawn
This one seems obvious, but there are some symbolic reasons that we walk the lawn the way that we do- through the rotunda, down the lawn to Old Cabell. It is a symbolic procession away from our home of learning and out into broader society. A little advice- it’s okay to walk slowly. Savor it. Don’t trample down the lawn. And wait to take selfies until you’re seated.
The Last Good Ole Song
As part of the ceremony, your class will sing one final iteration of the Good Ole Song together. Remember what I said earlier, about the streaking? This is the PG version of this. Sing. Sway. Graduate.
Turn Your Ring
Remember that piece of metal you’ve been wearing on your finger since third year, with the friendly Minvera staring up at you from the center of the University seal? It’s time to change the way you wear that. Graduates traditionally orient their rings outwards, facing the world, as an emblem of their readiness to share their knowledge with those around them.
Receive a Jefferson Cup (and drink from it)
There’s a joke in here somewhere about things all UVA graduates have- closets full of preppy clothes, an over-inflated sense of self-importance, and a Jeff cup on their desk full of change. The Jefferson cup is a tradition that dates back to 1806 and TJ himself, and it lives on today. Having one with your grad year and the University seal is basically compulsory, though they’re given on other occasions as well.
This weekend, move your tassel, unwrap your Jefferson cup, and raise it up – to dear old UVA!