That “graduation speech” that I would love to hear

Dear graduates, all of you, although today I especially address those of you who have completed the double degree in Journalism and International Relations! You have achieved something that only a few achieve. But before you are devoured by the giant called “real life”, I want to offer you some advice and, if you allow me, also add some humour to cheer up the atmosphere.

First and foremost, I want to offer you my most sincere congratulations. Yesterday you were the shining stars of the moment, wearing elegant suits and dresses that barely hid the dark circles from the long nights of study and the stains of spilled coffee. You have overcome the trials and tribulations of this gigantic castle of knowledge. You were there ready to receive your degree, that diploma that certifies that, indeed, you know something.

But now, let me share with you a somewhat less pleasant truth. As you delve into the vast world that exists beyond the walls of the University, or rather, beyond the walls that the University has erected in your minds and bodies, you will discover that many of the things you have learned are already obsolete and useless. That they are things that weigh in your backpack and that it is better to stop, take them out and leave them behind.

And now, how are you? No, really, how are you? Because if you are sitting there, as tense as during the final exams, we’ve already got off to a bad start!! But don’t worry, today there is no exam. Instead, there is something I would like to examine with you: your past and your future.

You have spent a good time in this venerable institution, the university, a place of ancient tradition. Some might say it is as medieval as the socks you left unwashed in the residence during the first semester. But what does this medieval institution teach us? For some, it seems like a magical kingdom full of knowledge and wisdom. For others, it is a confusing place full of challenges and boring tribulations. And for those of you who got stuck in the elevator of the humanities building during the 2020 pandemic, it surely is a dungeon full of terror. But what you must remember is that the university, like many other social institutions, has a structure and processes that are very irrelevant to life outside its walls. In other words, leave it behind! That’s right, forget about the hours of study, forget about the subjects that have nothing to do with life and, above all, forget about the panic that invaded you before each exam. As you have already discovered, life does not structure itself in semesters and challenges do not come in the form of a list of questions with a study guide attached. Although this time at university will always have a special place in your hearts, you must learn to live without it and leave it in the past.

But let’s talk about the teachers! Those magnificent and erudite teachers who have guided you throughout your studies. Remember their wise advice and teachings, but take them as if they were tequila, with a good pinch of salt. Because despite their wisdom, many of them have not left academia since Nixon was president. And although they consider themselves experts in their respective disciplines, their practical experience is limited to the three places in town they know well: their home, university and corner bakery. And don’t forget that other teacher who still thinks that coffee from faculty machine is the best thing ever. Those teachers should get out more often!

Speaking of what they taught you and what you studied, I’m afraid it’s time to face reality. Half of what you learned is useless in real life. And worst of all is that you will never know which half it is. Yes, I know it sounds depressing. It’s like finding out that all food in university cafeteria is made from tofu. But don’t worry, not everything is lost. You will learn to discern useful from useless. It’s just a matter of time. Just as you know that tomato sauce stains a white shirt, you will learn what knowledge works for you and what doesn’t.

And as for dynamics of subjects and individual assessments through exams, let me remind you something that surely you already know: life is not an exam. There are no clear and definitive questions or correct and incorrect answers. Life is more like a costume party, you never know what you’re going to find.

So what do you really take away from all of this? A diploma, some gray hairs, maybe some student loan debts? Well, there’s something else.

First, that title you have now is like a social master key. It’s an exclusive entry pass to many opportunities. When people see “Graduate” twice on your resume next to your name, they will look at you in a different way. But beware! Don’t try to use your titles as credit cards at supermarket or coins to pay for the bus. It doesn’t work, I know from experience.

Second, you have an invaluable network of contacts. Your classmates are your most powerful and accessible network. And unlike social media, they won’t block you if you post embarrassing photos of your next trip. Make sure you keep this network well lubricated with meetings, dinners, and of course your amazing messages that say “I love you” “I like you” and “let’s see each other soon” on trendy apps. And, although sometimes these “friendships” have been more dramatic than an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, always remember that you are stronger together and that phrase “he who has friends has a treasure” is truer than you thought.

In addition, you have acquired general understanding of your disciplines.  It’s like after watching an 8-season Netflix series: you don’t remember all the details, but you have a general idea of the plot. Does anyone remember the name of the cousin of the secondary character from the third season? Yes, me neither. Unlike “Game of Thrones”, we hope your ending will be much more satisfying.

You have also discovered what you like and what you don’t like. Like when you tried for the first-time cafeteria food and discovered that “mysterious chef stew” was not your thing. This self-awareness is invaluable. But, most important of all is that you have discovered what you DON’T like, something essential to find your way in life and avoid pitfalls that will make you sad and bored. Sometimes it’s more important to know what you DON’T want than what you DO want. Like when they ask you if you want more tequila after the third round. Discovering what we “DON’T like because it doesn’t suit us” is an art that we should all master.

These years have also taught you an important lesson: learning is a constant cycle of forgetting and relearning. Like when you forget your university wi-fi password and have to reset it over and over again. Or like navigating through software updates on your phone. Just when you have got used to one version, another new one comes out. “Learning to forget and relearn” is an essential skill. And you have had a lot of training in this. I repeat, this is not a flaw, it is a great skill. In a world that changes so fast that even science fiction films become obsolete, the ability to adapt and learn constantly is more valuable than gold.

And finally, you take away a treasure of memories and experiences that will serve as inspiration in adult life. Like that semester when you decided to form a band or go on Erasmus, despite having no idea how to play an instrument or how to ask where the bathroom is in German. Those are the memories that will make you smile in the years to come. Recreate these youth experiences, updated and expanded at each stage of life. Invent new study afternoons somewhere that reminds you of the library. Create new party nights as if you were still on Erasmus. Because that’s what will give you strength and courage to face the challenges of the real world. Do you remember that time when you had to do a presentation in class with only two hours of sleep and a cup of coffee? That, dear young people, is a premonition of much of what awaits you.

But there are still many things they haven’t told you and that you will have to discover for yourselves. Things that will surprise you, scare you, make you laugh and cry. Things that will make you feel alive.

We live in a world where Artificial Intelligence has changed the rules of the game in just 6 months. You will face challenges and opportunities for which we don’t even have names. Can you imagine having to interview an AI for a story? “So, Mr Robot, how do you feel about it?”. Or maybe in the future, international agreements will not be written by internationalists and lawyers, but by robots. “Hello, I’m RoboWriter3000, and this is the best deal for today…” Can you imagine it? At least, you won’t have to worry about spelling mistakes. Remember what you already know: technology advances so fast that the new phone you carry in your pocket is practically an antique. By the way, know that it’s not a phone, but that you always carry with you a pocket supercomputer connected to the largest computer network you can imagine. And that, well used, is a great superpower.

You will have to learn to distinguish between obsolete and new. Like when you try to connect your new iPhone to an old charger at university and realise it doesn’t fit. That is, you have to say goodbye definitely to things like Word from all your life and WhatsApp, and welcome the era of Artificial Intelligence and assisted and expanded communication in real time. The good news is that you won’t have to say goodbye to cafeterias, because they will still be the ideal place to clear your mind.

It is also important that you learn to balance your effort. In university, it seems that you have to give everything, but in real life it is not always necessary or healthy. Sometimes, you will have to burn your eyelashes and other times it will be better to relax and enjoy a good book, have a few beers or do a Netflix marathon. Remember, there will be times when it will be much better to prepare for 5 and not pretend to get 10. Sometimes life is like a marathon; other times it’s like a sprint.

The mastery of teamwork is essential. Even if you have the experience of those group projects where there was one who seemed to be on a team by himself. Collaboration and mutual respect are vital. Remember, an orchestra can have the best musicians and a conductor who coordinates them, but if they don’t understand and collaborate, they will only produce noise. And believe me, there is a lot of noise out there that you don’t want to participate in.

And very important, you must learn to set limits. Like when your noisy roommate wanted to have a party the night before an exam. Remember, it’s okay to say “no”. It is essential that you learn to say “no” to yourself and to others. This is especially useful when your boss asks you to work during the weekend. When that happens, look at him like the roommate who asks you to clean up his mess. You don’t have to accept everything that is asked of you. NO to that job, NO to that boss, NO to that company, NO to that impact. Learn to set limits. Practice saying “no” when necessary. After all, you don’t want to end up like that classmate who always stayed doing the work that no one wants to do, right?

Finally, I want to talk to you about something of vital importance: self-management, especially in your emotional and mental well-being. In a world full of distractions, it is crucial that you learn to manage your attention. It is easy to get lost in the constant noise of news and social media. But remember, your attention is valuable and deserves to be cared for. No one has told you yet, but your attention is the “compass” that will help you find the right path and out there is a whole industry of compass thieves. Don’t let them steal your compass.

At university, we used to study until late, drink coffee as if there was no tomorrow and worry about every little grade. But out of here, you must learn to take care of yourself. To exercise, eat well, rest, meditate. To take a moment to breathe and smile and recalibrate your compass.

You must also choose the most convenient and beneficial intention and attitude. And no, I’m not talking about choosing between being a Gryffindor or a Slytherin. I’m talking about choosing to be kind, patient and understanding. To always maintain curiosity, especially in the face of what is known. Also, in the face of the unknown. To choose to work hard and take time to relax and enjoy.

Because, at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. Not the titles you have or the jobs you get. What really matters is that you are happy, that you feel fulfilled and that you make the world a better place. Self-discovery and self-management are a journey, not a destination. So, I encourage you to embark on this journey with even greater curiosity and dedication than you have shown during your years at the university. And when the things get tough, remember to always laugh, even at yourself. Because a day with laughter is the best remedy for any situation.

So, as you leave these ancient walls behind and go out into the world, I urge you to do so with joy, courage and love. Always remember your roots, always remember the laughs and the lessons learned. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to fall and get up, to explore and discover. Ask for help and offer it. Because, in the end, this is all what it means to be human.

Congratulations again, now graduate people! I am excited to see the future ahead of you. I hope and wish that each one of you is a headlight of change in this world that is so confusing and chaotic, so constantly evolving. Come out and embrace the world! Your future awaits you! And best of all, your future will be what you yourselves choose it to be! Never forget it! As I heard a long time ago: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”

The School of We

Contact with TSoW

For more information about our services, please fill in the contact form! Thanks!