Americans know how to do graduations, don’t they. They somehow pack out entire football stadiums just to watch the students walk across the stage in a cap and gown.
Then there’s the whole thing of throwing the cap in the air in exuberant joy, as the sun beams down and the graduating students leap in the air, full of excitement for the future and momentarily unaware of the enormous student debt that will loom over them for years to come.
When I graduated, a couple mates and I threw our caps in the air only for them to fly away in the wind and drizzle. As they rolled along the ground, always slightly out of reach, I pathetically ran after mine while trying not to trip over the rented gown I was wearing that was two sizes too big. The cap eventually came to rest in a muddy puddle.
And yes, you’re right, it is a fitting visual metaphor for how my life has gone since that graduation ceremony.
One college student has decided to really embrace her graduation photos though, not by throwing the cap or leaping in the air, but by posing with a 14ft alligator.
I’m not sure if it’s a visual metaphor – perhaps it shows the trying circumstances many people must overcome to graduate, or that in the end we’ll all get eaten by wild animals, thereby trivialising the whole college process – or not. Either way, they are pretty cool photos.
Makenzie Noland, a student at Texas A&M University, posed in her cap and gown with the alligator – called Big Tex – to celebrate completing her degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences.
The student has been interning at a Beaumont rescue centre, home to about 450 alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles, where she has developed a special bond with Big Tex.
She says he responds to his name and reacts to hand signals whenever Makenzie gets in the pond to feed him.
Speaking to the BBC, Makenzie said:
I get in the water with that animal every day – he’s one of my best friends there!
Starting from a young age I was always picking up snakes, holding animals, talking to kids and educating the public.
The 21-year-old grew up in Bellevue, Nebraska, and is no stranger to having wild alligators stroll through her garden.
Big Tex was adopted by the rescue centre after overfeeding turned him in to a nuisance for local boats in the area. Pesky ol’ Tex.
In all reality we don’t want to bring these animals back, we want them to live in the bayous and canals out in the swampy areas.
But since he is with us, he’s a wonderful representation of what it’s like to train an animal and show off his personality. They’re wonderful creatures – and they’re not all maneaters!
As for the reaction to her graduation pics, Makenzie said:
I was not expecting this; I just expected to post a couple of cute photos on my Instagram. It’s been incredible.
I wonder which animal she’ll pose with if she does a master’s.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.