Memories of my winter congregation day

Pedro Mendez-Carvajal

Great friends

Congregation in January 2020 was a very important occasion for me. After several years of working hard to obtain my PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology, I made the long journey back to the UK from Panama. My celebrations had already begun – after drinking very good whisky at Jim’s house, one of the best friends I made during my studies, I woke up on the morning of my graduation ceremony feeling dizzy. I barely had time to put on my formal clothes before running to the queue to pick up my graduation gown!  

The day was filled with rain and fog. While walking to the Cathedral, I was looking at my shoes (while hurrying) and anticipating the momentous ceremony. I reflected on my time at Durham – hours of joy at the bars with friends, coupled with the relentless responsibility of a doctoral student!  

My prayers were answered

Months prior I had prayed: “God, if you wish for me to achieve greatness, then help me to attend the best university and I promise I will do everything in my power to take advantage of this great opportunity”. Later on, I discovered I had been accepted into Durham!  

My journey to arrive at Durham did not begin well, however. I travelled by train from London but fell asleep, missing Durham completely and continuing all the way to Edinburgh. I was very nervous to start with and my head was a tornado of thoughts – the goals I should aim to achieve, procedures, how to find St Mary’s and what it would be like living in one of the best colleges in one of the best universities in the world. 

A wonderful time

But after a wonderful few years immersing myself in my PhD and life in Durham City, in the Winter of 2020, I accomplished my goal. I was privileged to be part of a great team under the best professors in the Department of Anthropology. I will never forget my congregation day having travelled from around the world to be there. I decided to dedicate it to all my teachers – professors that enabled my studies at Durham – and my scouters and community leaders who taught me to persevere.  

I also remember the challenges I had to overcome to succeed, realizing that all of them helped me to better myself in some way. My message to all current and future graduates is this – never give up!  

Thank you Durham University and the Panamanian Government for this opportunity! 

Discover more

Read more memories of past congregation ceremonies in this selection of blogs

Pedro Mendez-Carvajal

I am a member of St Mary's College and studied Evolutionary Anthropology. I graduated in January 2020 with a PhD

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