Graduation 2018

During one of the last laboratories of the semester, I had a pleasant surprise coming from my students: they had elected me as their favourite professor from their four year of studies. It was a very weird moment for me, as during that lab I was quite angry at them, since we had to stay over hours to finish their projects. But it was definitely something that helped me feel better afterwards :)

According to the tradition, their favourite professors (they elect two people, one for the English and one for the Romanian line of studies) need to give a speech during their graduation ceremony. All the students are dressed in their regalia, parents are there to admire their children and everybody is super happy and proud. And since parents are present, the speech is prefered to be in Romanian, so that everybody can understand it.

For the documentation, I thought it might be nice to write down the speech I gave to the students here. I present a rough translation of what I said, as far as I remember (since I didn’t really type my speech on beforehand). So here it is:

Dear students,

I want to congratulate you for reaching this milestone. You’ve worked hard, and you are just one step before a very big realisation in your life: obtaining a bachelor’s degree! You studied a lot and I am sure you are really looking forward to the end of all this effort: the studying, the exams, constantly learning new things. But I have some news for you. Some good news, and some bad news.

The bad news are that learning does not really end with the end of your degree. Some of you will continue their studies in a Masters program or even further to the pursuit of a PhD degree. But even for those of you that will turn towards the industry, you will have to constantly learn and prove yourself for years to come. Your new exams will be the reports to your boss and your new laboratories will be the working sessions with your colleagues.

But there are also the good news! The good news are that…. learning does not really end with the end of your degree. And this is good, because learning is an essential need of humans. It help us be productive, contribute to the society, make this world a better place! You should feel blessed for having the opportunity to constantly learn, an opportunity that was unimaginable just a few generations ago. Because as Mahatma Gandhi said once: Live your life as if you were to die tomorrow, but learn as if you were to live forever.

How can you go on learning after university though? Without professors and assistants? Who will be there to instruct you, to provide material, to test if you are doing well, to grade your exams? Well, I have a secret for you, and since you are now about to graduate, I can share it with you. Your professors were not responsible for your learning. We as professors are like chefs in a restaurant. We prepare a plate with food and we serve it for you. And there are different types of dishes arranged differently. However, you choose how much and from which plate you will eat. If you don’t have any appetite, you will not eat even from the most delicious plate. If you are hungry though, you will eat whatever is served from you. So it was you that was responsible for your learning all this time. We were just helping you cover your apetite for learning. And it is you who will be responsible for keeping on learning from now on as well.

I want to wish you all the best for your future life as engineers, to make good decisions and to always have a big appetite for learning.

Tassos Natsakis
Lecturer on Robotics and Biomechanics


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