Ting! I jump to attention. The committee is processing solemnly into the hall. This is the first PhD ceremony I have attended since my own. The ceremony itself has little effect on me, but the setting does. I revisit my old life for a while. A brief reunion with former close friends I’ve been losing touch with, without meaning to.
A nostalgic feeling creeps over me. It was always such fun, but it is gone for ever. Many of my friends have gone abroad. For a postdoc, or to return to their home countries. Berlin, China, the US, Catalonia. And I see less and less of the friends who are still around. Post-academic life is swallowing me up. All too often I don’t even manage to reply to friendly Facebook messages from people from my former life (sorry), let alone managing to meet up for a beer.
Since I left the university world, I feel less connected with it too. Suddenly I am meeting lots of nice new people whose situation is more similar to mine now. And I connect with them faster.
I feel new in Wageningen. For the third time. The first time was as a student, the second as a PhD candidate, and now as... yes, what am I actually? Each time I have found myself in a different kind of town. And each time it turns out to be bursting with open, interesting and committed people with whom you quickly make friends. That is the charm of it. On the other hand, nothing lasts long. That is Wageningen. Everything is transitory here.