Graduation season has arrived: Big business

From rehearsal to graduation ceremony, a time for big spending on gifts, flowers, hair, make-up, clothes with everyone from Facebook showing up as guests.

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EDUCATION

The business of graduation

The second most expensive season in Thailand is upon us
11/06/2013
Parisa Pichitmarn

It was once a solemn, sacred day, more scholarly than social, more ceremonial than festive. But around five or six years ago, with the boom of digital cameras and social media that allow self-celebratory broadcasts, the commencement and graduation ceremonies in Thailand have shifted to a whole new level. They've become our culture's most glorified rite-of-passage milestone - not to say the second most expensive, perhaps only after a wedding.

His Majesty the King handing out the degrees surely lent prestige to the ceremonies in the time of our parents, and although the King no longer does so now, other members of the Royal Family still do, making Thailand the only country in the world to have royalty giving out university degrees. That means the day has always been a big deal, but how people respond to this big deal has changed from, say, 40 years ago: it is much more expensive and wasteful, if not blown quite out of proportion.

The graduation season is upon us. Throughout this month, most universities will be holding rehearsals for the actual ceremonies in July.

In the current mindset of fresh graduates, such an auspicious event calls for all things professional, whether documentation or maquillage. It has become the norm for graduates, of both genders, to get make-up and hairdos done by hired make-up artists and hair stylists, as well as their own professional photographers to follow them everywhere. What used to be seen as a sober day has evolved into somewhat of a vanity fair, with the help of flashy signs and flower bouquets of varying shapes and sizes.

"Back in my day, the commencement was an austere ceremony. People took formal-looking photos, not kooky like the ones you see today," says Pisit Chaiyoraj, a Thammasat law graduate from 1969. He adds that practically anyone with a pulse that knew how to operate a camera was good enough to be the designated photographer for the day. 

Today, graduates hire photographers to take hundreds of photos, on the rehearsal day and on the actual commencement day, while people in the past only took photos on the real day. The development of digital technology is obviously one of the reasons for this. With the equipment available, photographers can make graduates look like a wonder - whether there is a nice backdrop or not (See P9 for a story of one such photographer). There is also no need to worry about wasting film so clicking away is deemed logical, considering that decent photographers will charge no less than 3,000 baht for an entire day of shooting..

An entire day of posing under the sun requires make-up that will not melt away, and while graduates of the past could get away with doing hair and make-up themselves, it is no longer the case. These days commencement day is an occasion for a show-stopping extravaganza.

Ironically, there seems to have been a more relaxed attitude towards attire in the past. Another Chulalongkorn University arts graduate from 1977 adds: ''There were hardly any regulations regarding shoes, jewellery, make-up or anything at all. Probably since there weren't so many accessories available and no fake eyelashes back then!''

In previous generations, an army of friends or relatives did not attend the graduation and hardly more than a dozen showed up. Chatpong Tangmanee, a Chulalongkorn University graduate from 1985 says: ''It used to be a day for yourself and your family. The only friends who would show up were your close ones, because it was harder to keep in touch then. Today, family seems to take a back seat to all the friends and colleagues and ironically, grads can't even allocate enough time to their guests because they invited practically everyone on Facebook.''

Pisit adds: ''It was the way society was and it wasn't necessary at all for you to buy something for the graduate. It was enough to simply show up to congratulate him or her and share the happiness of their success.''

Most previous graduates we talked to recalled that there were no suffocating hordes of well-wishers on commencement day, nor a bounty of flower bouquets everywhere.

''The only flowers grads got were usually from their boyfriend or girlfriend, which would make them the envy of all their friends,'' says a Chulalongkorn graduate from the mid-1970s. ''Even my parents didn't give me anything!''

When we hear of commencement ceremonies and rehearsals today, the reflex is to avoid it like a plague. Crippling traffic was hardly a problem back in the sepia days, where campuses were nowhere near as packed, and definitely not to the point that it is disruptive of life outside the university's gates.

With classes getting bigger, especially with some faculties opening international programmes, it can only translate to a larger number of graduates and more money for businesses that feed off this big day.

The act of getting up on stage to receive your degree also seems a lot less romantic, and Pisit sneers at what he sees as a ''robotic experience'', with each graduate moving along like they are on a conveyer belt, in sync with others one step at a time to simply grab and go. His experience, Pisit says, was clearly much more golden.

''I felt as cool as hell with all eyes on me as I was walking across that stage alone. In fact, my parents got to sit inside the air-conditioned auditorium hall as well and got to watch their son receive his degree from the King with their very own eyes,'' he recalls

(Source: Bangkok Post, SPECIAL EVENTS, The business of graduation, The second most expensive season in Thailand is upon us, 11/06/2013, Parisa Pichitmarn, link)  

Graduation Season Vocabulary

graduation  - the receiving of a degree after completing a course of studies at school การได้รับปริญญา, การสำเร็จการศึกษา (See Wikipedia)
the business of graduation

degree - the document that shows that you completed a course of study at school or college ปริญญา
university degrees -
(See Wikipedia)

ceremony (noun) - a formal event with words and actions having special meaning พิธีการ, พิธี
ceremonial (adjective) - เป็นทางการ,  เกี่ยวกับพิธีการ, ระ-บบของพิธี

graduation ceremony - พิธีมอบปริญญา
commencement - Same as "graduation ceremony"

season - a time of year (examples: the holiday season, the Christmas season) ฤดูกาล, ช่วงเวลา, ระยะเวลา,
graduation season

is upon us -
has arrived
the graduation season is upon us  

the second most expensive season in Thailand is upon us

rehearsal - practice (before doing the real event or performance) การฝึกซ้อม
holding rehearsals - having a rehearsal
holding rehearsals for the actual ceremonies

actual - true, real, exact แท้จริง,  แท้, แท้ๆ, จริง, ที่เป็นตามความจริง
the actual ceremonies

solemn - serious and without any amusement เคร่งขรึม
sacred - considered to be holy or connected with God in a special way ศักดิ์สิทธิ์
a solemn, sacred day

scholarly - having to do with professors, universities and the research done there
a special day more scholarly than social

festive
- having a fun time, having a party; exciting and colourful because of a celebration or holiday
a special day that was more ceremonial than festive

It was once a solemn, sacred day, more scholarly than social, more ceremonial than festive.

social media - websites like Facebook and Twitter where people shares things, meet and chat with each other

self-celebratory - praising yourself and "celebrating" your own accomplishments
broadcast - something like a TV or radio program sent out to many people
self-celebratory broadcasts

shifted to a whole new level

But around five or six years ago, with the boom of digital cameras and social media that allow self-celebratory broadcasts, the commencement and graduation ceremonies in Thailand have shifted to a whole new level.

rite - a traditional ceremony, especially a religious one พิธีกรรม (พระราชพิธี)
rite-of-passage - some important event that marks a big change in a person's life (See Wikipedia)

milestone - an important event in the history or development of something เหตุการณ์สำคัญ (ที่ควรบันทึกไว้)
rite-of-passage milestone

glory
(noun) - looking great, a situation where you look great ความมีชื่อเสียง, ความรุ่งเรือง, ความรุ่งโรจน์ 
glorious (adjective)

glorify (verb)  - to make something or someone look great
glorified (adjective) 
most glorified rite-of-passage milestone

They've become our culture's most glorified rite-of-passage milestone - not to say the second most expensive, perhaps only after a wedding.

lend - add เพิ่ม เสริมหรือสนับสนุน
prestige - have high reputation and status, respected by many

lend
prestige to ... - make something look good and worthy of respect (add reputation and status)
lent prestige to the ceremonies

royalty - the people who belong to the family of a king and queen บุคคลในราชวงศ์
royalty giving out university degrees

His Majesty the King handing out the degrees surely lent prestige to the ceremonies

a big deal - something important
the day has always been a big deal

waste (verb, noun) - use something without getting any benefit from it เปลือง, สิ้นเปลือง, เสีย, ใช้หมดไปสิ้นไปเกินควร, หมดไปสิ้นไปโดยใช่เหตุ
wasteful (adjective)
expensive and wasteful

blown out of proportion - treated as more important than it actually
blown quite out of proportion

respond - to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ
how people respond to this big deal has changed

His Majesty the King handing out the degrees surely lent prestige to the ceremonies in the time of our parents, and although the King no longer does so now, other members of the Royal Family still do, making Thailand the only country in the world to have royalty giving out university degrees. That means the day has always been a big deal, but how people respond to this big deal has changed from, say, 40 years ago: it is much more expensive and wasteful, if not blown quite out of proportion.

season - a time during the year, a time period (winter season, holiday season)
graduation season

The graduation season is upon us. Throughout this month, most universities will be holding rehearsals for the actual ceremonies in July.

actual - real; existing in fact จริง

fresh - new
fresh graduates - people who have just graduated (a short time ago)

current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน
mindset - the general way that people think about things, their attitude
the current mindset

the current mindset of fresh graduates

auspicious - lucky showing signs that suggest that something is likely to be successful โอกาสอันดี เป็นมงคลฤกษ์ suggesting a positive and successful future ที่มีฤกษ์ดี
an auspicious event - a lucky event

documentation
- documents that show that something is true or happened เอกสารที่ใช้ในการพิสูจน์, เอกสารที่ใช้ในการอ้างอิง
maquillage - makeup (French language)

In the current mindset of fresh graduates, such an auspicious event calls for all things professional, whether documentation or maquillage.

norm - a situation or type of behavior that is expected and considered to be typical มาตรฐาน
gender - being a man or a woman
the norm for graduates, of both genders

make-up - cosmetics, the art of making the face look good เครื่องสำอาง, เครื่องแต่งหน้า, เครื่องสำอาง, เครื่องเสริมสวย, การแต่งหน้า, การเสริมสวย
makeup artist

hairdo - a hairstyle, preparing the hair in a special way 
hair stylist

It has become the norm for graduates, of both genders, to get make-up and hairdos done by hired make-up artists and hair stylists, as well as their professional photographers to follow them everywhere.

sober - 1. acting in a calm and controlled way; 2. not drunk 
evolved - to change gradually from one form to another form

vanity fair

flashy
flashy signs

flower bouquets


What used to be seen as a sober day has evolved into somewhat of a vanity fair, with the help of flashy signs and flower bouquets of varying shapes and sizes.

back in my day - in the past, when I was young ....

austere - very plain, without anything fancy or special
ceremony - a formal public event งานพิธี
austere ceremony

"Back in my day, the commencement was an austere ceremony.

kooky -
looking strange and crazy

"People took formal-looking photos, not kooky like the ones you see today," says Pisit Chaiyoraj, a Thammasat law graduate from 1969.

designated - chosen for a duty แต่งตั้งให้เป็น
designated photographer

the designated photographer for the day
the designated photographer for the event

He adds that practically anyone with a pulse that knew how to operate a camera was good enough to be the designated photographer for the day.

backdrop - everything that you can see behind the main thing that you are looking at ฉากหลัง ภาพเบื้องหลัง
a nice backdrop

deemed - considered เห็นว่า ถือว่า
deemed logical

decent - has acceptable standard or quality
decent photographers

Today, graduates hire photographers to take hundreds of photos, on the rehearsal day and on the actual commencement day, while people in the past only took photos on the real day. The development of digital technology is obviously one of the reasons for this. With the equipment available, photographers can make graduates look like a wonder - whether there is a nice backdrop or not (See P9 for a story of one such photographer). There is also no need to worry about wasting film so clicking away is deemed logical, considering that decent photographers will charge no less than 3,000 baht for an entire day of shooting.. 

posing - holding your body in a certain position to take a photo; pretending to be something วางท่า
posing for photographs
an entire day of posing under the sun (for photographs)

melt
melts away

make-up
make-up melts away under the sun

it is no longer the case

An entire day of posing under the sun requires make-up that will not melt away, and while graduates of the past could get away with doing hair and make-up themselves, it is no longer the case.

extravaganza - a large, exciting and expensive event or entertainment

These days commencement day is an occasion for a show-stopping extravaganza.

attitude - the way you think and feel about something, as shown in behaviour
relaxed attitude

attire - clothes
relaxed attitude towards attire

Ironically, there seems to have been a more relaxed attitude towards attire in the past.

regulations - official rules that control the way that things are done ระเบียบปฏิบัติ ระเบียบ ข้อบังคับ กฎระเบียบ

fake
- made to look like something real in order to trick people ที่ทำปลอม ปลอมแปลง  ปลอม
eyelashes - the short hairs which grow along the edges of the eye ขนตา
fake eyelashes

Another Chulalongkorn University arts graduate from 1977 adds: ''There were hardly any regulations regarding shoes, jewellery, make-up or anything at all. Probably since there weren't so many accessories available and no fake eyelashes back then!''

generations - people who lived in the past
In previous generations, ...

army - a large group of people กลุ่มคน, ฝูงชน
an army of friends or relatives

In previous generations, an army of friends or relatives did not attend the graduation and hardly more than a dozen showed up.

close - knowing a person very well and sharing with them many things ใกล้ชิด, สนิท,สนิทสนม
close friends

keep in touch - to stay in contact (to talk with, chat with, exchange messages with) 
keep in touch with friends

The only friends who would show up were your close ones, because it was harder to keep in touch then.

colleagues - the people you work with

allocate - give a part of something to someone for a special purpose แบ่งส่วน  
allocate time to their guests

Today, family seems to take a back seat to all the friends and colleagues and ironically, grads can't even allocate enough time to their guests because they invited practically everyone on Facebook.''

congratulate - to tell someone that you are pleased about their success, good luck or happiness on a special occasion แสดงความยินดี
congratulate on their success

share
- to have or use something at the same time as someone else ใช้ร่วมกัน
share the happiness of their success

Pisit adds: ''It was the way society was and it wasn't necessary at all for you to buy something for the graduate. It was enough to simply show up to congratulate him or her and share the happiness of their success.''

suffocate - when there is no air and people cannot breathe
hordes - very large numbers of people
suffocating hordes - so many people that you cannot breathe

well-wishers - people coming to a place to "wish you well" in your future, after this important event
well-wishers on commencement day

bouquet -
an arrangement of flowers tied together, so it can be held ช่อ, ช่อดอกไม้, พวงดอกไม้ (See Wikipedia)
flower bouquets

a bounty of
- many, much
a bounty of flower bouquets everywhere


recalled
- remembered นึกทบทวน จำได้

Most previous graduates we talked to recalled that there were no suffocating hordes of well-wishers on commencement day, nor a bounty of flower bouquets everywhere.

envy - wishing you had something that another person has ความอิจฉา
the envy of all their friends
their flowers make them the envy of all their friends

''The only flowers grads got were usually from their boyfriend or girlfriend, which would make them the envy of all their friends,'' says a Chulalongkorn graduate from the mid-1970s. ''Even my parents didn't give me anything!''

plague - a disease with many people dieing
avoid it like a plague - avoid something that is very bad

reflex - a quick reaction to something without thinking 
the reflex is to avoid it like a plague.

When we hear of commencement ceremonies and rehearsals today, the reflex is to avoid it like a plague.

traffic - the number traveling to a place during a period of time (people, aircraft, ships, trains, cars, trucks, etc.) ความหนาแน่นของจำนวนคน หรือยานพาหนะในช่วงเวลาใดช่วงเวลาหนึ่ง

cripple - 1. damage so cannot work correctly (here traffic makes life in city difficult); 2. hurt a person so they cannot walk
crippling traffic

sepia -
old-style photos with a brown colour
the sepia days - the old days; the past อดีต, เวลาที่ผ่านไปแล้ว,

packed - crowded; full of people or things แน่น
campus - the area and land that a university is built and located on มหาวิทยาลัย, บริเวณมหาวิทยาลัยหรือโรงเรียน
packed campuses - very crowded universities with many students

disrupt
(verb) - to stop something from working or operating normally แตกแยก, แตกหัก
disruptive (adjective) - ที่แตกแยก, ที่ยุ่งเหยิง,  ที่แตกหัก

disruptive of life - stops life from going smoothly
disruptive of life outside the university's gates

Crippling
traffic was hardly a problem back in the sepia days, where campuses were nowhere near as packed, and definitely not to the point that it is disruptive of life outside the university's gates.

international - involving many countries or happening between countriesระหว่างประเทศ 
international programmes - programs in universities to teach international students in the English language

faculties - departments in universities
faculties opening international programmes

translate to - result in, lead to

With classes getting bigger, especially with some faculties opening international programmes, it can only translate to a larger number of graduates and more money for businesses that feed off this big day.

stage the high area that singers or actors use in a performance in front of an audience เวที
get up on stage

The act of getting up on stage to receive your degree also seems a lot less romantic

experience
robotic experience

conveyer belt - a long moving belt that moves objects along in a factory so that workers can use them to build and manufacture goods 
on a conveyer belt

in sync - synchronised, organized so that things happen together in an organized way happening together, harmonize ประสานเวลา, ทำให้พร้อมกัน, ทำให้เป็นจังหวะเดียวกัน, เกิดขึ้นในเวลาเดียวกัน,  เกิดขึ้นพร้อมๆ กัน

in sync with others 
in sync with others one step at a time

grab - to take in the hand quickly, seize คว้า, จับ
grab and go

sneer -  not respect for, look down on พูดดูถูก

Pisit sneers at what he sees as a ''robotic experience'', with each graduate moving along like they are on a conveyer belt, in sync with others one step at a time to simply grab and go.  His experience, Pisit says, was clearly much more golden.

cool - clever; impressive ดีเลิศ (คำสแลง)
cool as hell - very cool

hell - the place where some people are believed to go after death to be punished forever for the bad things they have done during their lives นรก

''I felt as cool as hell with all eyes on me as I was walking across that stage alone.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer