Most of my absolutely amazing friends have recently graduated from university in a shower of firsts and 2:1s and I couldn't be prouder of them!
Whilst I was relaxing in Milan, they were getting their heads down and studying their hearts out in preparation for their final exams. Stress levels were high and at times hopes were low but they have all come out of university having achieved their very best.
On my way home, I swung by Exeter to visit my uni friends during their special week.
As I was working up on campus selling the university merchandise, I really got a chance to experience the atmosphere of grad week.
It was bloody amazing.
After landing at Bristol airport, I travelled to Exeter by train, enlisted the help of a poor unsuspecting taxi driver to get my hugely heavy bags to the house on time and earned my keep for the next few days by cooking spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino and cracking open the prosecco for the lovely girls I used to live with, Alice and Liz.
Of course this meant I was already pretty happy by the time we started making our way through the alleyways of Exeter.
We headed to the Monkeysuit bar, where cocktails are magnificently delicious, strong and definitely won't break the bank with prices from £3.95. Ten minutes walk from my house next year and I think I'll be visiting quite a bit...
These lovely ladies (Ellen, Ginte and Amy), who have just graduated (congratulations!), joined me for a catch up and soon, all ideas of just having two went flying out the window.
And despite having work at 8am the next morning (sob) they persuaded me to go out...
I had so much fun even though some people managed to get themselves thrown out for being a bit too cheeky to the bouncers (not mentioning any names here, you know who you are!) Sadly a day of travelling caught up with me and I just couldn't dance anymore but I didn't go to bed without a trip to the Arena burger van... Cheesy Tuesday wouldn't be cheesy enough without cheesy chips right?
The next morning was taken up with work. Sitting outside in the little gazebo we had set up, I could see all of the grads coming out, fresh from their ceremonies, to line up outside the Great Hall for photos. All of a sudden we would hear a huge cheer, much like the sound that erupts from a roller coaster, and the air above would be full of hundreds of swirling black caps.
Waiters milled around with champagne and canapés and cupcakes whilst we looked hungrily on, trying to beckon them over to our table.
We got there in the end.
One of the grads of the day was Liz, one of my closest friends and housemate from my first two years.
It was so exciting getting ready with her in the morning and watching her prepare for her graduation ceremony with her Mum and boyfriend, Nick. Nick has been in Italy for the past year as well, studying in Venice as part of his course and they survived the distance which deserves another round of congratulations, don't you think?
The rest of the week passed in a blur of meet ups and breakfasts.
The beautiful Sophie, a fellow Psychology student, and one who has kept me sane during many a moment of despair with her no-nonsense attitude to life.
Beautiful girls and fried food, what more can you ask for? P.s Tea on the Green's breakfast hash is MONSTROUS. I had the veggie version of course.
That week I also discovered what happens when you deliver a hefty Game of Thrones spoiler to someone a bit further back in the series. I'm sorry Emma, I thought you had watched that far!
The week ended for me as all good weeks end: at a house party.
There was sangria, there was whisky, there was the cinnamon challenge.
I managed to get mud all over my brand new Massimo Dutti top (€20 in the sale, thank you very much Milan) whilst trying to create an atmospheric candle arrangement in the garden but luckily the night was saved by a bit of Vanish (thanks Tom!)
I had so much fun seeing all of my lovely friends. The old, the new, the departing, the new arrivals. I was so sad to leave halfway through the night, ready for my early departure the next morning but the puppy was calling, as was my mum's birthday.
And as I didn't get to see most of my gorgeous friends graduating, here are some pictures others took of the beautiful graduates from Exeter and home (hi Grace!) and Milan (hi Martina!) I love you all, well done, you are incredible and don't leave me forever! I feel really, really sad and nostalgic for the final year I never had with all these beautiful people (who ALL decided to move up to my end of town the year I wasn't there, THANKS A LOT GUYS). I don't regret taking a year abroad for a second of course; the experience, the people and the opportunities that brought have been second to none. But still. I am emotional. And I want all of these people to come back next year too. Sob sob.
Too many beautiful and talented people.