Triumph was palpable at the graduation of the University of Wollongong’s Batemans Bay class of 2017.
Graduands, along with tutors, friends and family celebrated the end of years of study.
After three years of study, Nethanel Graham said university was not what he had expected.
"I had the idea at first that I was going to simply come to uni, do the work, not make any friends, get my degree and leave," he said.
"But, instead, I actually have made life-long friends, which is unlike me, so for me that's the best part.
"If you're studying something you enjoy, it's a continuous learning process, but it's not a grind.
"I loved it. I don't want to go into the real world just yet, to be honest."
Leonie Tan seconded his thoughts.
"It feels surreal," she said.
"I just love uni - I could be here forever.
"I love learning all these new things, having my mind opened, realising there's so much out there you can discover, and you can do it in Batemans Bay.
Ms Tan said being a mature-age student was a unique experience.
"Having to deal with self doubt, that's the biggest thing as a mature age student," she said.
"You wonder: 'Am I capable, is it too late, am I too dumb?'
"It's changed my life for the better.”
Lou Glover graduated with first class honours, after years of work, including twelve months spent on her own research project.
“It’s been a lot of work and I’m really happy about that,” she said.
“Hanging Rock is a place with real spiritual significance, it was a teaching place before, it’s a teaching and learning place now.”
Several students planned to continue their studies, taking aim at honours, masters or PhD projects next year.
"Once you start uni, there's no going back,” Ms Tan said.
"Everyday life is not going to satisfy you in the same way, there's not that mental stimulation.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s the end. It’s just the beginning.”
Bachelor graduates: Arts – Kelly Bowerman, Sarah-Anne Coulthard, Tammy Coppin, Lani Galvin, Lyn Southwell, Rebecca Henderson, Stephanie Gill, Nethanel Graham, Meghan Adams, Leonie Tan and Rebecca Douglas. Arts Honours – Louise Glover and Caitlin Dobson. Commerce – Sophie Alves, Carol Allen and Corina Fembock. Nursing – Debbie Dow, Sonia Veneris, Sarah McQuarrie, Karen Burgess, Michelle Loydell, Katie Johnston, Kaylah Murdoch, Michael Tolbrook and Christy Byrnes. Masters of Teaching: Primary – Hannah Mulchay, Caitlin Watt and Alec Thomas. Secondary – Abbey-Lee Blacka and Fiona Ryan.