They came to London from all over the world to get a postgraduate degree that would make a difference to their lives, open new doors for professional advancement.
Many made sacrifices - both financial and in the leaving of wives, husbands and young children far away. All felt the weight of expectations on them and the pressure from family or employers to succeed.
Many struggled with culture shock and the disillusionment that London is not all about famous sights and grandeur, but also cold, dirty and grim in parts. The study was hard, demanding and intense.
But yesterday at this happy ceremony in the Barbican theatre, full of music, pomp and ritual, it was all good, all joyful.
Colourful crowd of academics waiting to process into the theatre.
They posed with proud family and friends, while their teachers and tutors willingly smiled for endless photographs
A cycle completed, a job well done, even as we're in the middle of the next cycle - just a pause to remind ourselves what it's all about.