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Student Blog: A Day in the Life of a Surval Summer Camper

01 July 2019

Nastya, Russia, who is currently studying for her A Levels at Surval, first came to us as a Summer Camp student several years ago. At the time, she spoke no English, and joined one of our small English Language Beginner classes. At the end of her Surval Summer Camp experience, Nastya decided to apply to enter G9 at the school. Nastya’s Surval journey has been lined with successes: she achieved excellent results in her Cambridge IGCSEs, including an A in her English Literature and A* in French as a Second Language, and was recognised with the 2017/18 Student of the Year Award at the end of G10, earning a standing ovation from the audience at Prizegiving and Graduation with her wonderful Speech of Thanks. Nastya’s memories of being a Surval Summer Camper are still vivid, and here she evokes in vivid colour and detail a Day in the Life of a Surval Summer Camper, with reflections from the present on how this experience has shaped who she is today...

The alarm goes off…

The alarm goes off and my roommate and I start to get ready for another exciting day. We open our curtains and the bright sun is already shining outside. The sunlight comes through the window inside our room and falls on our beds. We go out on the balcony to take a picture of an indescribably amazing sunrise! I have only one instant thought in my mind: “What a great start of the day and how many new things ahead are waiting for us to discover them!” Together with my roomie, who is a very nice Mexican girl and my very good friend, we run down for breakfast. Normally, we come down first, when the dining room is very calm. The chef is already waiting to make an omelette or scrambled eggs for us. My roomie and I sit at the same table and chat while enjoying the typical Swiss breakfast with the incredible view of Lac Léman.

Classes begin…

Soon after, classes begin. It’s been two weeks since I’ve started learning English and I can already see some progress; I feel such satisfaction at being able to put a few words together and see that, actually, people do understand me! Our classroom is very beautiful and, I would even say, cosy, because there are a lot of colourful posters on the walls: it is very well decorated, and the teacher also creates a favourable atmosphere. It feels very nice to come to the class and know that you are very welcome here; that the teacher and the girls are all very friendly and willing to help at any moment you need. I think the fact of friendliness is very important when learning a language because it gives you confidence and you gain the courage to try and speak up, to write, even though it might be wrong; to read aloud for everybody else, and you are not afraid of making any mistakes because you know that every person in here is your friend and they will help you and guide you. So, you never feel embarrassed or bullied because everyone is so kind that they might not even say a word, but you always feel their support and that is what helps me to overcome my fears and go for it. 

Moreover, lessons are never boring. The teacher is just so professional and understanding that she knows exactly what activity to propose and how to organise girls and help them to improve as much as they can. For example, today, we are reading a book called “The Secret Garden” and then we are going to draw an illustration or design a new book cover for it. The kindness and the attentiveness of our teacher are so great that I feel so engaged in the process despite an intermediate misunderstanding between us due to my language constraints. I really appreciate when a teacher does her best to explain to me new words or phrases any time I don’t understand them. Every lesson is similar to a challenge for myself and every time I feel like completing it, it gives me more faith that I can do it, and this is what encourages me to move forward and get better. 

My teacher told me a phrase that I will remember for my whole life: “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you are right”. So, every time I said, “I can’t”, I remembered this phrase and I corrected myself by adding two simple words: “just yet”. Then, my teacher always said you CAN learn it / how to do it; and this was the greatest motivation for me. Knowing that your teacher believes in you makes you more confident; I was really astonished by the power of this little expression. I am very grateful to my teacher and all the girls for their support and encouragement; I am sure I wouldn’t be able to do this alone.

Time for a break…

Thereupon, it’s time for a little break and all the students together with the teachers come down to the cafeteria to get a drink with a snack. I sit outside because I love watching the awe-inspiring landscape and chatting with my new friends from all over the world in a relaxed atmosphere. The sun is so gorgeous, and it gives us so much energy that it makes us feel inspired and we can't wait for the next lesson to begin!

Back to the classroom…

We return to our homey classroom ready for new experiences and fresh adventures. A great goal is awaiting us that we are ready to tackle. Today, we are filming a clip on how to take a selfie safely! I feel very excited and am looking forward to start! First of all, we are learning new vocabulary that we are going to use in the clip. Then, we divide into two groups and each one has its own task to complete: one group is decorating the settings; the other one is searching for costumes. In a previous lesson, we have written the script and assigned roles. We kick the filming process off with the first scene. Everybody is very well organised and once the assistant director says to the operator “Roll camera”, to which the operator responds, “Speed!”, and the camera starts shooting… There is absolute silence from the crew as we begin. Straight after that, the girl clicks the plate with the number of the take and shouts: “Marker!” The director then commands the actors “action!” and this is the moment when the most difficult but also most exciting part begins. 

This is when I realised how lucky we all are for being in an all-girl environment because each one of us was truly herself and did not care about being pretty or attractive in the video; we were the way we are and did not worry about what other people think. This is what helped us a lot in doing our best because we were acting as if no one was watching and we were laughing and exaggerating so that it looks cool on the video. On top of that, our Summer Camp is multi-cultural and so everybody in my class was from a different country; therefore we could add something original to what we were saying and act in different ways, which made this movie very varied and unique. And finally, closer to the two hundredth take, we hear our director shouting “CUT and print!” Straight away, all of us start to jump and scream because we are so happy that we made it! And now, when the job is done, and a lot of new things are learned, we are heading off for lunch.


Today is a special day because one of us has a birthday! All the students and the teachers are singing for the birthday girls when the birthday cake comes into the dining room. Sometimes, girls of the same nationality sit together to chat in their own language about how their day has been going so far and what plans they have for the rest of it; other days, like today, I am sitting with my Mexican roomie and her friends because we are going on the same afternoon activities afterwards, so we chat together in English, because it is the language that we are all learning how to communicate in. 

Afternoon activities

After lunch we have some free time to get ready for a multi-activity day! Each girl can choose what she wants to do on which day, and my choice for today was RealFly experience and then going out to Montreux with my friends, but there are also plenty of other options, such as different types of sport (tennis, rollerblading, flamenco, hiking, football, dance, cycling…), excursions to different cities and attractions or other types of entertainment (make up, art, jewellery making, laser quest, fun with fashion, photography, creative writing…). However, this is not even close to everything that Surval offers! We also have off-campus activities, such as canyoning, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, banana boat and a trip to Geneva. The first activity I am going to is RealFly experience, which is so cool because you are literally flying in the air!!! I was a bit scared at first, but the teachers helped me to just go for it and reassured me that it would be fun. And when I decided on it, I was so glad I did because the emotions I’ve experienced are incredible! I felt very proud for myself and my friends for achieving this challenge! 

The next activity we were up to is going to Montreux. Once we have arrived at the parking station with the school bus, we run straight to the shopping centre. We all love sales, don’t we? And my friends and I are NOT exceptions at all! After spending nearly all our pocket money and having so many bags in our hands that they were about to fall, we decided to go to a restaurant and have some pizza using the last money we had. Whilst walking down the road, I caught myself thinking what a wonderful place Montreux is! We were four girls, walking around with no supervision and we felt so safe and secure, while being able to enjoy feeling independent, that I was surprised to realise because I do not know many cities that are as safe as Montreux. What is more, Montreux is a small flourishing Swiss town in which we are able to meet local people and immerse ourselves in this culture. Following this awesome afternoon with my Mexican friends, we are going to dinner.

Time for dinner…

Dinnertime is always very exciting because everybody is starving, and we cannot wait for the delicious food the chef with his best team have prepared for us! More than that, it is the time when we make our new friendships stronger with the girls we met on new activities. We sit together around the table and share our experiences, talk about our discoveries and chat about the next day. It actually does feel like having dinner with your family!

Evening Activity

After dinner we have evening activities. Today, we are watching an American film that the girls have chosen. I think it is a fantastic way to end the day because everyone is a bit exhausted after the fruitful lessons and unforgettable experiences, so we all need some rest. I believe that watching films in the foreign language that you are learning helps not only with improving the language itself, but also with having general cultural knowledge and understanding the differences – and similarities! – between us, and appreciating why people are the way they are. Surval is an international school, which means that here we learn to respect people that might not be the same as us and we are trying to find what we have in common and we make friends with people who have different views and opinions. I really appreciate this opportunity we have as, in my opinion, it is vital for everybody in the world to be able to respect one another.

Time for bed

Now, it is time to go to bed and I feel very happy for living my best life, having friends who are so different but so dear; I feel very thankful for my teachers’ support and help with improving my English and helping me to overcome challenges outside the classroom; I feel blessed to be here, and to be able to experience all these things that I could not even have dreamed of. I feel so sleepy from a very busy day…my eyes are closing…my roomie is also going to sleep…we wish each other “nighty night” and sweet dreams, and I fall asleep dreaming about tomorrow…

And finally, after the experience of being a Surval Summer camper, what made Nastya decide to attend the school as a student?

My decision to apply to attend the school as a student was very spontaneous and at the very last minute. My teachers were as friends to me; I wanted to continue to learn English but also start learning French; I had really enjoyed living here and getting to know people from countries I’ve never been to and learning about their culture. The time I have spent in the summer camp was the best summer I have ever had, and I was wondering how great it would be to study at Surval the whole year around! I was in the Summer Camp from July until August and decided to apply in the last week before going home. I did not have much hope of being accepted because normally you would apply around February / March; nor was I hoping to be able to stay here for more than a year. 

Therefore, my surprise and happiness knew no bounds when I found out that I was now a student of ninth grade at Surval Montreux! Looking back at it now, I clearly understand that the decision I made that day to come to Surval as a student was absolutely undoubtedly right! I am a different person to who I was on the first day of Summer Camp, thanks to all the teachers at this school! The lesson I learned from this experience of making a decision that would change my whole life is very simple: Just do it. You never know what is going to happen next, so be present, live your best life and, if you enjoy something, do not give it up.