Principal's Blog

Celebrating 60 years: our heritage as a finishing school - relevance to tomorrow’s world?

03 August 2022

Surval Montreux was founded in 1961 as the Surval Mont-Fleuri finishing school. Our heritage brings to mind images of women being prepared for high society, being trained with the skills needed to be good wives, the image of balancing books on heads is one which sticks in my mind.  These are images which in today’s world and with a focus on empowering young women we are keen to distance ourselves from.  The idea of ‘finishing’ is also far removed from our intention of setting girls up to launch into their future, open to challenge and future possibilities.

Remove the term ‘finishing school’ and look more closely at the goals of such establishments, and there are certainly key features with which I feel we are very much aligned in today’s Surval.

With our Surval Core focusing on leadership, global perspectives, languages and culture, social enterprise and adventure, we are committed to developing in girls a confidence and cultural sensitivity to walk into a multicultural, multilingual environment with their heads held high.  We are seeking to encourage women to be ambitious and to feel comfortable stepping into a multicultural professional setting.   We are seeking to empower young women for the global business world of tomorrow and etiquette remains an important part of this.  

When we are educating in etiquette, we are thinking about it in the widest sense - business etiquette, communication etiquette - in real time as well as in the virtual world - dining etiquette and dress etiquette.  It all comes down to courtesy, care and consideration - the ‘3 Cs’ which we put front and centre in our Surval community.  It is about an awareness of others and a sensitivity to behaving in a way congruent with our surroundings and the culture in which we find ourselves.  We are not seeking to educate girls in the details of every situation in which they might find themselves.  But we are seeking to instil curiosity and openness to different situations so that they observe what is around them and adjust accordingly, taking the lead from others around them.  

I refer girls to The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, a fascinating book about how to navigate multicultural groups and find ways to work together when everyone is coming at things from different cultural backgrounds.   I urge girls to look around them and adapt.  It is not about right or wrong, it is about awareness of our own bias, respect for difference and sensitivity to adjust to the host environment.  

With our stated goal to set girls up to be competitive in tomorrow’s world, to take control of the situation and to own their voice, the ability to fit comfortably into a multicultural environment through cultural sensitivity and global etiquette is key.  In this regard, we are very much aligned with our school’s heritage.

This year we have been celebrating our 60th anniversary and our truly global network of Survaliennes from across the school’s history.  It is always a pleasure to speak to former Survaliennes, and lovely how many drop into Surval when travelling in Europe - whether they were here for a short-term summer or winter camp experience, spent a year here when it was a finishing school or more recently with our Swiss Gap Experience, or graduated in recent years from our High School programme, all join our Survalienne family of ambitious and successful women spread around the world. And there is a remarkable commonality to their enthusiasm for Surval’s impact.  However short or long their stay with Surval, whether it was 60 years ago or in the last decade,  they all recognise the impact it has had on them and the way it has influenced their future pathway, many drawing on their multilingual competence, love of travel and exploration and appreciation of the intercultural awareness in their future jobs and life choices.