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News: Graduation & Prize Giving June 2019

20 June 2019

Celebrating Graduation & Prize Giving 2019…

On a golden Swiss June morning, the pink roses in Surval’s garden in full bloom and the lake gleaming turquoise as the sun rose in the sky, the students of Surval awoke to their Graduation & Prize Giving Day, all the more special for taking place on the stunning campus of Surval itself – the setting of countless precious memories, the school where they have learned so much, and the home where they made friends for life.

As the girls prepared upstairs, dressing and putting finishing touches on Graduation speeches, downstairs, the House team, led by Madame Wahli, were setting tables and putting the finishing touches on decorations. The beauty of Surval’s bright and elegant dining room, with its panoramic view of the lake and mountains opposite, was heightened by the series of shining glassware on the crisp white tablecloths and the vibrant arrangements of wildflowers. Each table took its name from a flower – orchidée, callas, tournesol… – with each place at the table set with a linen napkin enfolding a single corresponding flower. At the long table by the window, these napkins cradled graceful stems of “pure and white” edelweiss, the iconic Swiss flower, a fitting celebration of our Swiss setting itself.

As increasingly delicious smells wafted from the busy kitchen, and Madame Wahli darted about placing colourful windmills in the flower beds of the garden, which were soon whizzing in the gentle breeze, Miss Drake began paging tutor groups to come down for their photographs, and the girls of Surval themselves began to appear, looking as beautiful and colourful in their Graduation finery as the flowers, but significantly more chatty and excited! Some girls clutched hands as they teetered down the stone steps to the garden in high heels; others held hands wherever they went, unwilling to let go of friends they would soon be saying farewell to.

Lois from Foto Elvey was soon snapping shots of tutor groups striking first formal, and then “silly” poses, as well as individual portraits of each girl framed by the spectacular backdrop of lake and mountain and sky. She ended with the graduates, Lucia and Sandra, who put on their royal blue gowns – blue as lake Geneva on a clear Autumn day – and caps for the first time, giggling with nervous excitement as they adjusted the fit of the caps and pushed the tassel out of their eyes. 

By now, the girls’ families (and several pet dogs!) were beginning to take their seats in the library (or, in the case of the dogs, found a quiet room to chill in), and the students and form teachers disappeared to the first floor to await their grand entrance. Then, to the strains of Warbeck’s theme for Shakespeare in Love, Foundation Year led the school down the stairs and into the library.

Surval Principal, Mrs Woodhouse, had been inspired by the girls’ achievements this year in public speaking, leading assemblies both as individuals and in groups, to give the students a greater voice in this ceremony than in previous years. Though Mrs Woodhouse delivered the traditional Principal’s Report, bringing to life many of the highlights of the hugely busy and successful year, she had invited the girls themselves to share a memory from experiences in the Global Perspectives clubs of Model United Nations, Sustainability and Social Enterprise, from International Award, where we had both Bronze and Gold Awards to celebrate, and several girls to talk about Language & Culture at Surval and in the local community. Finally, each graduate delivered a short speech about her journey of life at Surval.  All the girls spoke with simple eloquence, and from the heart, using personal anecdotes as a relatable foundation through which to give the audience insight into their experiences, with conclusions illuminating the transforming impact these have had on them. It was highly moving – to the extent that the pet dog of Lucia made a break for freedom and scampered downstairs, just in time to witness Lucia delivering her speech. As the audience gave her round of applause, the dog joined in with some enthusiastic barks, clearly very proud of Lucia indeed. (He was then reluctantly taken back out again, but seemed delighted that he’d managed to catch Lucia’s moment.)

Equally stirring was the Guest Speaker speech, delivered by Valeria Pacifici, a former Surval student who is currently studying Law at university in Madrid, who spoke with honesty, warm humour and gratitude about her time at Surval and the gifts Surval gave her, from leadership skills to self-belief, before concluding by urging the students to “Dream big and be bold.”

The Prize Giving ceremony took place, with awards presented not only for academic subjects, but also for MUN, Sustainability, IA and Social Enterprise, and then the Graduation itself. Blue caps were flung in the air, and Lucia and Sandra were officially Graduates of the Class of 2019. Fer’s Student of the Year speech concluded the ceremony on the perfect note of celebration – she evoked both tears and laughter from her audience, finishing by thanking parents, staff and, finally, her friends: “And, finally, I would like to thank all of you – the girls of Surval, my friends, my family; there is no one I would rather have been on this journey with. Never forget how wonderful you are. And I hope with all my heart that we will all be friends forever. You will remain always in my heart.”

Fer’s call to “Never forget how wonderful you are” was the best possible way to capture the achievements and personal growth of every single student in her audience this year; we are so proud of each one of our girls, and we hope that Fer’s reminder will live on in their hearts, filling them with the strength, self-belief and confidence necessary to face any challenges that lie ahead. 

The Swiss theme continued with the playing of two alpenhorns in the garden, as everyone drifted outside for drinks, appetizers and, of course, the signing of yearbooks. An exquisite four course meal in the sunlit dining room followed, with our Student of the Year, Fer, delivering a short speech of thanks to Head Chef and Cookery teacher, Franҫois, and his team, as everyone enjoyed coffee afterwards. Formal elegance had relaxed into table hopping, and even some singing and dancing by this point, and, amidst the fun, tears too as girls began to say goodbye. 

Suitcases were brought down the elevator into the hall, and the big double doors stood open to the driveway, letting in the light, and letting out the girls. Mrs Woodhouse and the House team stayed close to the door so they could wave cars off, while other staff members lingered in the dining room, chatting to students and signing some last yearbooks.

In too short a time, Surval was calm and quiet. The graduates joined some teachers in the garden, sitting talking and taking some final photos in the golden light of late afternoon. Another Surval Graduation & Prize Giving day had come to a close, and the school year of 2018/19 was over.  And to quote our Student of the Year, it has been “a journey full of adventure, discovery and friendship.” A huge thank you to all the staff of Surval for their endless hard work, enthusiasm and commitment; to the parents and families for sending their girls to us; and to the girls themselves for making it all possible. 

Professional photographs from Graduation & Prize Giving 2019 will be available from Foto Elvey from June 28th. Anyone who was not given the password for the private gallery on Graduation Day should contact Surval directly for this. 

Extracts from the student speeches: 

 “Volunteering for Cartons du Coeur has not only made me more grateful for the things I am fortunate to have, but it has inspired me with a desire to do what I can whenever I can to help other people for the rest of my life.” – Charlotte, G10, UK – Social Enterprise speech.

“I love MUN because it gives me a chance to have a voice and make an impact in debates, and learn about what’s going on in the world. We are all a part of this world and we should know what’s going on. Just because we have it good doesn’t mean everyone else has it good.  MUN gives us a perspective of the power that we hold and the power that we have in us to change the world; and we are capable of changing the world if we want to – in the future, or right now.” – Eksha, G11, Thailand – MUN speech.

“For me, sustainability made a big change in my life not only because it made me recycle more, but also because it changed my way of thinking. Now the future is our choice: we can sit back, do nothing and watch our planet be destroyed. Or we can take action, become environmental advocates, and start making lifestyle choices which are kinder to the people and the planet.” – Violeta, G9, Mexico, Sustainability speech

This award has taught me what real commitment looks like, and it has also made me discover my passion towards hiking and camping.  It is undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve experienced and I 100% encourage everyone to challenge themselves, the same way I did.” – Lucia, G12, Spain – International Award Speech

“Even though, at the beginning, the only things we would say to almost everything they (the residents of Le Byron home for the Elderly) said to us was ‘oui’ (even to the questions we didn’t understand), as time went by, and I learned more in class and spoke more French outside of class my French started improving and that it was easier for me to make a conversation, or even start one I was becoming more and more confident as the weeks went by and I got to know almost everyone there.” – Maria, Swiss Gap Programme, Greece – Languages & Culture speech: English version

“Au début, la seule chose que je disais, c’était « oui » (même en répondant aux questions que je ne comprenais pas) mais, au fur et à mesure que le temps a passé et que j’ai commencé à faire des progrès en français grâce à mes cours et à la pratique de la langue à Montreux, j’ai pu commencer à faire la conversation. J’ai pris confiance en moi et j’ai fait connaissance avec tous.” – Maria, Swiss Gap Programme, Greece – Languages & Culture speech: French version

"Surval has taken me skiing and snowboarding; it has taken me to debates and matches; it has taken me around the world both with actual trips, and by its multi-cultured environment. It has also taken me through my “teenage” years. And, more than anything, Surval has turned into my home." - Sandra, G12, Graduate speech

"I can’t believe that my time here has come to an end, I’m going to miss you all very much, but I know deep down this isn’t a goodbye, it’s just a see you later. Without Surval, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My life has changed and I have changed, everything has changed, and yet I am more that I’ve ever been, and that’s thanks to you all." - Lucia, G12, Graduate speech

“Now, for the girls who are graduating today, and to those who will not be returning to Surval next year, I encourage you to dream: dream big, and don’t let anyone tell you who you can or cannot be; be bold, be loud, be vocal about what you believe in and don’t be afraid to share your opinion. Be respectful, and kind, and brave. Also, never forget that you will have a little piece of your home far away from home, not only here in Switzerland, but also in the hearts of all your friends that in just a year, became your family. Surval leaves a mark on everyone who is lucky enough to live this experience, which is why I am honored to be standing here today before so many brilliant girls. Because we are the future, and I know that with girls like us to lead the way, the future will be amazing.” – Valeria, former Swiss Gap student, Venezuela, Guest Speaker speech 

“We all have different background stories from different cultures with different perspectives and yet together we complement each other; without any judgement, we accept one another – and more than that, living here means being with our best friends at all times. I know that I speak for every girl here when I say that I am proud to call Surval my second home and my second family. Our time here has been a journey full of adventure, discovery and friendship.” – Fer, G11, Mexico – Student of the Year speech.

“‘I have a feeling if we look after this cub, he will go far’” – conclusion from Mrs Woodhouse’s Principal Report, quoting from The Adventures of Paddington Bear