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Student Blog: Sandra's Learning Journey

17 June 2019

Tomorrow, Sandra, G12, UK, graduates from Surval after nearly four years at the school she says has become her home. Share in her journey below...

“When I first came to Surval, I was an entirely different person”

“Sandra is Mrs Worldwide,” says her friend, Ale (Mexico). “She speaks every language!” Sandra, who lives in London, first came to Surval in January of 2016, joining Grade 9, after she and her parents “fell in love with the school”. Not only were Sandra and her parents impressed by the individual level on support to each student, the small classes, the level of independence demonstrated by the girls themselves and – of course – the view, but they recognised that Surval’s multilingual international environment would enable her to hone her natural aptitude for language; she is now fluent in English, French and Spanish, attributing the latter to “attuning” herself to the Mexican culture in the school, and can “hold a conversation” in Russian, a modest statement to anyone who has seen her talking to her friends from Russia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine at a hundred miles an hour! 

“Surval seemed ideal,” says Sandra now, talking about her decision to join the school. She praises the help that she has been given throughout her time here by her teachers and the school’s academic directors, in particular the fact that each student’s timetable is tailored to suit her individual educational needs: “This maximises our opportunities to learn exactly what we need to.” Sandra has benefited hugely from being able to combine the American High School Programme with the achievement of IGCSEs, AS and A Levels in a broad range of subjects, including an A* in English Literature and an A in French Language at AS Level. “My classes have all been amazing,” Sandra enthuses, “although I particularly enjoy the atmosphere in my Mathematics, History and French classes, as these teachers have made them especially interesting by applying what we learn to real-life scenarios.”

Surval’s stunning lakeside location, less than an hour’s drive to some of the most famous ski resorts in Europe, has been a gift to someone of Sandra’s considerable sporting talents. Already a keen skier when she arrived at Surval, our weekly “Ski Thursdays” in the Winter term and the school’s annual Ski Week have consolidated Sandra’s skills. Although Sandra’s innate competitiveness means she is usually to be found at the front of a group, racing down steep black Alpine slopes at top speed, she is also supportive and fun to ski with; if you get stuck after falling in powder, Sandra (and her ski pole) will be there to pull you out! “Sandra is the kind of friend that will help you in everything,” says Lupita, FY, Mexico. Sandra also has a love of ice-skating, and holds an international NASA 1 Level award; on our visits to the beautiful Les Paccots outdoor ice-rink, Sandra can usually be found teaching the other girls how to skate backwards, or simply skating with her friends holding hands. Outside of ski season, Sandra is captain of Surval’s basketball team, a strong cyclist, and the fastest rollerblader in the school, skating along Montreux’s beautiful Quai des Fleurs at impressive speeds!

For a young woman with a diverse skills-set and range of interests, Surval’s extra-curricular clubs have had lots to offer Sandra. She has completed her International Award at Bronze Level, with her final expedition involving an overnight hike and camp in the Alps in blizzard conditions, and is a committed member of the Model United Nations club, where she was recognised for her skills with an Honourable Mention of Best Judge at the MUN Conference in the Netherlands earlier this year, and which she states has been invaluable in “honing my analysis expertise and debating ability”. More recently, Sandra took the role of Chair of the Environmental Assembly in Surval's first MUN Conference. Sandra describes herself as someone who is “empathetic towards the needs of my community”, and credits her involvement with the school’s Charity movement, such as volunteering for Cartons du Coeur, with “increasing my drive to help others” and helping her to appreciate the amount of change a doctor could bring into the world.

This brings us to Sandra’s exciting future plans: to study pre-Med at McDaniel College in Budapest, Hungary, before taking Medicine at the affiliated Semmelweis University, a research-led medical school founded in 1769, whose unique focus on health care makes it one of the leading universities of medicine and health sciences in Central Europe. Sandra’s interest in medicine was first piqued when helping her sister, also a medical student, study: “I loved learning about body parts that I hadn’t even known existed, learning what they do and how they affect us.” Then, as she began pursuing the Sciences in greater depth through her studies at Surval, “I became enthralled by Biology in particular. I loved Biology: the more we learned, the more I wanted to learn.” It was then that Sandra realised that medicine was “the ideal path”. She is inspired by the fact medicine is something that is “constantly evolving. I know that by pursuing medicine as a career, I will never be bored. With medicine, I will acquire an understanding of the human body that is far deeper than anything else could give me.” And, perhaps most significant of all: “And with medicine, there is always the potential for important new discoveries.”

As Mr Watson, her teacher of Mathematics and the leader of the school’s hugely popular Army Fitness club, says about this gifted young lady: “Sandra is someone who likes to choose her own route.” Sandra acknowledges this wryly: “Surval’s flexibility has definitely helped me find my way to my career choice. When I first came to Surval, I was an entirely different person.” It is true that the Sandra we knew in 2016 was frustrated at having a plethora of talents that were being given no outlet before joining our school; Surval has allowed Sandra to not only cultivate and hone her array of intellectual and sporting skills, but, ultimately, to channel her fiery passion into a hugely worthwhile choice of career. As Sandra herself concludes: “I have grown so much here, and it has been thanks to the wonderful teachers and the amazing girls that I have changed so much. I don’t think I’d be who I am today without this school, without the support and atmosphere that only Surval can give you. I’m really thankful for all of my experiences, as they’ve taught me so much; and, even though at times there have been moments when I struggled more, where it felt really difficult to keep pushing, I’m so grateful to have been able to go to school here. It’s been a huge part of my life, and I’m going to miss it so much.”