Principal's Blog

Our History and Heritage | What connects us across generations of Survaliennes

12 October 2023

I currently find myself mid-flight - often my time for, literally, blue sky thinking and a quiet time for reflection. I am excited to be en route to a Survalienne alumnae event in Miami with an opportune moment to reflect on what binds Survaliennes together across generations. Various events and anecdotes have led me to reflect recently on the power of our memories from school and the strength of connection many feel with their alma mater. In my own case, having spent 7 years in an all-girls boarding school of 500+ students, memories of team sports, rousing community singing or annual traditions feature strongly in my memories. Surval Montreux, with its intentionally small community where students sometimes come only for a semester or year abroad, leaves a very different but no less impactful mark.


Surval Montreux, a Swiss Finishing School for young women

Surval Montreux was founded in 1961.  Over its more than 60 years of history, it has evolved, being established initially as a traditional Swiss Finishing School for young women, before introducing the High School programme in 2000.  It is now well established as an international boarding school for girls aged 12-18 years, offering internationally recognised High School qualifications for university entrance alongside an intensive French Language and Culture programme and Summer Camps.  Surval of today is very different to Surval of the 1960s, and yet Survaliennes from the early years continue to feel a strong connection with the school.


A network of Surval alumnae around the world

Our alumnae database holds a global network of over 7000 Survaliennes. The steady stream of often unannounced drop-ins from alumnae travelling through Switzerland bears testament to the strength of connection many of them continue to feel, often many years later - and their belief in the continuing strength of our family ethos, where there will always be someone around to give them a warm welcome!  It is always a pleasure to meet Survaliennes during these visits and their emotions on stepping back into Surval often only too visible on their faces. 


A unique location in Switzerland at the heart of Europe

Surval, meaning ‘over the valley’, was initially founded in Leysin, before moving to Clarens a few years later in 1964.  In 1988, Surval moved to its now long-standing location above Territet, Montreux, taking over Hotel Mont-Fleuri - a beautiful, characterful building dating back to 1870, with stunning views across Lac Léman to the French Alps - and took on the name ‘Surval Mont-Fleuri’, later to be renamed ‘Surval Montreux’. Our beautiful school, which is the girls’ home away from home during their time with us, and stunning setting, are certainly part of what Survaliennes connect with.


Our international school for girls and lifelong memories

What comes to mind when Survaliennes take a trip down memory lane?  Skiing, French, History of Art, travelling in Europe, Culinary Arts, Etiquette, the computer room which is now our Art room, Mr Sidler, the highly respected Director 1972-2010, to name a few. Whilst soaking in the views from the terrace, revisiting their old room or browsing our photo albums, Survaliennes talk passionately of the impact of their Surval experience, the broader perspective it instilled and the confidence and independence they gained – and of course the friendships.  Regardless of generation, they are all keen to capture their visit on record to share immediately via social media with their lifelong network of Survalienne friends.


What makes Surval so special?

Arguably more powerful than specific memories, is a more all-embracing feeling closely connected with Surval’s unique character and heritage that leaves such a strong impact and connects Survaliennes across generations. 

  • An incredible strength of connection and sense of belonging comes from being part of our small, highly personalised school community of maximum 65 girls;

  • Lifelong friendships are formed within our tight-knit all-girls community;

  • Our supportive and highly personalised environment empowers girls to embrace opportunities and own their voice;

  • Our truly holistic multi-lingual, multi-cultural experience leaves girls feeling enriched, and excited to explore new opportunities at home and abroad;

  • An overall sense of well-being is instilled through our inspirational setting.



The same vision and ambitions for our girls

Browsing past prospectuses leaves me with a strong sense of connection with the history of Surval, seeing how closely our current vision statement and values (both created afresh last year)  align with the intentions and ambitions of Surval’s founder. 

An early prospectus quotes the school’s mission to: ‘Impart knowledge, skills and values that help transform the girls of today into successful women of tomorrow’ and references the values of Empowerment and Leadership. 


With our core values of Challenge, Own and Lead, our mission statement today reads:

A Surval education empowers girls to embrace challenge, take ownership of future pathways and lead dialogue for positive change.

A Surval graduate leaves school with the academic credentials, breadth of interests and open attitude to set her on a pathway to success with entrepreneurial and creative flair.  She can walk into any room with self-assurance, presence and cultural awareness. 

Whilst preparing students for a very different world, the attributes and values which have and will enable young women to succeed, closely connect the school’s founding mission with our commitment today.


A global network of empowered women

On graduating, students join a truly global network of empowered Survalienne women.  Whilst the school - and the world - have evolved significantly,  students’ experiences and Surval’s lifelong impact connects them across generations.  Whilst this may not always be immediately apparent to girls on leaving Surval, there is no doubt that Survaliennes come to feel a sense of shared identity and pride in being part of the history and rich tapestry of Surval.