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Surval Montreux Student Speech

21 June 2019

It is such a blessing to be standing here today, in front of students, staff, parents and guests, as your Student of the Year, and to be given the opportunity to talk to you all about my amazing experience this year at Surval. 

It has been so difficult for me to put into words the huge journey we have been on together this year. The thought of writing this speech and speaking here today made me feel quite nervous but I know that I am surrounded by people who support me everyday and from looking at everyone I feel much more calm. 

I want to begin by taking you back to our first day here in September. Can you remember the feeling of butterflies in your stomach? Of not wanting to say goodbye to your parents? Of worrying about whether you would make friends? Those first few days, when everyone kept confusing Susy with Rebe, when we thought Rhizland and Tiki were two different people, when we were just getting to know our roomies and hoping that we would get along, when we couldn’t stop taking photos of the sunsets from our bedroom balconies. We could never have imagined then the incredible bonds that would grow between us, including our teachers, by the end of the year. And we could never have imagined all the unforgettable moments that lay ahead.

On any journey, there are always challenges. I know that we have all faced challenges this year, both in and out of school. For me, one was arriving here not even able to count to ten in French, and having to complete the really hard French worksheets. But now I am proud to say that I can have a conversation in French – shout out to Ms Spigarelli! Another was during Ski Week, when I fell off the T-bar, and slid up the whole mountain on my stomach because I refused to let go! And then there was getting lost every Wednesday during Army Fitness with Mr Watson. Or trying to explain to a taxi driver where to take us in Berlin, when none of us spoke any German. 

A big highlight of two weeks in Kenya with Habitat for Humanity, not only building a home and reinforcing my biceps, but having my heart grow. We are all stronger, and wiser, and kinder because of the challenges that we have faced. Surval has pushed us to our limits, helping us to learn what we are capable of achieving. Our teachers have given us hope and positivity every day. I know now that if I put the effort into doing something, then I will be able to complete it. I am sure all of you feel like you have come a long way since your first walked through the doors of this school.

I have loved all the trips I have been on this year, both with the school and with my friends – singing karaoke in Greece, the beautiful road trips in Iceland, hearing the real-life stories of concentration camp survivors in Germany – and I have learned just as much while on these journeys as I have in the classroom – maybe even more. However, the trip that I truly believe had the biggest impact on me as a person was Kenya. The experience of working with Habitat for Humanity and the local people who lived there has created a totally new perspective of the world for me. It has made me prouder and stronger woman; we were a group of nine girls and we built a house on our own. Nothing could stop us – not even a wheelbarrow filled with cement! We learned so much from the local people; their love for everyone was huge and their happiness was so contagious – I felt on Cloud Nine while I was there. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity has changed me into a more grateful and considerate person. I now appreciate everything around me much more and I know all of you who were on the trip with me feel the same way. 

Coming to this school is a big opportunity. Not everyone gets the chance to have this type of education, where they do not only teach us about Maths or Physics, but also about the real world. There are so many opportunities here at Surval, and perhaps the most important ones are not about taking, but about giving back. Helping others is not just about donating a fortune to a charity event, but opening a door for someone. We help each other with our homework, or when we are upset. We help people in the local community, by giving food, and donations, and, most of all, our time. Spreading awareness about sustainability has opened up our eyes to how we can help look after our precious environment. We are all more aware now of the planet we live on and the people we share it with and these lessons will help us through our lives.

When I was little, I was taught the golden rule: treat others how you would like to be treated – and this is how I live my life. I would always prefer to be smiled at rather than frowned at; rather be part of a conversation than left out of one; rather be helped than ignored. Our lives at Surval are best when we are smiling at each other, spending time together and at times even dancing together like at Violeta, and Rosalie and Bianca’s parties! I am not a philosopher, but these are just some of the things I’ve learned in my time here.

This year has been full of experiences and there have been many ups and downs. There have been tears of happiness as well as a few of sadness, especially today, but the year has been made up of so much laughter that my friends have become family to me. We are always there for each other and always will be. We were there for Raquel when we heard her shouting, “My tooth, my tooth!” when her tooth fell out and magically disappeared on the way back from the Swiss tour; we were there for each other in Kenya when we needed to work as a team to carry things that were too heavy to carry alone. This year has given us the opportunity to eat lots of McDonald’s and we have driven the teachers crazy in Pandora stores all over the world. For the three terms I have been here, I have lost one phone per term - sorry mom and dad! But the demise of my three mobile phones has been worth it for the experiences I have had. 

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. And so I would like to end today by saying a few thank yous. 

Firstly, on behalf of all of us at Surval, I would like to say thank you to Valeria, for coming all this way to speak to us and making this Graduation day even more special with your incredible speech; your words have been inspiring. 

On behalf of the students, I would like to thank Mrs Woodhouse, the teachers and all the staff at Surval for supporting us, teaching us and looking after us every single day. You have been amazing. 

I would like to thank our parents for giving us the unforgettable experience of living and learning in this beautiful place. 

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.

Thank you.