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School Blog: Survalienne Valeria's Graduation Guest Speaker Speech

21 June 2019

Before we start, I would like to introduce myself. I’m Valeria Pacifici and I’m extremely honored to be here today, which is why I would like to thank Mrs. Woodhouse for inviting me and giving me the opportunity of reliving, at least for a day, what was the best experience of my life.
There are a million feelings, a thousand thoughts and a hundred memories that come rushing back to me by just thinking of Switzerland, of Montreux, of Surval. I still remember as if it was yesterday: all the little paths downhill that took you to magical places, the calmness spread by the landscape filled with nature, and the beautiful view of the lake surrounded by stunning mountains.

Moreover, I remember dearly all the wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting; without a doubt, I can say that every person I met here taught me valuable lessons that changed me for the better, making me the woman I am today.

Whether it was being more open minded about new cultures and learning about lifestyles different from mine, or more personal aspects, such as speaking my mind, standing up for the people who need it the most or even being able to know myself more deeply, being more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, Surval helped me decide who I wanted to be in the future.

There are so many beautiful memories that I hold deeply in my heart, these being so special that it is hard even putting them into words; even the smallest flashbacks make me nostalgic, taking me back to all the laughs I shared in these halls, all the early mornings getting ready for trips, taking the train to visit Lausanne or Vevey on the weekends, all the late nights talking about our dreams for the future that we hoped someday would become real.

Certainly, my year here in Switzerland was the best year of my life. I discovered the most amazing places alongside the most amazing people. And, though I arrived uncertain if I would want to stay, because I didn’t know what life living here was going to be like, I left wanting to stay forever, to pause time and hold on to the moment for a little longer.

There was never a day that wasn’t filled with laughter and excitement because I had my sisters by my side, and, even if there were ups and downs, we were always supporting each other through thick and thin, and that is the most valuable thing Surval gave me – friendships that will last a lifetime.

Once we graduated in June of 2017, it was time to face the real world: it was time for a new adventure; and, though I knew I would miss everyone, I was beyond excited to take the next step into becoming the person that I aspire to be, opening the new chapter in my life of being a university undergraduate. 

Back then, even if I was quite sure that I wanted to study law, I wasn’t really sure of the best direction to move in; then, living here at Surval, discovering so many different  cultures and languages, and, through my International Relations classes, becoming increasingly aware of everything that was going on in the world, I realized that I wanted to make this the focus for the rest of my life; to work in an environment where I can speak in favor of those topics I am most passionate about, helping to make changes for the better in the world we live in. Finally, I came to the conclusion that what I really wanted to be was a diplomat, and I am doing everything in my hands to accomplish that dream.

Surval became my home away from home, and I miss it constantly. Looking back, I now know that I was learning at Surval even when I didn’t realize it; it was only in retrospect that I realized how important skills such as organization and leadership are, skills that I developed thanks to the different activities we were asked to lead here, such as the Halloween and St Nicholas celebrations. Life at Surval also taught me how to be more responsible and punctual in general, even from something as simple as attending 8.30 Assemblies on time!

This experience helped me gain a new perspective on so many things, whether it was opening my eyes to the power of charity, with the amazing Habitat for Humanity trip to Kenya, which is the most rewarding memory of them all; or discovering more of the world itself, though all the amazing trips I was lucky enough to experience throughout my year here. 

If I had to summarize my experience here in Surval, I would do so with a quotation my mom told me when she was saying goodbye to me before leaving me here at this wonderful school. She said, “I hope you live so happily that you don’t know if you are living or dreaming.” This has stuck with me ever since, because that was what Surval was for me – a dream come true. I got to explore every corner of the world with my best friends and that is something that I will never forget.

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.

The best advice I can give you from my experience is to remember to face all the adversities that you meet in life with your best attitude, whether it is a new country, or a new school or even going back home, because staying strong, positive and optimistic really does improve your perspective and makes everything as easy as it can be.

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. 

And for those of you who are staying, enjoy this experience to the fullest, because now you might not realize it but these some of the best years of your lives. Time flies, and sooner rather than later you will realize that it is time to say goodbye to all the great moments between these yellow walls. So try to learn as much as you can, because remember: knowledge is power and what you know can never be taken away from you. Lastly, travel every time you are able; it is the best way of expanding your brain and learning.

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.

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