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Graduation Speech - Student of the Year 2020

Graduation Speech: Student of the Year

By: Laura Gonzalez Duran, Class of 2020

Good afternoon parents/friends/teachers, and of course, the graduating class of 2020.

Main Theme

When I was told that I would be speaking at today’s ceremony, my first thought was: Oh no. The thought of speaking in front of so many people was quite daunting, and frankly, after two months of living horizontally on my bed I realized that my work ethic was quite out of shape. So I got to it right away. I opened my laptop, clicked off the Netflix tab which had been open for the past two months, and created a new document. Staring at the blank page, I thought to myself, what message should I transmit? The classic cliches came to mind. It’s important to make mistakes, live the life you want to remember in 20 years, don't sweat the small stuff … etc etc.

And in all honesty, I found myself thinking about time. About how it flies by, and how there’s never enough of it. About how little of it we have when we begin to realize how truly valuable it is. There are only a handful of milestones in life where one looks back, reflects on the past, and ponders about the future. Today is one of those milestones.

Starting at BIS

I’ve been at BIS for seven years, and I know many of you have been here for longer. I was living in Spain when I accidentally found out about the move at an IKEA store. Needless to say, I wasn’t very excited, considering that the only word I knew in German was Kartoffel. That is until we moved a few months later, and I saw the colorful façade of the Waves building that so heavily contrasted the brick school I attended before. Or the beautiful river and enormous park that would accompany me on my bike rides to school. Details that I now often find myself taking for granted.

I entered a very foreign and new education system. One of my first days here, I got a PC for raising my hand in class, before I even answered the teacher’s question. I thought to myself, this is easy! It wasn’t so easy, though, when instead of memorizing textbook information, I was expected to truly understand and engage with the material.

IB + Anecdotes

And a few years later I entered the IB. I don’t think anybody could have predicted when we started the IB that our exams would be cancelled and that we would be sitting in a live-streamed graduation in the Sports Hall, with our Diplomas resting in front of us. Or that the last time we’d all be gathered together before today would be in an ordinary Period 6 tutor class talking about the long-awaited (and sadly canceled) senior prank day.

But those Diplomas in front of you aren’t any less deserved just because you didn’t write the final exams. For the past two years, there were endless Extended Essays breakdowns and last minute Theory Of Knowledge essays, and we made it. There were times where only IB memes could get us through sleep-deprived days, and we made it. There were moments where we worried if our IA ideas even worked, and we made it.

And then came a global pandemic, and we STILL made it.

But I truly hope that in 20 years time, the Class of 2020 isn’t just remembered for the coronavirus. I hope that people, including ourselves, will look back and remember those that walked the halls of this school. And of course we will never forget the teachers that have shaped our school experience. Mr Hafen’s English class conspiracies and awesome beard (that sadly had to be trimmed). Ms V’s 30 minute life stories. Dr Birkfeld’s glycolysis song that will forever be stuck in my head. Mr Owen’s empty BigMac promises. Mr Bailey insisting on Chemistry being “dead easy” and his near heart attacks when we almost dropped glass burettes. And of course, Mr Dayal in 10th grade History class showing us wipeout videos and admiring fabulous colonial moustaches.

I know I can’t really fight against time, but I’m gonna fight anyway to keep these memories of BIS with me wherever I go, no matter where life takes me. Life comes at us so fast that we don’t even realize how much we’ve grown, or how much we link the idea of home to people instead of places. So I will fight to really cherish my time with friends and family, and to not let the moments that matter slip by in the rush of present things.

Thanking People

That is why I’d like to thank the many people that have helped me get here. First and foremost to my parents, for encouraging instead of pressuring me, highlighting that true willingness to work hard can only come from yourself. Thank you to my friends, you know who you are, for making me laugh on the stressful days and pushing me on the lazy days, because I know that my grades can only be as good as the influences around me. Thank you to my teachers, for answering my many, many questions with patience. Teachers have such a strong influence on a student’s approach to a subject, and I’m really thankful to have had amazing teachers in all of my classes. And finally, thank you to Maria; I’m really lucky to have not just a twin, but a friend, go through the emotional rollercoaster that is the IB with me (and to share notes with when we’re cutting it real tight with time).

What have I learned?

So what have I learned these past years? Well, I don’t think it’s much different from what you’ve all learnt, and if it is, I don’t think it’s inherently more special simply because I’m standing on a podium. Hopefully we’ve all learnt something that we’ll take with us as we venture through the highs and lows of life. Chances are, these lessons weren’t found in a textbook. And no matter how many times other people warn you, you’ll only really learn them when you go through it yourself. They’re the things you learn from arguing with friends, from doing group projects, or from only studying for a test the night before. Certain lessons in life only experience can teach you.

I know many of us are having to make university choices right now, and it can be scary at times to plan a life that feels so uncertain and out of our reach. But that’s okay. We are so young, and have our whole lives ahead of us. The important thing is to savor the present moments, because someday, when we’re old and gray, we’ll once again reminisce on how fast time flew by.

So for now, Class of 2020, it's time to celebrate. Thank you.