A charming and intimate Beijing garden at the Radisson Blu Hotel was the setting for BISS’s 2012 graduation May 25, where 28 students representing over 10 countries bid farewell to their high school experience.
Dressed in traditional black gowns and caps, the students entered the outdoor ceremony serenaded by the BISS jazz band, red sashes blowing in a strong spring breeze on a rare perfect Beijing afternoon.
Graduates were addressed by guest speaker Borja Gutierrez of Free the Children, whose message to the students was (in paraphrasing Gandhi): “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Unique to BISS is the Award for International Understanding, which honors the student that has demonstrated international-mindedness, speaks at least two languages and is a good ambassador for their home country. This year’s award went to Ko Watanabe.
Student speakers Jun Su Jang and Annie Chen charmed the crowd with their speeches. Jun Su, who spent 7.5 years at BISS, compared the school to a chili pepper – “a smaller pepper is spicier than a big one” and laced his speech with food-related references. This graduating class, he said, was like a curry plate – dozens of different spices from around the world that combine to make a delicious dish. Jun Su, a South Korean native, was later honored with the Head of School award, which goes to the student with the highest grades over their final two years of high school. He has decided to attend Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Engineering.
Annie, a BISS student since grade 10, had the crowd laughing with her inspirational speech about procrastination, motivation and life goals. “Don’t strive for a perfect life. Don’t strive for a collection of only happy memories. Don’t strive for a large salary, don’t strive for a career that would make your parents happy, don’t strive for a 4.0 GPA,” she told her fellow graduates. “Strive for the strength to get out of those pajamas, take a decent shower, strut out your door and do something you truly enjoy, you truly love and something you’d do even if no one would ever know about it. “ Annie, who was born in China and lived in Canada prior to her BISS experience, will attend Canada’s prestigious McGill University this fall.
Other offers received by the students of the BISS class of 2012 include Hong Kong University of Science & Technology; Washington University (US); Jacobs University (Germany); American University; University College London; University of Edinburgh, Scotland; City, among others.
More scenes from BISS’s graduation can be found in this gallery.
Below is Jun Su Jang’s graduation speech, in full:
It is my honor to be standing here to give a graduation speech on behalf of our grade.
Some of you will remember me as Humpty Dumpty, or Mr. Hot, or the most annoying student… My name is Jun Su, and I have attended BISS for 7.5 years.
Although this is our graduation, we cannot appreciate enough our parents and teachers for their efforts and support. Without you, we would not have come this far to bask on the joy of completion of IB and have bright smiles on our faces right now.
I hope this speech means something to you all and help you recall some memories. I also had a special request from Javier, my Spanish, or so he claims, friend, to make a funny speech, and so I will try.
There is a saying in Korea: a small pepper is spicier than a big pepper. This is true. BISS is one of the small schools in Beijing. Hence, our grade 12 class is smaller in size relative to those in bigger schools, but our grade is no worse than them. We are like a plateful of curry. We are a mixture of variety of spices from different countries such as Romania, Pakistan, Mexico and China. Our grade has a K-pop fan, Kobe-wannabe, somebody who never hands in his homework, an expert at fooling the nurse, a gigantic eater, a reading-lover, DOTA game lovers, artists, soccer-fanatics, Captain-Yun, a nerd, a history-dork teacher and many more. We all know who they are, and these distinct features blend in to form the best curry plate in Beijing. That’s right, I am that gigantic eater.
Being a grade 12 student is not so special. We are just old, but we have a mental maturity age of a grade 7, always wanting to play and postpone everything that we don’t want. We were after all the most frantic zombies running wildly in the Haunted House.
One of the most memorable moments with our grade is the activity week in Nanjing. We probably learned the most during the activity week out of the whole year. We learned more about each other, how to make boats, play poker and pools, to never to play with doors with glass windows, tolerate same Chinese food at every meal, and dance fiya dance. Whoever made that was stupid. We learned a lot of surviving tricks and skills, and who knows? Somebody may really become a millionaire from playing poker or from inventing something out of dengianma.
Hopefully, we learned many things during these two years of IB, too. For example, we learned that teachers always bluff about many things such as deadlines and perfect grades do not mean much. Besides the academic knowledge that we are about to forget faster than the speed of light, I hope everyone here remembers to remind themselves of their dreams. In this fast moving world, we tend to forget who we are and what our dreams are. Not the dream like the one that I had yesterday night about eating 13 pies in one minute and marrying Mao Zedong who was impressed with my eating, but dream like the goals of your lives. Find your dream and make that dream come true. We are cooks of our lives. Each of our lives is like an empty plate, and what you have on that plate in the end depends on what you want to eat and how you cook it. Cooking may be difficult for some of us, but we can always learn and invent with the help of others. The plate will be filled with food we like ranging from paella to some exquisite invention. However, its quality depends on you. And also make sure that your plate is not made by someone else and be stolen by another connoisseur like myself. You’d be sad when you realize that you do not have many options on the menu or you just lost your food. At least, I would be. Nonetheless, if you fail, you can always make another plate. Don’t give up!
Graduation can be exciting, scary, anti-climactic, sad, etc… You might not know what to do now, but enjoy this moment because we are about to start some intense cooking lesson! Soon you will miss these moments. Everybody keep the fiya of youth in your hearts and… buckle up!
Below is Annie Chen’s graduation speech, in full:
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!! You’ve dragged yourself out of bed on those horrifying Mondays for 12 years. Finally you get a day where you don’t have to wake up at 6:45.
Now for my speech:
We’re eighteen. We’re at the beginning of the best time of our lives and it’s incredibly sad. It’s sad that our best times of our lives come at us at a time when we’re not sure of anything. I still have some remnants of a late night physics study session, and can probably tell you all of Newton’s laws. But other than that, we basically know nothing. We’re not sure of our future, our feelings and definitely not sure of our dreams… heck, I don’t even know what a dream is. We barely made it through that annoying college application process where they ask us the most difficult and annoying questions.
When we were kids, we knew what flavor of cake we wanted, what shoes to wear for the day and whether we wanted to take that nap or not. We were so decisive then. Somehow, as of now, all that I’m sure of is that I’m wasting time. As I put on my pajamas and lie at home all day watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother, I can physically feel the little flutters of time swoosh by. There are so many things I could be doing, should be doing- not just things that would be deemed as ‘productive’ or ‘educational,’ but ACTUAL things I want to do. I started writing a book, but I’m only 8 pages in and now I’m stuck. I should be spending my last few precious days in China conversing with my parents, going outside to bathe in the rare sunshine or even reading an interesting blog, but no. I sit and I do nothing. I sit and I waste time.
Although there are so many of you listening to this thinking ‘OH GOD, THAT’S ME’ but still scared to admit it to others or even yourself… it’s not THAT BAD. It’s not that bad. You’re not the only one that hasn’t changed out of your pajamas for days and only took a proper bath for this graduation. You’re not the only one that’s given the excuse ‘but omg I’m so lazy lately. Plus I’m so tired from having studied for 12 years straight…’
IT’S FINE. IT’S FINE. YOU’RE FINE.
I’m not here to say vague words of motivation like ‘FOLLOW YOUR PASSION AND YOU’LL NEVER FACE ANOTHER OBSTACLE IN LIFE.’ In fact, I have a feeling most of you don’t even know what you’re passionate about. But what I do want to say is that it’s absolutely fine to feel confused and completely dumbfounded by everything around you.
People say that college is a new chapter of your life, a fresh start. As idyllic that sounds, people usually don’t get a fresh start in life. Pretend you’re 97 years old and you’re looking back on your life. What would you like to see? If you were 97 years old now, would you be happy with the life you’ve lived so far? Don’t strive for a perfect life. Don’t strive for a collection of only happy memories. Don’t strive for a large salary, don’t strive for a career that would make your parents happy, don’t strive for a 4.0 GPA. Strive for the strength to get out of those pajamas, take a decent shower, strut out your door and do something you truly enjoy, you truly love and something you’d do even if no one would ever know about it.
Strive to do things for yourself. Forget everyone and just do it for yourself. Live the life you’d never change, because when you’re 97 years old, all you should be thinking is how proud of yourself you are, how worthwhile your life was.
Photos by Mitchell Pe Masilun.