On Thursday, June 21, the second-ever class of Year 13 students graduated from the British School of Beijing. The ceremony was held in the Duke of York Theater at the Shunyi campus barely two hours after students finished their final A-Level exams. Seventeen students, clad in black gowns with black block detailing on the cuffs, filed into the steamy theater, where Head of Secondary Robert Hewett welcomed graduates, students, and family members.
The 17 graduates, representing 12 nationalities, have been accepted to prestigious colleges and universities around the globe, including Hong Kong University; St. Mary’s College of California; University of Massachusetts, Boston; University of Westminster; Exeter University; and University of British Columbia.
Following a slideshow of images, Year 12 Head Girl and saxophonist Imogen Taylor spoke about the music programs at BSB. Graduating student and pianist Michelle Kim then took to the stage and delivered a strong performance of Prelude and Fugue in A Major by Dmitri Shostakovich. A student of piano for seven years, Michelle, 17, plans to continue playing when she returns to Korea to study physics at university.
Daniel Holliday, Head of Year 11, granted achievement awards to Year 11 students for Academic Excellence, Sportsperson of the Year, and Charity Work. David Robinson and David Baker handed out achievement awards for students in Year 12 for their performance in Life Skills Week, during which students learn life skills like cooking, yoga, self-defense, and interview skills.
Head Boy and student speaker Tommy Siu, 18, is from Hong Kong but has lived in Beijing for nearly 10 years. Fresh from his final A-Level, Tommy spoke poignantly about his seven years at BSB, thanked his teachers and fellow classmates, and expressed confidence in turning the page on a new chapter of life and facing the challenges of university and career. Tommy ended his speech with a phrase popular among his fellow graduates: YOLO, shorthand for You Only Live Once. Tommy hopes to attend either Hong Kong University or University Bath come the fall semester.
Graduates lined the stage one by one as Andy Rigione awarded graduation certificates. The ceremony ended with a highly anticipated speech delivered by Executive Principal Mike Embley, in which he urged graduates not to make excuses, and to remember that all that matters in life are choices.
Following the ceremony, the graduates joyfully tossed their caps into the air and enjoyed a glass of wine or champagne. Shortly after, students and their parents boarded awaiting school buses to take them to The Orchard for a celebration dinner.
Below is the full text of Tommy Siu’s graduation speech:
Just two hours ago, I finished my last A level exam. After so many hours, so many restless nights and so many temptations to just give up, we are finally here: graduation. With that being said, I want to apologize to Michelle and Renaldo and thank them for joining us tonight as their exams are still proceeding. Today, while we turn the page of a new chapter in the story of our lives, take a moment to reflect on everything that we have achieved, because this will mark the first of the many successes of our adult lives.
Writing this speech for you today was hands down one of the most stressful things I have ever done. This was tremendous pressure, especially with two exams on this day as well. For days I toiled over what to speak about, what words of wisdom I could possible convey. I kept re-writing sentences because I wanted to find the best words to say to all of you. Well, I got something. And forgive me if It is little different compared to the usual graduation speeches you may have heard.
I can almost remember that day like it was yesterday. It was my first day of school in BSB. I was 11, and I was nervous because I was in a totally different environment than I had ever been in before. I wasn’t sure what kind of people I was going to meet. But this was when BSB was a brand new secondary school with only 35 students, so everyone was new to the school, we bonded easily and many friendships were formed. Although our school lacked the numbers and many of the facilities we have today, what made BSB so unique was how unified and friendly both students and teachers were. Back then, I was a kid that couldn’t do anything, a kid who caused a lot of chaos. I had weekly detentions, I burped in class thinking it was funny, I was the bus ayi’s worst nightmare and academically I was one of the worst. Now, 7 years later, I am walking out of this school as a man who is prepared to face the challenges of university and a professional career. There were times when I thought this day would never come, but here we are now, gathered for a bittersweet celebration of congratulations and goodbyes. I will definitely miss everyone here in BSB. Although I have not known all of you equally well, I do hope you will miss me too.
Fellow students, when I look back on all the good and the bad, the high and low times over the past few years, I realize that most of you guys have always been there for me. Whether it was through a simple text, a phone call, a comforting hug, or major gossip, you guys pulled me through, no matter what. So thank you. Being in the 6th form has left me with so many memories worth keeping. We have faced 0huge challenges and difficulties when studying for our A level course over the last two years, but this did not stop us from having fun. I admit sometimes we do need to let our hair down and and take a moment to recompose ourselves, and the teachers had to remind us to concentrate on studies. But the 6th form was more than just studying, we had a bit of everything: there were the intense Call of Duty team battles and frequent horror movies played from Emily’s laptop at lunchtime, the unusual but delightful snacks shared by the Hyun Bin and Stella, ‘the Korean girls’, the daily dubstep tracks from Will and Tonaya , the cozy corner conquered by Didi and Chiko at the beginning of the year, the secret sleepers who shall remain anonymous, there was the ‘man talk’ between Muj, Jordan, Brian and Franklin and sometimes even the unavoidable drama. But just because we are most likely leaving each other and that we all move on with our lives, it doesn’t mean that these special moments are leaving too. We will bring these memories with us, and I hope you will all revisit these defining moments.
Dear teachers and parents, our accomplishment today wouldn’t have been possible without your dedication and support. I’d like to thank all the staff on behalf of this graduating class to have taught us by example, what it means to be organized, responsible and persistent global citizens. Mrs. Molina, you have always believed in me, even at times when I had my doubts. And I promise I will continue Spanish. In my head, you are the most enthusiastic, humorous and tireless teacher in BSB. Mr. Bourne, your encyclopedic knowledge of historical events has answered huge numbers of questions and created whole new questions I had never even thought of before. You made history so accessible and enjoyable to learn and understand. Mr. Brightwell, sadly unable to attend tonight, You are the most remarkable person to integrate humor and intellect. I cannot imagine where we would be without your continuous leadership and guidance. Mr. Taylor, the fact that you take the time out during weekends to help us study for our exams is truly noteworthy. Your passion for teaching is appreciated by all of us. Mr. Robinson, it must take a lot of endurance to manage the 6th form. Although sometimes we do make life harder for you, your persistence and devotion has made the 6th form a more vibrant, friendly and stimulating environment. And Dr. Massie, you have been my form tutor since I was about 12. And it’s been a privilege to be part of your class. You have remained central in monitoring our progress both academically and socially. You are the most tolerant teacher I have ever met. And thank you to all the rest of the teachers here at BSB for creating such a warm, stimulating environment where we can all realize our full potential. And to our parents, you have done a remarkable job raising us to who we are today. Thank you, for giving us these wonderful opportunities.
To conclude this speech, Graduates, Class of 2012, the last class of BSB according to the Mayan Calendar, (but if the Mayans are wrong I’m sure there will be graduations at BSB for generations to come), We are here today to take a giant leap to the unknown, the real world of fully grown adults. As we approach this real world, it is important to remember the many people who have helped us along the way as leaders, advisors, peers and friends. It’s time to finally make our own choices. For some of us, our biggest problems will no longer be deciding what to wear, whether we have enough money to go out or when to study for exams. Our choices will begin to revolve around where we want to live, who we want to live with, what is truly important to us and how we can make a living. But wherever we go from here, we should use the knowledge, skills and qualities we have learnt over the years to face the many unpredictable events of life and overcome every obstacle. Mistakes and difficulties are inevitable but, as we have learnt from our time at BSB, it is only through mistakes that we can learn what it truly is to succeed. Be true to yourselves, follow your dreams and make sure you have fun too. I know that in most graduation speeches, there are always some sort of inspirational quotes or phrases, but all I could come up with is YOLO. It is a motto that we, as young adults, say all the time for fun times and for serious times. It is an acronym that stands for, “You Only Live Once”. It means one should take risks and live life to the fullest because you won’t get another chance. Thank you and good luck everyone!