Remaining true to the school motto, detur pons mundo, this year’s batch of graduates from Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), builds a bridge from their high school world to that of university and beyond. On Thursday, May 23, 92 young adults proudly donned their black gowns and caps, moving their red cap tassel from left to right as they received their diplomas from the headmaster, claimed a pin signifying their induction into the Old Alleynian alumni circle, and scribbled their name on a plaster replica Chinese terracotta warrior that is to be the class souvenir to the school.
DCB is built on values and tradition, and two of the fun traditions that the graduates partook in prior to the ceremony were a parade throughout the entire school as all students, faculty and staff applauded the deserving students. Earlier in the month was Prank Day, when the seniors conceptualized and executed projects for the enjoyment of the entire school community. Most popular was taping nearly a thousand balloons by the entrance to the Junior School, forcing the younger children to step on or over the balloons to get to their classes.
More than just giving the seniors an opportunity to take a break from their hectic pre-exam and graduation schedule, Senior Prank Day helped them let off some creative steam and hone teamwork skills as they labored on their projects for two days, then watched as the rest of the students discovered the surprises set up throughout the school. It is one of many experiences that the graduates will surely remember as they move on to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, University of Toronto, The University of Auckland, and prestigious universities in the US.
All the speakers at the ceremony commented on how this batch of graduates was strong as a unit, supported each other throughout the two years of the IB program, and were all achievers in their own right. Outgoing Headmaster Brian McDouall lauded the seniors for their hard work in academics, and admonished them to stay true to themselves as they faced the challenges of leaving home and surviving the university experience.
Alumna guest speaker Francesca Cociani of the class of 2012, also echoed Mr. McDouall’s advice to the graduates, saying that the education they received in the halls of Dulwich is but one factor that will determine their success in the future, and that they must rely on their inner strength to make it through the coming years.
This year’s Head Student, Ben Tan from Singapore, gave a very impressive graduation speech. He spoke not only of the academic successes of the class and how he appreciated the emphasis Dulwich places on leadership in all aspects of school life. More importantly, he addressed his friends and the value of their kindness and acceptance towards each other. The respect and support the entire class has exhibited for each other has more than just helped them overcome the difficulties of completing such a demanding academic program, it has also given them friendships to last a lifetime. It is yet another tradition that all Dulwich graduates uphold: using their privileged education to continue molding themselves as future leaders in the real world.
The following is Benjamin Tan’s speech:
Thank you Mr Herbert. I must admit, it is impossible to summarize the current emotions and thoughts of our year – or even my own – in the time that I have. Even though I’ve been told this is only the beginning of what is hopefully a fulfilling life for every one of us graduating students, I can’t help but feel bittersweet for what has ended and even fearful for what lies ahead.
I am proud to be graduating from this school and to have been taught by its teachers, but if I were to be completely honest, I could not be prouder to be graduating with this particular year group. I am in no place to talk about university life or the key to future success, but it would be remiss of me to not celebrate the people I am graduating with, including Cas and Sangwoo who unfortunately cannot be here today.
When speaking of our year, I won’t pretend we do not have divisions in friendship groups and cliques. That much would be clear if you simply walked into our common room. But through the evil that is called the IB and experiences like the CAS trips of almost two years ago, we have grown much closer together, and not apart.
In our time in IB, we have seen two heads of year, multiple heads of senior school and headmasters, and too many of our own teachers come and go; we’ve endured a year’s worth of construction. If you’ve been here longer, as I have, the changes are even more acute: there were less than 200 students in all of senior school when we were in Year 8 and now that’s how many people you’d find in the common room alone.
Despite what has changed, I’m proud of what we have accomplished as a year. As one teacher said to me, completely seriously: this is the end of an era, not only for the graduates but for Dulwich as well. Frankly, I was taken aback by what she said, having not considered exactly how much we have contributed to this community. But now I have no shame in believing that this graduating class has covered impressive ground: leading sports teams or entire houses as captains to win ACAMIS tournaments, directing theatre performances, founding bands, putting on incredible end of IB art exhibitions, starting or running almost every charity in this school such as the Interact Club, H2O, or Beacons of Hope, and even more.
But noting our academic achievements would simply not be enough. More than anything, being part of this year taught me to never underestimate the value of every person I meet and to not hesitate in disregarding my initial judgments of people. In my opinion, what makes this an amazing year group to be a part of is a trait that doesn’t come across immediately or evidently to an outsider. I feel incredibly lucky to have been part of this year not because we are all overachievers or destined for success, but that we have chosen – consciously or not – to treat each other with unwavering respect and support. It doesn’t matter who you are, how long you’ve been at Dulwich, or who you identify as your friends. For this, I have to thank not only my closest friends, but also every one of you.
Never underestimate how far unprejudiced kindness or empathy can take you or make someone else feel accepted and worth something. Indeed, it is what has made my life here worthwhile (and not to mention bearable as Extended Essay and IA deadlines approached more quickly than I thought was even possible).
Whether it was hearing all the boys scream Stella during the English retreat, filling Mr. Parekh’s room with the smell of curry, or getting social cues from Ms Lawrence’s outstanding seminar on “How to make friends 101,” it is needless to say that our year has had great times together. Even what happened for the Senior Prank to be the success that it was epitomizes the drive and unity that we have as a year.
There’s evidence to show that high school life most often remains among your most vividly remembered memories. I do not doubt that we will remember our time here. But I genuinely hope that as we leave, we leave with a sense of accomplishment, regardless of how important or unimportant the rest of us feel about your individual successes.
And no matter how many times I’ve heard us whine or whined myself about the hardships of being a student, it is truly humbling to realize that – one – this is only the beginning and – two – that the education we have received here is more than what many people our age could wish for. We’ve been privileged enough to apply to universities around the world, let alone be given offers.
And so to every one of our teachers: I would like to thank you, on behalf of the graduating class, for taking us this far. For supporting us in our studies, supporting us equally in our endeavors outside the classroom and for kindly submitting to the onslaught of water guns during our prank. What we have achieved here and what we will achieve is in part a testament to how well we have been taught. A special thank you to Ms. Bugden and Mr. Battersby for essentially jumping onto a moving train at the beginning of Year 12. I know most students, including myself, will also have particular teachers that they will remember. I only hope it has been as memorable for you as it has been for us.
To the parents, siblings and extended family that have been with since the beginning: we would simply not be here without your love and care; I hope we have made you proud. The idea of moving to a new city or university scares me as much as it excites me; it is a comfort to know though that your family may only be a phone call away. As my father likes to remind me: you only get one family, and they’re yours for life. Thank you for everything you have given us.
And finally, to the Class of 2013: We sit here now as friends, with the knowledge that we hold photographic evidence of each other that would certainly be valuable if anyone here decides to run for public office. I can only wish that you find similar friendships in the future.
It has been hard, it’s also been fun, but most of all, it’s been unforgettable. Please keep in touch. I wish you all the best, no matter where or with whom you end up.
And congratulations, by the way, on completing high school. It has been too long a wait. Thank you.
See the full photo gallery of the graduation here.
Photos by Smile Photography
Dana is the beijingkids‘ Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.