On Friday, June 29, 2012, Harrow International School’s Sixth Form students gathered at the Marriott Beijing City Wall Hotel for this year’s Leavers Ball. Teachers, parents of the leaving upper sixth form, and administration turned out in gowns, suits, kimonos, and kilts to celebrate the achievements of this year’s 33 leavers.
The official Leavers Ceremony had been held the week before the ball, but the Leavers Ball is a special Harrovian tradition. The evening, largely organized by the leaving students, began with drinks and hors d’oeuvres outside the ballroom. Year 13 students spent much of that time asking friends to sign their Leavers books, a small book with one page dedicated to each student, while Year 12 students prepared to say goodbye and get a glimpse of their future for next year.
At the appointed time, everyone moved into the ballroom for a buffet dinner before the most anticipated part of the evening: the handing out of certificates. Headmaster Matthew Farthing began with a speech congratulating the Leavers on becoming old Harrovians, and reminded them that “adulthood can be pretty good.” He also expressed hope and confidence in the Leavers, and that they would bring about a better future for all.
Alex Murchie, the popular Head of Sixth Form, instructed the Leavers “not to set limits on what [they]can achieve,” and reminded them that “you’re never too old to learn new things.” Headmaster Farthing re-took the stage to award Leavers Certificates, which are a final record of all the extracurricular things students have achieved in and out of school.
Head Boy Jason Lin (studying pre-med at University of California, Los Angeles in the fall) and Head Girl Daphne Chang (studying liberal arts at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in the fall) gave a short speech before showing a short video made by Leavers, another revered Harrovian tradition. The video remained secret from everyone, with the exception of one staff member, until its showing that night. A comedic take on why this year’s Leavers ware so special, the film was a hit, filling the ballroom with laughter from students, administrators, and parents alike.
Following the ceremony, it was time to celebrate. A student band, who say they are not a cohesive band, but just joined together for the ball, led with “Eye of the Tiger.” The room later turned into a disco for an all-out celebration of the newest group of Old Harrovians.
The Leavers Ball comes on the heels of Harrow’s Speech Day on June 23, an event in which students and parents gathered at the Marriott Hotel City Wall for a day of speech making and prize giving. All students graduated from their respective years of school. Harrow students donned their dark blue blazers and ties with the Harrow emblem, and of course their signature boater hats as well. Speeches were given by the head of the lower and upper school, and the headmaster as well. The school song was then sung with music accompaniment by the school orchestra.
Harrow London dates back to the 16th century; over the years, men of history like Palmerston, Peel, Churchill, Byron, Sheridan, and Trollope all attended the school. On the backdrop of such proud cultural heritage, Harrow Beijing celebrated its own Chinese cultural heritage.
Such a backdrop was presented and emphasized in the speech given by guest Jeanne-Marie Gescher. Gescher talked about the 1911 revolution in China that gave way to greater idealistic freedom and also spoke of China’s first university located at Hong Lou (Peking University), amidst the hustle and bustle of the Beijing city streets. She highlighted the roots of China’s history and education, stating that the world is changing for the better. Head Boy Jason Lin and Head Girl Daphne Chang thanked Gescher’s speech by presenting her with a bouquet of pink lilies.
Prizes consisting of books were given out for receivers of the Award for Academic Achievement. Head Boy and Head Girl Jason Lin and Daphne Chang later gave speeches thanking Harrow for their secondary years and most importantly praising the Harrow Community in all it has done for them.
The ceremony came to a close with musical performances provided by the lower school choir. The Leaver’s Ball in celebration of the graduation of the sixth form students was celebrated the Friday following.
For more photos from the event, click here.
Full speech by Head Girl Daphne Chang:
Parents, teachers, students, staff and special guests, It’s overwhelming to be standing in front of you. I am at a pivotal point in my life. The path I will take is unseen yet optimistic and the path I have taken has left a clear trail. When I gather my memories of the past 7 years, I remember my best and my worst, yet these are only a part of the dramatic changes Harrow has undergone since my first day as a student in 2005.
By standing in front of all of you today, I realized something. You see, I wasn’t convinced I was fit for the role of Head Girl. It requires organization, discipline, and resilience, none of which are my natural attributes. But what I realized is that everyone has room to grow. I have to thank the teachers who never lost sight of my potential even when I was so adamant in concealing it, whether it is through the lack of will to do homework or very bad hair. Because you didn’t lose faith, you brought out the best in me. One of the greatest lessons I learnt is that you should always give more than you get. Thank you all for giving me so much, including this chance to give back.
I learnt more from my worst and it has contributed to me becoming my best. I look back on those moments when I lost all motivation and direction and feel like it was necessary for me to experience to become who I am today. I just wanted to tell all the students that now is the time to not be afraid to make mistakes in order to discover what you’re truly capable of.
Our community offers so much support, the strength of which I have personally tested, and I’ve discovered that there are no limitations to what you can achieve. Don’t be afraid of what you can’t do because now is when you begin to learn how to do those things. Whether it is sports, singing, dancing, writing etc, by taking action on your curiosities, you could develop a full passion that will last you for a life time so when it is your turn to graduate, you’ll have a better idea of who you are and how to take your own path to success in the future.
Harrow has undergone so much change, it puts me awe when I step back to dwell on it. The memories I recall most fondly include expeditions to Ping Yao and Gui Lin. Our community was small enough so that everyone at the school could enjoy the same experience. I’m glad expeditions has become part of the school curriculum; I have seen the most beautiful ocean in the Philippines, pushed myself to the extreme while biking in Yunnan and gotten closer with my friends and teachers on all expeditions.
My experience in Harrow has also revealed to me how much the individual can contribute to the community. I have seen so many staff and students enter the school, display their own personal charm and leave behind fond memories. There have been so many students full of great character, so many teachers that inspired me to study harder and have confidence in myself.
Without them I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. The Harrow spirit is hard to define tangibly, but I would have to say because of our humble beginning as a small international school, we’ve grown to be proud of our uniqueness and differences, as well as shared experiences and characteristics. I may not know everybody’s name anymore but I know that each student has something they can offer. Despite the transfer of locations to the new campus, I’m sure the Harrow spirit will remain intact.
By witnessing the development of Harrow as a school, I have really learned to appreciate the availability of resources. The evolution of the prefect room from a dingy classroom devoid of comfort to the large space it is today, complete with couches, mugs and even a fridge, has motivated me to really enjoy the space the school dedicates to the Sixth Form. I definitely wouldn’t be able to enjoy the gym if I hadn’t frozen while playing badminton outside before we had one.
The growth of the drama department amazes me along with the ability of the little black box to transform into any stage. I still remember the days when I had the same teacher for multiple subjects, although it was nice to see Mr. Greaves 4 times a day, it’s definitely great that we now have enough teachers to teach our constantly growing classes. I remember things that seem insignificant, but if they hadn’t have happened, the school wouldn’t be the way it is today. Including refurbishing the pitch with grass, holding goulash meetings, this consisted of 6 people maximum in one small classroom, etc.
I can never be able to express how much I will miss Harrow, but I hope I have given you some idea. Thank you for listening to me, I wish luck to all the teachers, staff, parents and students, and also to next year’s prefect team. I know you will do your best.
Full speech by Head Boy Jason Lin:
Good morning Honored Guests, Staff, Parents and fellow students,
Next year I will be going to university to study biology and looking back to my time at Harrow, all 5 years of my stay, I will try to analyze our school using biological terms and treating it as a living organism: what does it feed on? How does the school, the body, all the metabolic pathways adapt to its surroundings?
I will start off with the nutrients of the school. Harrow thrives on its students, and year by year, I have seen steady growth of the school as the students contribute more and more to improve our school. Even if our school isn’t as big or as fancy as other schools, we will use that to our advantage. It is possible to know everyone’s name, the atmosphere is more like a family and teachers are able to give more attention to each individual.
A great feature of Harrow is the close relationships with teachers, who not only teach us the subject, but share their life experiences both of university and beyond. The teaching is excellent as the teachers push me beyond the scope of our specification to encourage individual progress and maturation. Our sixth form students, more than ever, help and interact with one another on a daily basis and serve as role models to the entire school. As our school slowly digests and assimilates, it grows in size.
I believe that Harrow has taught me and guided me for most of my adolescent life. But I have learned far more than my academic skills. Being Head Boy has developed my leadership, time management, negotiation skills, teamwork and the ability to delegate, while facing numerous challenges. I would like to thank Mr. Murchie and the rest of my prefect team for all I have learned from, and with, you.
And so we come to the final stage: adaptation. As animals grow in population and size, they will grow out of their habitats. Our school is moving to He Ge Zhuang next fall, and in doing so, we will part ways with our small society in AnZhenXiLi into a larger campus outside of the 5th ring road. As it is with evolution, I believe that this development will bring the best out of Harrow and further the progress I have witnessed in my 5 years of studying here.
With its excellent teaching staff, management and care for the students, Harrow has nowhere to go but up. Adaption is also beneficial for our leaving Sixth formers. My peers display fantastic qualities: confidence, academic success, global awareness, leadership skills and a strong sense of community. University life will be intimidating and full of pressures and an opportunity to be completely independent. I hope that all of the Year 13’s will make the most out of the 4 years there and may the grading curve be forever in your favour.
Thank you Harrow for all that you have given me.