Stories from our international boarding schools

A cumulative journey – celebrating EF Academy’s class of 2018

My name is Eugene Tan and I was an IB student at EF Academy Torbay for two years. The culmination of my journey here was gradually marked in three stages: from examinations, to the leaver’s dinner, and graduation day. All of which, although separate events in themselves, were wholly intertwined to create one particularly long period of time filled with joyful stress and fleeting happiness.

At the start of the academic year, the school held our first ever whole-school sports day to usher in the idea of house competitions. This was the moment I made one of my biggest mistakes of the year: signing up for a 400m race without having the first clue about how far 400m was. Seeing as how I hadn’t gone for a run since my primary school days, it’s easy to see how the odds were not in my favor and why things went terribly. However, the night before the race, I had Googled how to run a 400m race to come up with a strategy for myself. Yes, this is what it had come to for me.

From my research, I came upon a single piece of advice which has been lingering in my mind ever since. The advice was that in the final 50m of the race, even when my entire body felt like it was on fire, that I should ignore the stop signs in my head and push on to the finish line. I didn’t do that. In terms of graduation season though, the final exams were the equivalent to this final 50m stretch. The completion of which meant that during graduation day, all of us who pushed on despite the gnawing sensations within our mind, was to win first place together unequivocally. This year has been a long and tough one, yet we all pushed on in this final race to graduation and made it.

The leaver’s dinner, a teaser for the main course to come on the next day, provided a more personal touch for the upper-school graduates. Parents from around the globe journeyed down to Torbay, off to the Imperial Hotel with its stunning sea-view balcony, to meet the people their children had grown to love during their time at EF Academy. Inside jokes also bounced about the room as student secrets were exposed one last time before the end, such as a certain A-Level student farting during an examination. Such was the comedic, open environment we had all come together to establish during our time as students.

On the other hand, graduation day was a grand, celebratory event which saw various students showcasing their talents in an epic finale, closing this academic year with all-around memorable performances. The three main performances were of the top three students from the winter EF Talent Show, two pianists and a singer, all of whom effortlessly seized immediate control of the hall when they started their performance. Yet, they were truly just warming audiences up for the year of 2018’s valedictorian speaker, Sarah Veloso, whose strong three-year run at EF Academy Torbay from non-English speaker to fluent-English speaker with an unconditional university offer, would serve as inspiration for students from any circumstance or walk-of-life.

Slowly but surely, myself and countless other graduates were called on stage for our hat-throwing ceremony. As time was being counted down by unknown voices in the distance, pen-battered calluses gripped these foreign graduation hats, fatefully awaiting the number zero. When it finally came, a thunderous roar and applause erupted from the hall, signaling the end of our high-school journey.

Even now, one week on from graduation day, where I am volunteering on a farm in countryside Norway, the realization of such a colossal ending hasn’t completely registered yet. Though it seems surreal, thinking of that final 50m stretch fills me with more sense of fulfillment than any celebratory event ever would. Those final weeks of struggle with my friends, the pinnacle of the effort we had used in dragging each other up to the finish line together throughout various stages of the year, is what will stay with me the rest of my life. This isn’t a story of a person or a single day, this is a story of a collective effort by the Class of 2018, of the whole school these past two years.

I am Eugene Tan, and I am one part in a huge family known as EF Academy Torbay. Signing out.

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