This is most true for those in their final year of school who, as young men and women, are well and truly ready to make the leap into adult life but perhaps feel some trepidation about what lies ahead as they leave school and home for their next adventure.
It was thus with enthusiastic affection but more than one tearful eye that HeadStart waved goodbye to the Class of 2019 on June 24. They are a diverse bunch, full of unique individuals and talents. Some 16 different nationalities are represented, a veritable league of nations where Brits play football alongside Koreans, Venezuelans plan science experiments with Americans, and Thais learn history alongside Lithuanians.
More impressive than their different passports, to someone having worked in international schools for many years, is the sheer variety of academic interests represented in the university courses our graduates are set on pursuing.
There is much to celebrate in the fact that almost a third of our students are destined for universities ranked in the top 50 in the world (according to QS World University Rankings) and that a quarter received offers of significant financial aid to contribute towards the cost of their studies. But most important of all is that each and every student has left school with a clear plan, and every student who submitted a university application has been placed on the course of their choice.
And what a diverse set of choices they have made. Students have done particularly well in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), going off to study Medicine, Biological Sciences, Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Science, Psychology and Chiropractic Science. Unsurprisingly, given our location, students have also shown an interest in commerce and hospitality, and are holding offers to study Hospitality Management, International Business Management and even Agribusiness.
That does not mean that creativity is on the sideline. HeadStart graduates will soon be embarking on degree courses in Fashion Design, Art, Literature and even Film Production. Social Sciences have also been strong this year, with students successfully applying for Law, Politics and even the prestigious PPLE (Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics).
Their destinations are equally far-flung: the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Spain, the USA, to name just a few. It’s so rewarding working with high-achieving young people with such a wide range of ambitions, and we wish them the very best of luck as they embark on these courses.
However, when it came to the graduation ceremony, what was most striking was not the individual successes but the community that these very different young people have forged together. There were speeches that thanked inspiring teachers and expressed gratitude for the opportunities school had provided (sports, leadership, trips to New York and productions all got honourable mentions) as different students spoke about their time with us. However, the word that was used most often by our leavers as they reminisced about their time at HeadStart was “family”.
All of them acknowledged that things had not always been easy and that examinations and university applications on top of the usual personal challenges that inevitably arise meant that life had been stressful at times. All gratefully recognised the vital role that their teachers and friends had played, and what they as individuals had each done, in supporting the group as a whole to be where they stood at that moment: successful and ready to move on to their next exciting chapter.
It is that sense of “family” in its truest form – a group of people who share values, support each other’s goals, respect and love each other despite their differences and are committed to each other – that the Class of 2019 most remembered about their time at school. If they take this with them as they head off into the big wide world, we will be very proud of them indeed.
Gemma Caines is the Head of Sixth Form at HeadStart International School. For more information, visit headstartphuket.com