At the Leysin American School, students undergo an unparalleled educational journey, gaining valuable life experience and acquiring the tools to accomplish the most challenging of goals. Parents seeking a reputable institution in the Swiss countryside choose LAS when it comes to providing their children a highly competitive but unique and fulfilling boarding school experience. If you think a global lifestyle is right for your child, consider the Leysin American School's top-notch academic instruction set against its culturally-rich central European location.
Last year, Ania G. was named valedictorian of the LAS Class of 2014. In the following interview, Ania shares her experiences, hopes, and future goals with her friend and fellow LAS alumni Veronika R. of the Class of 2015. Get to know one of our most talented pupils, and get an insider's view of how life at Leysin American School prepared her for later academic and career success.
V: Hey Ania! It’s great to see you back at Leysin. What does it feel like?
A: Thanks, Veronika! It’s great to see so many familiar faces, to visit the places I became so accustomed to, and to be so warmly welcomed back. I’m very excited about the prospect of spending seven weeks here working for LAS. In many ways, it feels like coming back home.
V: So, what are your plans for this summer?
A: I’m staying in Leysin until the beginning of August while working at LAS's annual summer camp. I'll be working with the youngest students, ages 7-11, who come to Switzerland for a fun-filled but educational summertime experience. After that, I'll be moving on to Vienna to study contemporary dance. As an avid dancer, I'm taking up the opportunity to participate in Austria's world-renowned International Dance Festival. There's also an internship I'm pursuing with an emission trading company in Poland, as well as a field trip to Germany with my university. It may seem like a busy summer, bit I'm excited about each and every one of these projects. They'll help me develop a range of skills that I'll be able to use in university and later in my career. Not to mention, they're fun!
V: I know that many LAS alumni come back to work for the SIS program after they graduate. As an institution, LAS is proud of its global community of alumni and the long-lasting friendships that are created during the years they spend here. Is this true? Do you still keep in touch with any of your LAS friends?
A: Above all else, the opportunity to build friendships in this international community was the most enjoyable characteristic of the LAS experience. Yes, I keep in touch with my friends as well as my teachers that I met during my years in Switzerland. As a proud alumni, we like to chat about our cherished memories, but we also use our global connections to network and exchange ideas about our current projects and goals. My friends who are still at LAS keep me filled in on exciting news regarding the school and its various updates. It's great to see how these different perspectives combine together to help us form an unforgettable image of the school we've grown to love and appreciate so much.
V: You spent a year and a half at LAS before graduating. If you could start your life here over again, what would you do differently?
A: Looking back and learning from our past experiences is an important part of the educational process. This applies not only to the field of academia but also to our social lives. Having said this, I am quite reluctant to look for things I would change about my LAS life. I believe that I made the most of my time in Leysin, and I am happy where I am now. As the French say, je ne regrette rien. (In hindsight, maybe I could have tried to speak French with the local community more often!)
V: How do you think LAS prepared you for the future?
A: One of the things I appreciate most about my LAS education is the school's focus on global awareness. Meeting wonderful friends and teachers from all corners of the globe and exploring a variety of destinations on organized cultural trips were fundamental to my learning process. These aspects of LAS life were just as rewarding as the traditional classroom experience. LAS provided me with all the tools I need to succeed in university, and I'm quite certain that I'll be reaping the benefits of my education here as I move towards my future career.
V: I know that you were the valedictorian of your class, were accepted into Cambridge, and participated in numerous extracurricular activities and clubs. Tell me about what motivates you.
A: I'm unsure what the future holds for me, so I'm always motivated to take the opportunities given to me and utilize them to the best of my ability. A lot of people would say that they have clear goals in mind, and they're always working toward them. But I'm quite the opposite! I just try to enjoy the process of getting to the unknown without putting too much pressure on myself.
V: Can you tell me about a time when you failed at something, whether it was academic or something else? How did you deal with it?
A: At LAS, I was instilled with the attitude that there are no "failures" when considering the outcomes of my actions. When I make a decision about something, I always try to have a back-up plan on hand. Experiencing difficulty and knowing how to deal with it is a success in itself. For example, when I started my education at an international school in Kolkata, India, I didn't feel the program was meeting my expectations. In many ways, I thought this life choice was a total failure. I should've done better research about the institution, and I wasn't mindful about what their program had to offer. Perhaps I was too trustful of people who didn't have my best interests in mind, but instead of accepting the circumstances, I used them as a mere stepping stone. In the middle of my junior year, I applied to over 20 schools around the world, finally settling on LAS. I hope all of my future "failures" will turn out with happy endings like this one!
V: You study in the fifth best university in the world according to the 2015 world university rankings. Tell us more about your life and education there.
A: Wait, number five? Okay, but according to the ranking you’re quoting, Oxford is above Cambridge. Maybe there's something wrong with your source? I'm kidding. But going back to your question, I'm enjoying my personal and academic life at Cambridge. British university programs are very subject specific and focus around independent learning. My usual week consists of around 7 or 8 hours of classroom time, and the rest is entirely up to me. Of course, I have to complete assignments, read, and make sure I stay on top of my course notes. But there's also plenty of time for extracurricular activities, and Cambridge has a range of clubs including choir, dance, rowing, and even more unusual ones like the Winnie-the-Pooh Society. There's something for everyone. I have lots of opportunities to meet up with friends, travel, and get involved in organizations outside of the university.
V: How did it feel when you received your acceptance letter?
A: The British university admission system is a bit different than America's. Instead of an outright acceptance or rejection, students usually receive an offer that states a specific set of academic goals they must meet in order to secure a place for the courses they've applied. I remember that when I received my offer in January, I knew from that point on it was all about thorough revision and preparation for exams. Of course, the offer also made me realize that I was very close to being accepted to one of the best universities in the world! I think that some of my friends, family, and teachers were even more excited than I was. Knowing that they believed in me and were supportive made it all the more exciting. Perhaps they were my main motivation.
V: How did you decide to major in Geography? Did you always know what you wanted to do with your life?
A: When I was in high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, and I still don't know! This is partly the reason I chose to study geography. The course combines natural and social sciences with some use of math, computer science, and a touch of the arts. I had to decide my concentration as early as October of my senior year at LAS, and once I made up my mind, I started to discover more and more links between my experiences and Cambridge's Geography major. Ironically enough, the topics that I thought I'd be least interested in are the ones I'm most passionate about now, and vice versa! This only proves to me that sometimes it's better to choose a broader course of study. With time, you'll start to realize what areas you excel at and are most excited about.
V: I know that you did an IB program at LAS. Did the subjects you chose in high school closely match your choice of major?
A: I definitely see how the subjects I was studying as an IB student help me tackle the challenges I face at university. Unlike the British high school program, IB educates students in all major areas of study as opposed to a select few. In addition, IB students are required to take a TOK class, which I did not fully appreciate as a high school student. When I began my university studies, I began to realize how well this class prepared me for independent thinking, questioning of knowledge, and presenting my ideas in a smart, effective way.
V: What’s the closest short-term goal in your life?
A: Before the academic year finished, I was elected to the president of a contemporary dance society in my college. The major improvements that I hope to introduce for the 2015-2016 year are better advertising of classes, more social event offerings, and better overall communication and friendship-building among dancers at the studio. Hopefully, I'll manage to maintain a balance between my academic responsibilities, work for the dance society, and the other things I do for fun. I feel I've been getting it right so far!
V: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: This question reminds me of a story. This summer, I went back to my junior high school in Poland, and I met up with one of my Grade 9 teachers. When I told him I was continuing my studies at Cambridge, he responded, "This is exactly what you told me you would do." I don't remember saying that, but it seems like I have some prophetic skills. It makes me a little wary of making any concrete statements about my future. Can we just repeat this interview in 2020, and then we'll see how our lives have changed?
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