Graduation speech

Diego´s speech on IB graduation day, August 26 2023

Thank you, friends, family, faculty, and fellow graduates for being here today. It is an honor to celebrate this milestone with all of you.

To start off, I would like everyone to focus on the teachers that have been there with us for the past three years. Few students worldwide have the privilege of being taught by such an excellent group of people. Getting through the diploma programme would have been almost impossible without the expertise in your respective subjects, guidance, deadline reminders, organizing our workload during DP2, and many more. Furthermore, you encouraged us to tackle more complicated concepts, and no matter how far along the year we were, you reminded us that it was never too late to start studying and doing our best. In the past three years, I have not heard a single teacher say that a subject was too difficult, a topic too complicated, or that the students would not be able to grasp a more demanding concept. You did not doubt our capabilities, and it might seem like a small detail, but it has a huge effect on a students mind to know that their teachers believe in them and that any goal is within our reach. Thank you for doing your jobs with excellency and giving us all the tools we needed to succeed, all we had to do was sit our butts down and study. So if all the teachers could stand up for a moment so that everyone can see you… thank you for your work and dedication to us. Everyone, let’s give the teachers a big round of applause!

My fellow graduates, today we celebrate the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. It is normal for us to be thinking a lot about the future and what is to come, but let’s take a moment to remember the past and this school to which we have dedicated so much of our time and energy.

It is no secret that Norssi has a very welcoming and open environment because of how culturally diverse their student body is. Many of my classmates, including myself, are third culture individuals. For those of you who don’t know, third culture people are those who were raised in a culture other than their parent’s or the country of their nationality. This means that they live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years. While it is true that being a third culture person is a privilege and allows them to relate to people from all around the world, it also has its downsides. For those of you who do not know me, my mom is Finnish, my dad is Puerto Rican, and I was born in the Dominican Republic. I have lived in all three countries throughout my life and learned to appreciate the best of each one. And while it has been a blessing, like other third culture individuals, I have struggled with the feeling of belonging everywhere and at the same time, not belonging anywhere. Because of my atypical mixture of cultures, Puerto Rican and Finnish – polar opposites, I had a hard time building authentic friendships with those around me. I was never enough Puerto Rican or enough Finnish. I knew that I belonged, but not quite as much as the others. It was not until I came to Norssi and met this amazing group of people with similar experiences, that I got to know a side of me I did not know existed. I had always considered myself very shy and reserved, yet with these guys I immediately hit it off and felt more comfortable than I had ever felt with anyone else. Us third culture individuals speak our own language, and being a part of this group allowed me to start to understand myself and finally start to grow into the person I wanted to be.

In addition to the international side of IB we also had the national side, composed of the Finnish students. At first it was harder to get to know them, as is usually the case with Finnish people, but with time the international and national classes of IB merged and we ended up creating this very beautiful friend group full of laughter, respect, and most of all, love for each other. We still laugh about it many times because we are not really sure how that friend group came to be. One day during first year it was just 6 to 8 people, and suddenly we were a group of 30 loud teenagers blocking the school hallways, going to the beach together, walking around town, and playing more volleyball than professional volleyball players do. We hung out for hours every opportunity we got, and more and more people would show up to these hangouts every time. During that first year summer I remember my parents telling me many times to enjoy and protect this unique friend group we had, that finding something like it again would probably not happen. While I knew how special this group was, I never considered that it would not always be the same. However, throughout DP2, all of us started to become really busy with school, work, and other priorities. Even though we are all still very good friends, things will not ever be the same it was in those days, and while change is a good thing and I want you guys to be excited for the future, let’s never forget that innocent, good bond we created here in Norssi, and no matter in which part of the world we find ourselves, lets challenge each other to always find a way to keep in touch with the people surrounding you right now.

Now let’s talk about the future. Even though IB has taught us to adapt and face any challenges that come before us, the next few years of our lives will be filled with changes which oftentimes will not be fun or pleasant. Our generation is living through very unstable times as the coronavirus pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war have shown us. In addition, not only are we living in an unstable world, we are in the most unstable time of our lives. Most of us do not really know what we want to do, we are still understanding ourselves, and many of us are headed our separate ways to different cities and countries, away from what was already comfortable to us. These changes can be overwhelming and the stress will take a toll on our spirits and energy. So to avoid our joy and peace from leaving us, even in difficult times, I will share with you four tips I want you all to put into practice, as will I.

First: Remind yourself how what you do, or what you are working for, will help your family and community. When the things we aspire to do go beyond ourselves and our own needs, we find the strength and motivation to keep at it for the good that it will do for others. Take yourselves off the center of existence, and remember how your effort will benefit those around you.

Second: Learn to enjoy the present and the process. We are a very ambitious class, and because of that we tend to place most of our focus in the future and where we want to get. While having big goals and a plan to achieve them is great and it allows us to accomplish very big things, let’s remember that the process of getting there is just as important as the end result. Let’s not waste our lives waiting for the day ‘we make it’, instead let’s find joy from the smaller things such as completing your tasks for the day, seeing a friend, or even having a day of rest. Our happiness and worth does not come from two or three milestones throughout our life, instead from how we decide to live and enjoy every day of our lives.

Third: Never lose contact with good friends. Even though they live far away or your lives are really busy, take a moment to send them a text message asking how they are doing. Or even better, call them. Even if it is on the way to work or school. By doing this you honor your friends and you maintain relationships that ultimately bring you a lot of joy. Us humans are social beings, and good friendships and relationships bring us a sense of fulfillment and joy which cannot be found anywhere else.

Now my fourth and last tip. If you aren’t gonna remember anything I have said up to now, please focus and remember this last one: Be excited to talk and listen to others. Make them feel important and let them know you are grateful for them. We live in a world where society’s main focus tends to always be themselves, their feelings, and what they want. We go day by day thinking only on what we want and what benefits us. And I am not saying that we should put our needs completely to the side, but instead be more aware and understanding of the people around us. Instead of thinking about what we are gonna tell someone, let’s be ready to listen to them, learn about them, and celebrate them. People want to be heard and made feel important, and if we do that simple task genuinely and wholeheartedly, we will never find ourselves walking this world alone.

Because of that, I want you guys to think of something you are thankful for to somebody in our class or school, and today before you leave, I dare you to go up to that person for which you are grateful for, tell them, and give them a big hug.

One last time, thank you guys so much for giving me three amazing years. I can only hope that in the future I will be surrounded by as many selfless, hard working, and goal-driven people as you are. I wish you all the best and I hope this next stage of our lives will be filled with even more beautiful experiences and people.