Dear distinguished leaders and faculty, parents, friends, and, of course, the graduating class of 2022:
It is a great pleasure and honor for me to speak to all of you on this very important day. Of course, I strongly wish I could be there in person with you all, but I am still grateful for being able to join you at least virtually from my hometown of Košice, Slovakia.
First, before I continue with my speech, I want to applaud all of you! Congratulations, class of 2022! We have done it, and all the hard work we put into our studies has finally paid off. We are ready to embark on another adventure. I am sure that we are well prepared and eager to take the next big step in life. I want to take this opportunity and reflect on the most important lessons I have learned during my time at PKU because I believe that they are quite relevant to all of us graduates as we enter the next phase of our lives.
The past two years have certainly been tough. Besides being challenged academically, we were all facing other difficulties. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a stop to many of our plans. At the same time, however, it has forced us to work harder and join forces, making us stronger and more resilient.
Although I could not travel to China personally, my time at PKU allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I managed to overcome all the initial difficulties that online learning has brought. Like waking up at 3 am to write an exam or staying awake until 1 am to finish a class. Eventually, all these challenges became a source of strength, which allowed me to get a much deeper and better understanding of myself and the world around me.
In this respect, two factors were fundamental to this development.
First, even though everything we did was online and through a computer screen, I was able to form personal relationships that challenged my own cultural norms and perspectives. Through my classmates and their unique life stories, I was able to get to know China and understand Chinese culture. This understanding deepened during our Chinese class when our teacher showed us traditional Chinese food such as 火锅 北京烤鸭 and many different holidays such as spring festivals and traditions that take place during these festivities. And even though I was with my classmates only virtually, through these activities and meetings, I felt part of this beautiful culture. They introduced me to something entirely new to me, which gave me a new perspective on my own cultural heritage.
The second driver of my personal growth was the challenging yet rewarding academic experience that PKU offered to us. The faculty here challenged us to think differently yet critically about the topics we have previously learned. For instance, taking my own major as an example: as lawyers, we have many different roles, such as legal advisors, negotiators, or attorneys, and we deal with several legal issues. Through exchanges with my Chinese professors and international professors, I have learned to understand these roles and legal issues from different perspectives. And that gave me a whole new outlook, a whole new understanding of the law.
Now, being an international student locked in my home, in my room, I know that my experience was very different from that of my Chinese peers. In fact, I know that all the graduates have had their own personal growth at PKU Shenzhen. We all had our unique experiences; a combination of good times and bad times, times of last-minute studying for an exam, times of homesickness and thoughts of Corona, but also times of friendship and companionship that will last us forever.
I believe that what I have gained from my experience studying at PKU is something universal, something that holds true for us all. And that is: in order to succeed in life, we should step out of our comfort zone. With that, I don’t mean to say we should all move to another country and be an international students. Not at all. I just merely want to say I want to challenge you to seek discomfort and enter the unknown. Only after leaving what you feel comfortable in will you become the builder of a new comfort zone. Instead of being afraid of change, fear of the unknown, you will be able to take control and pursue change before it finds you unprepared.
Graduation marks the end of yet another extraordinary chapter in our lives. With this chapter closed, I am sure that many of us are already anxious about the next one because, unlike the textbooks, we cannot ship through the pages of life to see how the next chapter is going to be. For sure, PKU has made this chapter of our life very colorful and unique. Now, with one chapter being closed, another one opens. Thus, I want to encourage you to step into your new beginnings on the right foot. I challenge you to leave your comfort zone and seek the unknown. When you leave here today, remember to be proud, to celebrate what you have accomplished, and look forward to our brighter future.
Congratulations Class of 2022!
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