Transcript of my valedictorian speech

For today’s graduation ceremony (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning – the University of Melbourne), I had written multiple drafts, asked my mentors for feedback, spent every possible time practicing speaking in the last six weeks. I memorized it so that I can ‘speak’ rather than ‘read’ it, and I think it was worth it. So I wanted to share it with you, and hopefully it means something to you.

Thank you, Professor Willis.

Good morning, Chancellor, academic staff, faculty staff, university staff, graduating students, families, friends and special guests.

My name is Saran, and I’m one of the first guinea pigs of the Bachelor of Design. It’s my privilege to be able to speak to you today as a valedictorian for the faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning and to celebrate this occasion with 704 graduating students.

My connection to the Melbourne School of Design started when I was in year 10. I was extremely fortunate to be a work experience student at John Wardle Architects, and my first-ever site inspection was to the MSD Building with Stephen the Project Leader. It was an eye-opening experience, but what followed it was more significant for me.

When returning from the site inspection to the office, I asked Stephen how to choose a suitable university to study architecture, he responded with some relevant advice, “it’s not about which uni to attend, it’s more about what you personally decide to undertake”. After selecting then entering the Bachelor of Design, I attempted to be observant of opportunities as they arose, such as the involvement in the Student Forum or eating as many slices of pizza as possible at a club event.

Subjects I enrolled in provided me with skills and knowledge, but the most valuable thing I gained from uni life was the network of people.

Getting to know Paul, a lecturer, led me to work with Mikey through Digital Design, who helped me with my project with James from the ABP library, who had connection to Kate from BELT program, whose team included Adrian, a senior tutor, who worked with Nayan, my EBS tutor, who introduced me to Dhanika, another senior tutor who was a guest critic at my design studio, directed by Hella who is a friend of Kevin, a former studio leader, and… the list goes on.

After all, the university was an intersection of the lives of people with different backgrounds, that embodied a diverse range of chemical reactions.

From today, whether to work in the fields of the built environment, design, or something completely different, there are no wrong paths in life. Oki Sato, a Japanese designer who curated Escher exhibition at NGV last year, started with completing Master in Architecture, and now his role includes being a business consultant, an art director, a radio presenter and more. There is no need to limit our career to what we originally started at the university. We all know that the road ahead of us may be rough and challenging, but every experience we have will be our strength that will help us get through, and find new inspirations.

As we mark another milestone of our lives, we shall never forget those who have been continuously supporting us. On behalf of graduating students, I’d like to thank parents, family members and friends who have helped us extensively through the tough times and encouraged us to do our best.

Academic staff, tutors and the faculty staff, we appreciate your dedication and enthusiasm in the tertiary education that we are privileged to undertake.

Finally, I would like each of you to think back when you had just started your course. I didn’t even know what ‘all-nighter’ meant. In the last few years, we learnt so much, and it is exciting to imagine how much we can grow in the next few years to come.

I hope there is a day we meet up as alumni and talk about how crazy we were drinking coffee just to keep our sanity. Graduation doesn’t mean the end of relationships. Instead, it is the beginning of the new chapter.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2019 and I wish you the best of luck with your future career.

Photo credit: Cynthia Cui. Huge thanks to my mentors who helped me write and refine this speech draft!

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