A mixture of languages and students from around the world greeted the unique graduation ceremony that took place at the beginning of the week at the Zielony Student Union Building on campus: The awarding of degrees to the first graduating class of the Technion International School.
The Technion International School was established in 2009, and this week the first cohort of 12 students completed their four-year degrees. In a dignified and moving ceremony, attended by Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie and Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, former Minister of Science, BSc degrees in civil and environmental engineering were awarded to 12 new graduates who came to study at Technion from across the world: India, Spain, USA, Peru, Italy, Venezuela, China, Albania, France, Israel and South Africa. The ceremony was attended by the new graduates and their families, senior Technion administration, and international students from the Technion International School.
Eight of the new graduates will pursue graduate studies: four of them at Technion and the other four at leading universities in Britain and the US.
“I was among the first students at Technion International School, and graduating today is very exciting,” remarked Akshay Vajpayee who comes from India. “I chose to study at Technion because I heard about the university when I was in India. I knew that here I will learn from engineers who built a country. In India, Israel is considered a dangerous country. But when I arrived here I found a secure and comfortable environment, even more so than India. The meeting of cultures at the School was very special and benefited me a lot. Suddenly I have friends from all over the world, coming from diverse cultures and countries. My studies at Technion equipped me with academic tools to handle any future challenge, and prepared me for a chance to study at Stanford University.”
Shayma Sharif is a Palestinian from Beit Hanina. “Education was always first priority at home,” she said. “All of my brothers and sisters were sent to a Catholic school in Beit Hanina although we are Muslim, because my parents wanted us to get a better education.” Shayma is proud to be a Technion student. “Whenever people hear about where I’m studying they tell me, ‘Wow, you’re a Technion student,’ and it’s an amazing feeling. Also my relationships with professors here is excellent; their doors are always open to us. It was hard for me to get used to calling them by their first name, but that’s how it is in Israel.”
Over the years Shayma went through some ups and downs, but she never felt lost within the system. “At the Technion I met the beautiful side of Israel,” she stated. “And at the International School I had a feeling of being exposed to the world – close to home.”
Alex Bouaziz is the youngster of the group, who came to Technion from France. At age four he could already read and write Hebrew and French, and at age five could do multiplication and division. At school he advanced quickly and completed his formal education at age 16. “As a practicing Jew in Paris I felt fearful,” he said. “I came to study at Technion International partly because of this but mainly because of Zionism. In addition, I wanted to study at an excellent engineering school. My experience here has been wonderful. I benefited from a supportive environment and made good friendships. In Paris I never had non-Jewish friends and here in Israel I’ve made several.”
“This has been a great experience for Alex, and he really matured. The International School met all our expectations,” added Alex’s father, Philip, who came to the graduation ceremony from France. “Since my son was part of the school’s first program, we at first felt that it was a bit of a gamble for us, and I’m thankful that this gamble was such a success. For Alex, this was the right school at the right time for him, and I’m so proud of him.”
The rest of Alex’s family has followed in his footsteps. His sister Chloe has started her studies at Technion this week, and his youngest sisters have already started studying at schools in Tel Aviv. “My Mom is travelling back and forth, and my father comes often,” explains Alex. “Life in Israel is better compared to Paris. Studies at Technion have been tough and I had to work very hard (although I’m somewhat lazy), but the results have been very good and the experience was wonderful.” Alex has been accepted to graduate studies at MIT.
At the ceremony, Professor Arnon Bentur, Technion’s Executive Vice President and Director General and founder of the Technion International School, welcomed the new graduates and wished them all the best: “Last year Technion celebrated its centennial and we looked towards the future. Today we are dealing with the challenges of the 21st century, among them globalization. The foundation of the International School is a strategic step that will bring to Technion excellent students from all corners of the world.”
Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie stated, “The graduation ceremony of the first graduating class of Technion International is a dream come true. You are all success stories, and have become a part of Technion history. From today you’ll be Technion’s good-will ambassadors abroad.”
Former Minister of Science, Professor Daniel Hershkowitz said, “The language of science bridges differences in culture and language. The establishment of Technion International is the fulfillment of a vision and a model. It is exciting to see students from different countries learning together, where the common language is the language of science.”
Professor Amnon Katz, Academic Head of the Technion International School, and Professor Noah Galil, the Dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, awarded the diplomas to the graduates, along with hard hats worn at construction sites. “Four years ago, the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering was the first at Technion to integrate students from the International School, said Professor Galil. “Today, I wouldn’t be able to recognize the faculty without these (international) students.”
“We were the first class of the International School, a melting pot of students from a variety of cultures from around the world,” said David Debash from Italy, who was class valedictorian. “It took us a while to get to know each other and bond as a group, but today we are a family. In the name of the students of the first graduating class I thank Technion for this unforgettable period.”
The Technion International School was founded in 2009, and its academic programs are taught entirely in English as it is geared for international students. Today, approximately 108 students study in the BSc program for Civil and Environmental Engineering, half of whom come from developed countries while the other half are from countries with emerging economies, like China. Further to this four-year BSc program, the International School also offers short-term international programs in English at a number of faculties, such as semester abroad, summer school, and graduate studies. To date there are some 300 students enrolled in these programs.
The Academic Head of the School, Professor Amnon Katz, summed it up in the following words: “Half of the graduates are students who have made both the President’s List and the Dean’s List, thus reflecting the realization of the school’s vision of attracting outstanding candidates from around the world. Good luck to you all.”