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St. George’s Alumni Ricardo

It's been a privilege to interview Ricardo Cortes-Monroy, another St. George's graduate from our 2018 Cohort, who is now in his 3rd year at Imperial College, London where he is studying a four year Integrated Masters course in Chemical Engineering.
Ricardo’s education began at St. George’s in 2003 at the tender age of 3, and he continued as a pupil for the next 15 years until graduating having achieved an outstanding 45 points in his IB (the maximum achievable).
The Cortes-Monroy family moved to Switzerland from Chile, and St. George’s was recommended to them for both the academic and social qualities as well as the small class sizes, the family community and the large range of activities offered.  He recalls many changes including the development of new buildings, the construction of the Henge and memories of the former Pond. 

St George alumni

His favourite teacher was Mr. Chapuis who teaches French, and certainly one with longevity at our school.  Ricardo remembers him being kind, understanding, practical and compassionate.  His classes didn’t feel like lessons – whilst learning a great deal, they were still having fun.  The French element was more conversational, more fluid and his fellow students felt the same.  He also thoroughly enjoyed Maths with Mr. Pritty.

Ricardo’s fondest memories were the field trips; he says they were excellent in making the most of the ability to be able to travel to exciting locations and the feel of them being special yet educational and unique.  He was fortunate to visit Iceland - the trip combined two different year groups which made for good mixing, good camaraderie and the forming of new friendships.

Skiing and snowboarding days and trips in the winter terms was a great way to make the most of the time and indeed is considered to be a great advantage of being schooled in Switzerland.
Having spent 15 years at St. George’s, Ricardo made many friends during his time in both the Junior Dept and Senior School.  Fortunately, our being a relatively small school helped keep its family and community feel even when changes occurred.  Ricardo is still in contact with some friends from his Junior Dept days.

Ricardo is currently applying for various internships for next Summer.  Ideally, he hopes to work in the energy sector, particularly in renewables and/or nuclear energy.  He is keen to design systems or work in the consultancy field and is open to possibilities regarding location. Ricardo’s two older sisters are Georgentians Alumnae – one is studying for her PhD in Switzerland whilst the other works in London in a graduate trainee programme. School taught Ricardo great life skills particularly during his final year when making university applications.  The staff helped and great resources were available, including University Counsellor, Mrs Haesler.  He recalls being taught to promote oneself, writing a CV in a good light and being able to make a good impression in the outside world.  He continues to use the same skills now for the applications he is making for his intended internship.

At the time of leaving school, Ricardo was excited to begin a new chapter making his first step into adulthood.  He was worried about losing contact with friends, but he has managed to continue to meet up with 5 or 6 former St. George’s students from time to time. Originally Ricardo wanted to study medicine to become a Doctor. However, having weighed up his strengths and interests, he felt himself more drawn towards science and maths rather than following a role where diagnoses are required more.  Over the course of a few years, he decided that he would be better suited in the field of chemistry and industry.  It was comforting to be reaffirmed of this whilst still at school and being able to sit a Morrisby test which helped with his choices.

Ricardo’s IB achievements were outstanding.  During the two months leading up to his final exams, he set himself a strict disciplined study schedule.  That enabled and assisted him to work consistently and continue to develop a good work ethic and efficient time management.
For future graduates, the advice offered by Ricardo is to not worry if you’re unsure what you want to do.  Equip yourself and give yourself the opportunity to do well in your studies in order to prepare for the future as best you can. It can be difficult knowing what one wants to do, therfore don’t be afraid – there is lots of mobility in choosing an industry and to keep things in perspective.
Some answers to questions we asked Ricardo:
 How did you see the school evolve over your time at SGIS?
My school year and the school at large definitely became much more international. Whereas before, the focus was on providing a very English style education to students in Switzerland, it has now become predominantly international with the focus instead being on providing students with the education and experience that will help them regardless of where they intend on working and studying going forward. 
Did you feel you succeeded because of your academic talents vs where the school added value?
Though I certainly achieved my results through hard work and discipline, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the help from my teachers. Their patience, knowledge and good advice were invaluable not only to my academic success, but my university applications and motivation to continue learning. 
How do you rate your IB experience vs a 3 course A level programme? What is special about having an IB education?
I’m not sure I can give an entirely objective answer as I’ve not done the A level programme, but from the experience of others I know that have, I understand that IB offers a breadth of knowledge that few other programmes match which may be at the cost of depth of understanding. However, the much greater focus on coursework in IB is especially valuable when going into university and into one’s career as it prepares students to manage their time and to work collaboratively as well as individually. I feel this is a better reflection of what tertiary education and most jobs actually entail. 
Did you feel SGIS was truly international? If so, how did this broaden your outlook of the world as a young student?
I do, particularly near the end of my time in SGIS. Although my year group had a wide diversity of backgrounds, I never felt we drew much attention to any one person’s culture/background, nor did I feel there were ever any conflicts between different cultures. Instead, I think this variety brought about its own culture, a sort of international identity, detached from any one individual’s background. That said, this international background has probably made me less concerned with the differences that people’s backgrounds and cultures have with my own, and more open in general to making connections.  The large international contingent added learning about and experiencing different cultures, but tinged with sadness were times when good friends left the school to move to another country. 
What advice would you give to students in their final year of the IB in aspiring to reach their university goals?
Not to be afraid to fail and try new things when it comes to your work. IB gives you a lot of practice and mock exams/assignments; some of my peers redid their extended essays more than once and did just fine! I personally redid my maths IA twice and yet I’d say that it was key to getting the grade I needed for my first-choice university.
Additionally, know where to put your effort. IB demands such a wide range of skills and assignments from students that you can’t put your 100% into everything. If you don’t need to excel in your SL (standard level) subjects for your first-choice university, but you could really use some extra time for your HL (higher level) subjects, then by all means.
Then of course, time management is indispensable, but that goes without saying. IB is great practice for time management because of how wide the range of assignments are, and how often deadlines can line up. With 2 years of frequent mock exams and assignments, I think SGIS does a good job of teaching as much.

Finally, Ricardo added that he really enjoyed his time at St George’s and is glad to have been part of the community.

Graduation 2018

Thank you so much for your time and dedication Ricardo for speaking with us.