Some 500 NFGL members graduated and became alumni on May 27th at Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset).
“It's a record year,” said SI Director Annika Rembe as she welcomed everyone to the event. “Never have we had the pleasure of awarding so many SI Scholarship holders.”
The diploma ceremony and dinner took place in the luxurious Blue Hall, where the Nobel prize winners feast each year.
The location, Rembe said, was no coincidence.
“Like the Nobel banquet, we are bringing together people from across the world to celebrate their achievements and build relationships.”
Rembe congratulated the NFGL members on their accomplishements, quoting the great Leonardo Da Vinci:
“People of accomplishment rarely go out and let things happen. They go out and happen to things.”
She stressed the importance of taking charge – especially now that many of the new alumni are returning to their home countries and will face new challenges in the next chapter of their lives.
“Take the wheel, not the backseat,” she said. “Decide which route to take, and make incredible things happen.”
Rembe also encouraged the graduates to maintain the networks that they have built during their time here in Sweden.
“No country and no individual will ever be stronger than its networks,” she said. “We believe in each and every one of you. Cherish the networks you have built here.”
Next Sweden's research minister, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, offered her congatulations. She too encouraged SI members not to be afraid to compare themselves to Nobel prize winners.
“All of the Nobel laureates started out just like you,” she pointed out. “They were students, from all around the world. You are not so different from them. Except, happily, that many of you are women!”
Knutsson also asked that the students remember to share their ideas in the future – as it will make all of us stronger.
“We need to share more than Instagram pictures,” she said. “We need to share ideas and common goals. You are the 'Save the World' generation – and that's a good thing. We should not stop at borders.”
Next two students gave their speeches, in what was a true highlight of the evening. Bohdana Kozubenko was first.
She recalled the day she found out that she had received the SI Scholarship, and the tears it brought to her eyes.
“I did the math and told my mother, 'Do you know how much Sweden has invested in my education? The equivalent of you and dad working for 40 years non-stop.
“My message today is not about tears or money,” Bohdana clarified. “It's about potential. Our potential.”
Bohdana summarized three great lessons she has learned through her studies in Sweden: trust your gut feeling, immerse in diversity, and treat failure as a lesson which will teach you to succeed.
“Dive into the unknown,” she said. “Yes, it's scary. But it's where you find your true self. As future leaders we have to be open-minded. The unknown reveals our true potential. We are destined for greatness.”
The ever-charismatic Daniel Ddiba began his speech by taking a selfie at the podium with his fellow SI members seated behind him.
“This will look great on my blog,” he laughed.
He reflected upon the many challenges all the students have been through together.
“Culture shock, accomodation queues, cold winters, late summers – the laundry room. We made it! Well done!”
Daniel also pointed out how much more diverse the students have become through their studies.
“From now on, when we look at a world map we won't see names of countries. We will see the faces of our friends,” he said. “We have learned to care, to cooperate, and to empathize through our studies abroad.”
But, he added, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.”
“Now is the time for all of us to go and dust off those motivational statements we wrote to SI in the first place,” he said. “We can make a big difference in this world – starting with small steps. We can decide to be phenomenal or decide to be forgotten – but we cannot afford to be indifferent.”
“Not even the sky is the limit for us. Ignite those childhood dreams – and set them to action!”
The evening concluded with a Swedish summer buffet where the new SI NFGL alumni mingled and celebrated together.