Valentina Alencar Barros ’22 (Brazil) will seek a dual degree in Global Studies and Economics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), choosing the prestigious public research university over Emerson College, Boston College, University of Southern California, University of Miami, New York University, and Loyola Marymount University. She plans to pursue a career in law after finishing her undergraduate studies.
A day student at TASIS since grade six, Valentina finished her time at the School in grand fashion: she was elected High School Co-President, earned Highest Honors for the fourth consecutive year, scored an outstanding 43 points on her IB assessment, was selected by her peers to deliver a speech at her class’s Senior Banquet, and received the Headmaster’s Award at the Class of 2022 Commencement Ceremony.
Valentina is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and English, and she also learned to read and write in Russian as part of her Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) goals. She played for the Varsity Volleyball (won the Coach’s Award in grade 9), Soccer, and Swimming teams early in her high school years but then chose to focus on classical ballet, which she has practiced for 13 years. As a child in Brazil, she was educated in the Cuban methodology and was examined by the Cuban National Ballet Academy. When her family moved to Switzerland, she began to practice in the Vaganova/Russian method at a small ballet school called Aplomb.
Following her graduation in May 2022, Valentina answered the following questions about her seven years at TASIS The American School in Switzerland.
Do you feel that your time at TASIS has prepared you well for college?
Yes. Firstly, the academic challenges I have chosen to face by opting for a full IB curriculum have not only prepared me for the rigorous institution that UCLA is but have shown me that I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to do. Discipline is the special ingredient for achieving anything.
Secondly, it is unavoidable that the diverse nature of TASIS has prepared me for our globalized world. Yet it is not only because I have met students from different countries that I feel prepared for the social dynamics of college. I think that the Global Service Program is one of TASIS's diamonds. As a requirement for graduation, going on a service trip forces you to open your eyes while in the comfort of having your classmates and teachers with you. I truly believe that the Global Service Program does not only promote compassion but saves our generation from ignorance.
Another aspect of TASIS that has led me to feel prepared for college is the TASIS Speakers Series. TSS is simply the most interesting group I was part of in the last four years. It is gripping to have specialists in their own field share some of their experiences—specialists that were once graduating from high school too. TSS not only pushed me to continue developing the social skills required in a semi-professional environment but also pulled me away from the stress I felt throughout the year. When I would get anxious thinking of my upcoming mock exam, IA deadlines, future exams, etc. TSS pulled me away from my little high school bubble and reminded me of the immensity of our world and the endless opportunities ahead of us.
What experiences have you found most inspiring at TASIS?
Right after graduating, I traveled to Thailand with the Global Service Program. The entire experience was magical. For a long time I had waited to go to Zambia and work closely with the children from Cowboy Pre-School, but that trip was canceled my final two years of high school because of the pandemic. As a result, I jumped at the last-minute chance to travel to Thailand. I could never have imagined going on an environmental service trip and learning so much. I have never lived as "in the moment" as I did in those 10 days in Thailand. I opened my heart to making the most of this experience: learning, meeting new people, and creating a strong bond with the 19 other people in the world who shared this experience with me.
I have never lived as "in the moment" as I did in those 10 days in Thailand. I opened my heart to making the most of this experience: learning, meeting new people, and creating a strong bond with the 19 other people in the world who shared this experience with me.
What courses or teachers will you remember most fondly?
World Literature Honors with Dr. Love—a mentor to not only my writing but my thinking. Dr. Love opened my eyes to the realm of abstractions that exists with every punctuation, verb tense, word choice, etc. in a literary work with his unique and special way of teaching literature: literature through philosophy.
What do you think you will miss the most about your time at TASIS?
I cannot name a specific thing that I will miss the most about TASIS. I became part of the TASIS community when I was only 11 years old. There is such a large part of myself that was formed at TASIS because the community you are in helps raise you in so many different ways. TASIS is a part of my history. I will miss riding to school in the mornings and being able to tell it was spring because the sun was already shining through the woods of Agra at the 8th turn uphill at 7:53. I will miss walking to De Nobili for dinner after extracurriculars as I prepared myself for my evening ballet lessons. I will miss doing my homework in the library after school as I waited to meet with the TSS speakers and finally delve into the world of someone's profession. I will miss 9th grade PE classes and 9th grade Literatura with Ms. Mara. I will miss the early mornings in winter on which we waited to enter the Romantic Tour buses to leave for ski week in Crans-Montana—a feeling very similar to the one I had on the cold mornings when my sister and I would wait for the shuttle bus to drive us to school when I was still a sixth grader. A similar cold breeze in my stomach.
You served as High School Co-President during your senior year. What are some of the things you were able to accomplish in this role?
Some of my own ideas and work included insisting on the creation of a new hangout spot for students and then remaining in close contact with [TPA President] Ms. Jennifer Zanarini so that we could keep the Winter Garden open even after using it for Christmas celebrations (and we did!). I also provided a proposal for a Covid-friendly food fair during International Week, suggested and organized with [Assistant Head of Student Life] Ms. Hope Schlicht that we have a sanitary box in every girls' bathroom, helped voice student complaints to our Headmaster and Dean of Students regarding dress code, contacted the Athletic Department to request new gym equipment (which has already arrived and should be in place for the upcoming school year), including that which was most desired by students: a leg press. I truly mean it when I say that none of these plans could have come to life without [Student Council Faculty Advisor] Mr. Marco Roccato.
Dealing with a pandemic for the better part of your final three years of high school was far from ideal. But is there anything positive you've been able to take away from all of this?
I had never realized how crucial my friends are in my life.