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38. Neel Burton (La Chât 1996)

Posted By Alumni Office, lundi, 6 octobre 2014
Neel Burton1. How long did you spend at Ecolint?
I spent 11 years at La Châtaigneraie and a few months at Pregny. I still have vivid memories of my first day in Class 1. There are a few people from those early days with whom I am still in touch, and many with whom I would like to reconnect.

2. How did you come to attend Ecolint in the first place?
My parents worked for the United Nations in Geneva, so the international school must have seemed like the natural choice. I think that the quality of the schooling soon became one of the factors that kept my parents in Geneva.

3. Which teacher had the biggest impact on you and how?
My French teachers Messieurs Revaz and Wack. I remember going to considerable lengths to keep them as my teachers, which is partly why I ended up taking five Higher Levels for my International Baccalaureate. Today, the education that we receive is entirely cognitive, but these gentlemen seemed more interested in educating our emotions. I remember Mr Revaz reading to us from a novel by Marguerite Duras, with tears rolling down his cheeks. I will never forget that.

4. What was your favourite spot on campus and why?
The campus at La Châtaigneraie seemed modelled on paradise. We had our own woods, complete with little stream, in which I spent lunch breaks building islands with the contents of the sandpits. In those days, people did not assume that we would drown if we got wet. The old art house underneath the big tree was especially charming, as was the old cafeteria, which looked more like a monastic refectory than a cafeteria. I’m not so keen on the modernist building that has replaced the art house.

5. What was your favourite place in the wider region, and why?
The ski slopes. Winters in Oxford are so dark and gloomy, but in Switzerland, you always looked forward to winter. Classes would often get interrupted by cries of, “Look! It’s snowing!” I would love to have a chalet in the Swiss Alps.

6. Describe your life today, where you live and what you do.
I’m a psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and wine-lover. I practise psychiatry and teach at Oxford and privately, although I try to make as much time as possible for writing. There’s some stuff about my books on my website.

7. What should be Ecolint's top priority as it approaches its 100th anniversary?
To broaden education, both within and without Ecolint. When I was at school, I got taught everything about chemistry and physics, but nothing about cooking, gardening, conversation, massage, Latin, or philosophy. One cannot live off inorganic chemistry.

8. What "words of wisdom" would you pass on to today's Ecolint students?
I once wrote an article for Psychology Today entitled, “21 Things We Should Have Been Told at Graduation”. The article is available online. But if I were to say just one thing, it would be this: The best education is not that which enables you to make a good living, nor even that which enables you to make a social contribution, but that which enables you on the path to freedom and individuation, and which, in the longer term, leads to the fullest living and the greatest social contribution.

9. What has been the biggest impact of your Ecolint education on your life?
My Ecolint education gave me plenty of self-confidence (some would say too much), and self-confidence is the foundation of everything.



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