UWC as a State of Mind – Thoughts on Debt

From: Tiina Honkanen (Finland, RCN03-05)

In recent times there has been much discussion about the duties and responsibilities of UWC alumni. In particular, we have discussed the topic in relation to alumni activities and running the national UWC networks. United World Colleges have indeed given us all so much, even if we could not pinpoint exactly what it is, why would someone not want to give some back to the community and ensure that generations to come have the same opportunity as we did?

It might sound concrete to say that now that I am out of the bubble I owe forty something thousand euros to the world. The problem is hat the UWC experience is indeed paying back the debt in their own way. The point is that we all should do our best to serve the world. I know for certain ist hat UWC is not about an obligation – it is an honour, a commitment, a pleasure, and a treasure that we can draw tools and strength from throughout our lives.
UWC’s are like training camps for life. In the intense two-year camp you learn to know who you really are, what your role in the world is. Sitting under the Norwegian skies or under a Canadian oak tree you think hard and long about these things. I understood that my ideal world of peace and equality will never come about unless I do something. The gift of UWC for me was the way it empowered me and gave me strength. Empowerment is all about illusion that enables you to act, thinking that what you do is worthwhile and believeing that your goals are within your reach. I became an agent in this world instead of just watching the world go by. Even though the illusion is long gone, the tools that I gathered due to that illusion of a better world are with me forever, and I shall use them.
After UWC joining the national network is a valid option but it is definitely not the only one. Being a loving mother, an active citizen, teaching English to refugees, working hard to develop new computer programmes to serve an NGO are all equally great options. As long as you know yourself and what you are best at, you can do that one special thing so that you can be proud and feel satisfaction seeing your touch make a difference.
UWCers are at peace with themselves, I find myself thinking often. We know what we can do, we are realists, and we realise our goals. Ambitious, intelligent, well-meaning people! The UWV movement has succeede in helping us become that and we shall be grateful. But, we are people with visions, and there lies the beauty that I admire. There is no one life form that fits all. There is no point in working in the national network if you find no pleasure in doing so, if you would rather be elsewhere doing something more suitable to your needs and abilities, or if you have to sacrifice too much in order to be involved. It is no-ones’s duty to work for the network, no-one’s duty to force others to help out in keeping the national network running. The nice part is that UWC alumni work is very fulfilling and enjoyable! It is a great way to remain a productive part of the movement that gives so many hands to our world’s disposal. But, we all are aware that the duty to pay back our UWC debt urges us to do something positive and concrete. And we shall do it so well that there is no room for anyone to complain that “UWCers are useless brats” (I’ve heard such a rumour, prove me wrong!)

– United World College Student Magazine –

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