Zainab Syed, Pakistan (AC 08-10)
To say that this place doesn’t change you, that the friends you make weather over time, that this isn’t one of the best times of your lives, to say any of that, would be so far from this reality that is ours.
Twenty, Thirty and even Forty years later, older and maybe even wiser people walked through that main gate, once again. And as I sat at the registration desk, they transformed before me into those seventeen and eighteen year olds that didn’t realise what an impact this place would have on them. Decades later, they were returning through those very gates they left to come back to a place that still pulled them in. And though the first set of greetings were restrained, one realised that this castle and its people are bound by a special bond that time does not weaken.
I felt, in that one week, that I grew, as a person. Reunion isn’t just for the alumni to come back and mingle. It’s also about us, the students who come to help out, here and there as a set of extra hands and feet. It’s about us growing, learning naturally about how to carry ourselves, and talk and hold our opinions and present them to those older than us. It was a time when I felt larger than life because what I had to say was heard, and my opinions mattered as much as anyone else’s. I was given that importance because I was an AC student. And that’s what this place gives to you. You don’t have to become the next global reformer, but you can if you want to because you come to AC and what you say holds weight and people are willing to listen.
The AC that they left behind forty years ago is different than the one we call home. The batch of ‘69 saw the first nine girls set foot into the boy’s world that AC was; back then the bar was still open, and smoking was allowed on campus. There were morning swims and threats of nuclear war. And though that has all changed, what has remained throughout has been the experience of living in a place that brings people from just about everywhere and sprinkles plain old ordinary with some magic. And as I glanced at their pictures of sosh and innocent pulling, rescue services and drizzly days, all I could think of was how very similar they looked to us. Had the faces in the pictures been different, those pictures might have well been ours.
Watching the alumni reminisce was a sort of re-living where the past suddenly sprang up and became a distorted present. To hear from them that this was the best time of their lives, that the friendships they made were irreplaceable, and for them to truly mean it, even decades later, made me want to hold onto this for that much longer.
Because the experience is still the same.
So yes, this is the most unforgettable time of my life, as an alumni put it for me. But even over the next forty years, when we’ll go for a walk to the seafront again and watch the sea wash away our footprints, or sit in the marquee and reminisce about old times when even our memory fails us, that will be special too. And then I’ll turn to you and let you know that yes, this was the most unforgettable time of my life.
And I have never been the same since I left those gates on main drive.
-United World College Student Magazine-