A Atlantic College student’s reflection after visiting the UWC in Mostar

 

Jonathan Chun Wai Kwok (Hong-Kong, AC 09-11)

For years we have been discussing UWC values at our own colleges, we argue that there are too many teaching hours, we condemn those nations which violate human rights, we share our culture via some activities, we discuss how to keep peace by debating and we try our very best to convince people to dive into the pool of saving the environment. Although we are still facing many uncertainties, we should be grateful to have such amazing opportunities, living in a safe and stable environment that allows us to express ourselves freely.

Last Christmas, I had a fortune to visit the UWC in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. BiH used to be a republic of the former communist state of Yugoslavia and Mostar is its 5th largest city. You can find really modern shopping malls with Nike, Adidas and Puma, chain supermarkets, really fine restaurants, sports clubs with swimming pools and tennis court, a very lovely old town that was built along the Neretva River in the 15th century, together with a really pleasant and well-equipped orphanage built by the Egyptian government. Exotic and amazing, they were the two adjectives I first used to describe the city.

Moreover, the 1200km2 city is hugely divided. People living in one side of the city would never go to another side because of ethnic conflicts. Seeing many children begging in the town centre; being sworn at because of walking towards the other side for school; meeting many co-years who would identify themselves as a nationals from the neighbouring country (Croatia, Serbia or even the former Yugoslavia Republics) which neither their ancestors nor themselves had lived in; looking at and walking pass the buildings destroyed during the war every day; meeting a group of people walking around the school building in the morning (Bosniaks) to learn how to exclude the group of people (Croats) you are going to meet in the afternoon at the same place. All caused by the war that led by ethnic interest 15 years ago. These are the experience your co-years are having every day, selected by the same national committee with the same criteria. Most of them are experiencing the period with most uncertainties in their life because they understand very well that they cannot take anything for granted, not even going back to visit their college a few years later as it might have closed down because of political or financial reasons.

They are not only struggling for languages, higher level math and science classes, but also for everyday life. Rather than following the environment that doesn’t even accept one single McDonald, they are trying to change the atmosphere, promoting inter-racial co-operation via getting people to clean the city together, introducing the concept of environment protection and international understanding. Despite a very tough financial circumstance, the college did not give up the easily-forgotten UWC ideals, it continues to encourage their students to know the world better, enabling students to understand the effects of war and conflicts every day. For local students, the college provide them opportunities to go out of the country (as they can hardly get a travel visa), putting the Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs in the same dorm, showing them the importance of friendship and peace, and more importantly, teaching them to contribute to their own country, as the term “politics” somehow sadly equals to “corruption and ethnic interest” in BiH. They use their hands to make a difference.

So what are we doing today? Are we learning how to make a difference or how to say a difference? It is definitely important for us to learn from the others but are we standing firm on believes or following whatever our community says? It is definitely important to be loyal to our country but are we trying to learn from other nationalities or forcing people to learn from our country? Do we see ourselves as the dominator or servant of human-beings?

“UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”.

-United World College Student Magazine-

One thought on “A Atlantic College student’s reflection after visiting the UWC in Mostar

  1. Jonathan, I strongly dissagree with some of the things that you mentioned in the article about Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mostar, and UWCiM!

    First of all if you were sworn at, that doesn’t meen it’s because you’re going to “the other” part of the school. Infact, there is NO OTHER PART OF THE SCHOOL! The Gymnasium in which the UWCiM is located is not a divided school! There are two differen’t curriculums based on language (Croatian and Bosnian) since the three mother tounges in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian. However, despite the differences, in the Gymnasium, students are united.
    I hope that you are aware that you presented a compleete lie about this on an international blog site!

    Another thing, in Bosnia, there are “Bosnian-Serbs, Bosnian-Croats and Bosniaks”, they are the main three constitutive nationalities! You should have informed yourself about this during your time spend!
    If you don’t have information, then I advise you not to publish your own perception of an political issue, not knowing the truth.

    People are not “avoiding” each other during the afternoon as you described, that is another FALSE statement! People are having lunch togeter…There are a lot of little grops, but teenagehood is quite full of them, not just in Bosnia, anywhere.

    Now, another riddiculus thing that you mentioned is that “For local students, the college provide them opportunities to go out of the country (as they can hardly get a travel visa)”.
    Students from Bosnia and Herzegovina are not having difficulties with visas, when traveling abroad. However, when it comes to studying abroad, then, students do have a lot of obstacles to pass which is making it a bit harder to study abroad, however not impossible.

    I would ask you not to make generalizations based on your perception, but to consider facts as well, especially when it comes to identifying a nation, town, school. Sometimes, those generalizations can result in a limited and WRONG perception of an individual.

    I hope this article is going to be changed.

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