Elaine Fung (Hong Kong, AC 10-12)
We created culture.
There is no better place to embrace our creativity than in the Tythe Barn of our own St. Donat’s Arts Centre. Sitting on plush cushion chairs, it seemed as if we were eager story-loving 7-year-olds again as our principal Neil Richards told us a taleof an indigenous tribe: Squawky, an innocent child who always asks too many questions, annoyed his father, the tribal leader, by pestering him with an explanation to the sun. Following the story, we (as ‘wise elders’ of the tribe) were instructed to formulate theories of the sun to pacify Squawky.
From ‘an invisible tree’, ‘a ball of fire’ to a ‘protective follower’, we came up with drastically different but easily understood stories similar to traditional legends of how the sun came about. Interestingly, in each and every story, we attached certain morals and values to the symbolism of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, the possibility of an afterlife and the idea of reincarnation. Simple as it seems, this combination of imagination, problem solving and storytelling is how we, and possibly our ancestors, created the various cultures we now embrace.
We have all heard stories, legends and folklores regarding special festivals and cultural norms from our parents and teachers, and we have accepted these traits as part of us. However, this irrefutable normality could very well be foreign or even absurd at times to those unfamiliar to our ways of life. Culture could be an attempt at explaining the essence of life, it could be a showcase of morals or traditions, or it could also be a remembrance of certain figures or events. In a way, culture is a jargon within a community, unconsciously displaying common trust and acceptance of an invisible set of rules.
It is one of the UWC Mission Initiatives for us students to develop international and intercultural understanding, and just as Squawky would not be satisfied with realising the presence of the bright burning light that moves across the sky; we would not be able to reach the goal of ‘understanding’ by only realising the differences between our schoolmates and ourselves, but it is by listening to, and comprehending the stories behind those differences that holds the very substance and depth to what makes each and every one of us different from our upbringing to our conscious decision making.
In this way, we could take this idea further by extending it to creation of culture: during our two years in such a culturally diverse environment, would it be enough just to aim to live in harmony with everyone, or would it be much more fulfilling to embrace the opportunity to build upon our cultural foundations a brand new criteria of acceptance and respect; a commitment to our community while celebrating our differences?
In essence, Atlantic College, or any UWC, could be considered as a microcosm of the world led by our generation. Instead of the nonchalant observation of ‘we are different’, start asking ‘why?’, start telling stories of your own-
-United Words College Student Magazine-