Valerie Christine Cleland (US, UWCAC 09′-11′)
The year starts with painting faces, banging pots and pans, blowing the conch, and shyly greeting the next year group. What is to be said in an introduction? Eventually we tire of “Hello, my name is ___ and I am from __”. The question morphs into “What house are you in?” followed by “What service are you doing?” It is already a year of questions, and while the small talk gets stale we all know it is the roots of something special. The only thing we have in common is a renewed sense of optimism in the form of Moroccan sweets, Latino hugs, and the singing of the World Cup song.
Then we start the IB, the bane of our existence here at AC. And while the IB is the only tangible we can walk away with, it doesn’t even begin to define the experience. Most of my learning has occurred outside the classroom, and it hasn’t been all been easy. For the first time in my life, I can be proud of my own nationality. What started out as a simple defense of the United States in politics class had turned into a deep and true national pride. And with that national pride I’ve discovered so much more about myself. And with that has come incredible frustration.
Frustration at wanting to do so much more than can be done in a small castle by the sea. But it is this frustration that feeds me, this pure desire to make a difference-no matter how small-that keeps me moving. Constantly moving.
Moving towards a lifetime full of service. Whether we are training as lifeguards, caring for the castle grounds, helping the elderly, manning lifeboats, or in my case-cleaning up beaches we all seek to impact our community. I am a member of the Marine Environmental Monitoring Service-MEMS. Between educating local children on marine sustainability, getting our scuba diving qualifications, or caring for lobsters-we stay involved. Our service helps define us and gives us a medium to give back.
Yet the most incredible thing about Atlantic College (UWC) is way beyond the two years. The most inspiring AC experience was volunteering at reunions over the summer. I met alumni who came back for their 40th reunion and they were living our dream-they were making a difference. They were still passionate and they didn’t stop caring. Euphoric. That’s only word to describe how we felt after reunions. All that I dreamed-all that we dreamed- of doing as future leaders was really possible. We will make education a force. I won’t let the little things get me down, we will continue moving. AC provides the kinetic energy to get us started, and once we start we don’t stop.
The year will end with goodbye hands, salty faces, and big dreams. But we won’t stop. We won’t stop loving and living and laughing and learning and changing the world around us. There is still so much I don’t know, and so much more for me to learn. But know this: We could, We can, We will.
-United World Colleges Student Magazine-