Celine Rendboe (Denmark, UWCSEA 2013), David Widder (United States, UWCSEA 2013), Rachel Tan Wei Fen (Singapore, UWCSEA 2013), Itamar Carrillo (Mexico, UWCSEA).
Staying true to UWC values while being one of the biggest internationals schools in the world is not easy. With over 5000 students, our numbers eclipse those of other UWCs around the world. But we are different in more ways than one: we are the only UWC to be split over two campii, the old Dover Campus, and the shiny new East Campus. This was not always the case, as the East Campus only opened its doors in 2010. This attribute has added an interesting dynamic to life at UWCSEA, as well as raising some intriguing questions. Will we participate in UN night together? Will we be competitors in local sporting leagues? This question of competition was the subject of a recent UWCSEA Dover production, where East’s students were portrayed as a haughty collective dressed in gold sequined waistcoats, and Dover’s students portrayed as a band of sleepy, slouchy students with an ‘old hat’ campus. Being a satirical production, it was all in good fun, but it begs the question: what is the state of UWCSEA’s inter-campus relations?
*Note: UWCSEA = United World College of South East Asia
Indeed is the issue of having two campuses controversial. Those who may have been here awhile now, might feel that the arrival of the term “East Campus People” could possibly spark off big competition rather than a sense of belonging and cohesion between the two campii. A school is often defined by the community ethos felt on its campus. Yet the idea of having 5000 students spread out on two places at the East and West end of a tiny island-city-state seems questionable when it comes to the defining the UWCSEA spirit. When asked about the possibility of competition being felt, Dover students claim that they do not feel it. But YET, they say, as Dover has majority of the UWCSEA resources, teachers and a long-running, experienced team at its helm, it is highly unlikely that a shiny newbie East could overpass us. No doubt Dover students realise that with the UWCSEA power in action, East campus will soon match up. However, inciting competition is not the matter of this article. It is the idea of labelling Dover and East, which leaves an indisputable disconnection between the two, that matters.
Many current students at UWCSEA Dover have expressed the view that they do not think a second campus on this tiny little red dot is reasonable. It is a matter of fact that we have not been educated as to why East Campus was set up. Fellow UWCSEA-ers have the assumption that UWCSEA is not being in line with the UWC values our education is centered around; perhaps setting up a second campus has the un-UWC-like motivations of earning more income or attracting foreign talent to the country, they think. They cannot comprehend the idea of setting up another United World College campus in the same country, a small country of only a few million. When one is walking about on the lands of Dover, it is not surprising for one to find a friend at every corner and feel it is like home. There is a strong sense of family and community in this place we love. With no doubt a complete sense of identity has yet to be established in the new East. Time shall test the connection between the two campii is most certainly not there yet.
It is obvious for Dover students and teachers to have an opinion on the additional campus – they have experienced the previous arrangements, and understand the difference this must have made. But what impression has the East Campus students gotten. The IB program only just started at the new campus this august, so the students are all new and fresh, and the impact of east campus is open to interpretation. Jose Alberto Rocha Rocha, a newly arrived scholar from Chile describes his first day at East Campus as follows; “I found myself in specialized media rooms, in an amazing art floors, in perfectly equipped labs as well as at a large and glistening pool.” “It is not only a green buildings” says Jose about the facilities at the new campus, “but also a school with so many facilities, which take the education to a superior level.” It is clear that east campus presents are more modern and well functioning UWC campus than that of Dover. However Jose also points out the value he found when he first visited Dover Campus. “I feel in love with the vast amount of green areas on the school grounds. All the technology I found in my campus would become old “houses” in Dover full of stories, sounds and smells. You could certainly tell how many people had grown and lived there.” Thus the differences in campuses was made clear to Jose, though to him being a new student at East Campus puts him in position to ‘create’ the new campus, with his fellow students. So from an East Campus perspective, and additional campus in UWCSEA, means the possibility to develop and form UWCSEA even further. Jose expresses his vision for the new campus as “a place full of diversity and tradition, with an innovative approach of learning reached by taking advantage of technology and facilities. A place where all people regardless the background can experiences the UWC values. It is a new campus and we have started to write its story.”
UWCSEA, who opens the doors for the large number of expatriates who live in Singapore is now divided in two campuses; they are 1 hour apart, one has many years of experience while the other is still young, one has modern facilities while one still sits on its 1970 era grounds with all its accompanying heritage.
There are some points that diverge among them and the endless question if East Campus was a good decision or how did UWC international agree this choice; but the decision has been made, and the second modern and innovative campus is working already.
Now, the challenge is to build a community soon as possible which fights through our separateness; we need a connection bigger than emails and social media; we still have time to bring our energies together and to share ideas, initiatives, and most importantly UWC values.
-United Words Team-