The famous UWC experience

Itamar Carrillo, UWCSEA (Mexico, ’13)

“I came here to enjoy the UWC experience” I remember that those were my first few words when I arrived to UWCSEA. At that time I did not realize how much those words truly meant.  Now, after 1 year of living in Singapore, I am going to try to ‘evaluate’ what I have learnt.

The “UWC experience” is a phrase that is often repeated among UWCers and often generates discussions and conversations about the significance of the time spent throughout this experience. We have 12 United World Colleges on the face of this planet and as an individual undergoing this ‘UWC Experience’ I can say that it will be hard to find anything as great as that. They are not just another international schools.  They are not just part of the Round Square Movement (even though the Round Square Organization was founded by Kurt Hahn as well). They are not just other school that offer the IB program … so what are they exactly?

What makes these colleges special? Does UWC actually have an impact on you? More specifically: What is the UWC experience?

Lets compare it to love. It is something abstract that people talk about. Nobody can see but everyone thinks that they know what love is. No one knows how the UWC experience should be; there is no  “10 things to do in UWC” list, no guidelines or mark schemes to follow. Hearts from different backgrounds represent ideas, traditions, and ways to face problems. They all meet in this utopic place to share their stories at UWC. Although we do not choose our classmates, or teachers and the people that we live with; they are strangers in the beginning, and end up as part of our lives. This makes the years at UWC the great experience it is.

UWC is for example, going to geography class, where there is at least one person per continent, and where one discusses the sustainability of the cities, from different points of view. The amazing thing about UWC is that it is not necessary to attend a lesson in order to learn; little talks at lunchtime, during activities, during the rehearsal for a dance, these are just some simple examples. 
For some of us it is a great opportunity to become aware about global issues; for example to know what is happening in the country where your roommate comes from; to be critical in terms of global concerns through the simple bonds that UWC is able to make. Indeed UWC is the place where great friends are made, and where there are endless chances to broaden your horizons.

UWC could be different for each one of us: “It is a life changing experience”, “My time here has been the best of my life”, “I have been studying in UWC for 5 years. I’ve been here since middle school”, “UWC changed my perception of life”, ”UWC keeps me apart from my family”, “UWC is asking me to commit and I just want to study for my SAT’s”. There are many more examples that can be given to represent how UWC could different for everyone.

The UWC experience is the result of our work. We choose how to manage our relations with the annoying classmate or how to deal with the adversities of your college (whatever they are). We adopt how to appreciate our colleges; for example the sunset in Costa Rica, the castle behind the mist in the Atlantic, the bicycles lined up in Maastricht, the contact with the nature in New Mexico, the aurora borealis in Norway, the sustainable campus in Singapore, the amazing view in Li Po Chun, the tree house in Mahindra… and so much more.

Every single college is unique their needs and their facilities are different; hence the UWC movement becomes extremely diverse. Students and staff should reflect and appreciate the great opportunities that are given; but do not conform! I agree (until certain extent) that we should commit to the movement as a whole, stick to the values and forge the UWC experience.

Instead of asking: What experience is UWC giving me? I suppose we should ask: What am I doing to make UWC a worthwhile experience?

-United Words Team-

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