By Hamza Hashem (UWCAC 2015-2017)
It was a deceivingly sunny 17th of August, and after visiting a family friend in Llantwit I was off to what I was having trouble realizing would be my home for the next two years. My brother to my left and my dad up front with the taxi driver, we drove, nearing Atlantic College not knowing what to expect.
I’m not sure what I noticed first, the crowd or the screams, but it all came really fast and really heavy. A group of at least 80 students surrounded the car screaming, banging pots and waving flags. I reluctantly opened my window to show a bit of appreciation and acknowledgement, but really I just had no idea what to do – my awkward wave was probably not the right way to go. We drove down the driveway and were chased a bit by students asking which house I was in. ‘Pentti Kouri’ (PK) was my answer and I found myself exactly there after a few seconds. I had mixed feelings about the first wave of students, but the very personal swarm of PK students that met me at the taxi was definitely very overwhelming. Talking to names I would forgot and faces I would confuse for weeks to come, I got to know the natural friendliness of our community –a friendliness that snatches your suitcase and cooks you Norwegian Waffles.
Forgetting my dad and brother, I wandered off bewildered, following my suitcase to wherever they were taking it -with the occasional stop to react to an enthusiastic greeting. Eventually, i found myself being led into a room labelled dorm 5, where a second year pointed to the third bed (of 4) explaining that that one was mine. I specifically remember him stating that it was the best bed, as it was the last one anyone saw when opening the door to our room. I decided to leave unpacking for later. Mainly because I realized that I had just completely abandoned my family and partly because one of my roommates had walked in and the thought of one on one conversation scared me.
Regrouping with my dad and brother, a Norwegian student (Victoria) and a Swede (Adam), who I thought was Turkish for some reason, offered to take us for a tour. Starting with the beautiful castle, they guided us through the school’s seven gigantic lawns all the way down to the seaside, all the while I just stared in awe -and my dad took photos. On our way down we even got to see a film crew that was using the Atlantic College fields and castle as a platform for its film ‘The Bastard’s Executioner’. Pretty cool. Reaching the shore, it was just as special as the rest of it, and that means something coming from someone who lives on the Red Sea. We took a couple pictures down there and headed back up where I eventually said my final goodbyes and watched the only other Saudi Arabians in a 5 mile radius drive off.
The rest of the day was just a blur of movement and excitement. The first bus of students arriving from Heathrow Airport reached us at 4pm, and we were ready. With the pots, flags and loud voices back out, it seemed as if everyone on campus was throwing a very loud party around a 50 person transport vehicle. And when the bus doors opened the screaming didn’t seize. Crowds erupted as first year students leaving the bus announced the houses they were assigned to. Groups of Second years with banners swarmed every student emerging from the bus in celebration. Snatching their bags and taking them back for a taste of Norwegian Waffles -or maybe that was just my house.
Between buses and dinner in the ‘Harry Potter’ like dining hall, we had free time to play the traditional UWC games like Qwa, Ninja, Bang and my personal favorite; The Wrestling Game. If you don’t know how those games work you might want to find out -you’re missing out.
I must say it was an overwhelmingly magnificent day, and by the end of it we were all exhausted. Swiftly falling asleep in my new -quite comfortable- bed, I wondered how my roommates would react to me waking up at 6am to pray.