Interview with YSE alumni facilitators
March 24, 2022
Aoife and Jule, Class 2016, Marilena, Class 2018 and Hannah, Class 2017
Can you please introduce yourself to those who do not know you?
J: My name is Jule, I graduated in 2016 as a residential student. I am from Germany. After graduating from UWCM, I did an internship at UWC Changshu China, then went on to the College of the Atlantic to find out that I want to be an environmental lawyer. I am pursuing a law degree in Scotland at the moment.
H: I am Hannah, I was a boarding student at UWC Maastricht from 2015 till 2017. I am originally from a small town in the north of the Netherlands, but for the past 5 years, I have studied in Amsterdam and did an exchange to Cape Town. In my free time I like to cook and play tennis with friends or go to museums.
M: I’m Marilena. I graduated in 2018 and I went on to study Sociology and International Development at the University of Sussex. Since then, I have been involved in social justice initiatives but have also come to the conclusion that the climate crisis has to be brought to the spotlight as it affects so many other inequalities. I have developed a large interest in environmental issues and I am currently completing a short programme focused on sustainable entrepreneurship.
A: I am Aoife, I graduated in 2016, the same year as Jule. I then went on to study law at Leiden University. I was a UN Youth representative for the last two years and that’s how I also started working on World’s Youth for Climate Justice together with Jule, trying to combine climate justice and the legal approach to make a positive impact in the world.
You are now back at UWC Maastricht for the YSE programme. Tell us what is YSE and what is your role in it? What is it like to be back at UWC Maastricht?
M: Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) is a space for first year students to explore more structured solutions to social and environmental issues through entrepreneurship. It is a way for them to explore ideas through tangible projects with guidance and support by attempting to implement them during their project week but also a way to learn skills that could be valuable when pursuing future projects.
This year, students are divided in 10 different themes which I find useful in the process of narrowing down to particular challenges. I am facilitating the ‘Planet and Climate’ theme together with Brian Wright, who was also my Residence Mentor. At first, it felt odd to be in a teaching environment as I kept trying to figure out the boundaries between the processes of ‘teaching’ and ‘facilitating’. As the sessions went on, it got significantly easier and I really enjoyed engaging with the students and their ideas.
A: Jule and I are facilitating the Equity and Inclusion theme and so far it has been really good. Students are engaging with different related topics, for example one group is focusing on beauty standards and inclusive representation of different body types and clothing styles. It is really fun to be back at UWCM and interact with current students.
H: It was great to be part of YSE and be in contact with the UWC students. Unfortunately, I could not be there in person, but through the interactions I had with students and my co-facilitator Roberta, I could still feel the energy that everyone at UWC has. The ideas and the enthusiasm of the students was contagious. It was very interesting to see what problems and solutions they came up with and how they creatively shaped this in their own social enterprise. Being with current UWC students did not only remind me of how thoughtful and worldly orientated the students are, but also motivated me to keep contributing to the UWC values.
What are some of the changes that you noticed now that you are back at UWCM? Or is it the same old?
J: It is great to see that the staff involved in YSE keeps developing and improving the programme each year. The physical environment of UWCM has definitely changed but the key things stayed the same. For example the smell, it still smells the same and it brings back so many memories 🙂
A: I appreciate that all students get to do YSE because in our time only about 20 students got to do this programme and we needed to dedicate our holidays and weekends to attending it.
M: I also appreciate that I got to do YSE as a student because now, as a facilitator, I find it easier to put myself in the shoes of the students. I remember that it was not always clear to us as DP1s what YSE was about, and sometimes I didn’t know terms like ‘sustainability’ or ‘pitch’ which were mostly taken for granted in the sessions. These experiences definitely made me want to be more attuned to difficulties faced by students.
Would you encourage other alumni to take part in the YSE programme?
M: I feel that it’s such a refreshing experience. The reason why I joined, and why I think others might like to join, is because I have missed this freshness of ideas that come from students who really want to make a difference. It is great to be back in a community that encourages growth and seeks to have a positive impact. Being back for YSE also helped me rebuild my connection with UWCM. When I first returned in 2019 to attend a student conference, I felt like a guest in a place that I once considered to be my home. Now, by participating in ongoing programmes, meeting new people, engaging with UWCM staff, I am able to create new memories and bonds with this place.
J: It would be great if we could have a greater diversity of YSE facilitators. It would be fantastic if we could have alumni from all parts of the world joining the mixed staff/alumni team. It is a great opportunity for any alumni who would like to engage with UWCM staff and get to know the working environment of the school, …and use the coffee machine in the staff room 🙂
A: Coming back to Maastricht reminded me of my time here and the self-confidence that this place gave me but also of how young the students are and the high expectations that they set for themselves and that we were just the same.
H: I would definitely recommend becoming a facilitator because YSE is very well organised and it is really nice to get in contact with all the teachers again. But even more so it is very inspiring to work with current UWC students.
Are there any other ways in which you are involved with the UWC movement?
M: I became a part of a UWC short course that is called ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ (BASF), together with Siem, Maike and other UWC graduates.
J: I already mentioned the internship at UWC Changshu China. I am also supporting the German National Committee which is quite large as we have 50 scholarships to allocate each year. I help with the (pre-)selections as well as the orientation weekend for future and current students, and a reflection weekend for the recent graduates which both take place each summer. And this is the third year that I am facilitating YSE at UWC Maastricht.